Monthly Archives: August 2012

Hacking Education? Hacking Education.

In the past few months, when I’ve talked with people who have expressed interest in helping me start a new chapter for All Hands Active, I’ve thought about the criteria needed from my prospective fellow instructors. To me, there are only a few things every educator without collegiate knowledge, or as I like to call them, “Education Hackers,” needs to know to teach a class properly, regardless of subject matter.

  1. There are going to be conflicts. Not everyone gets along, and not everyone will agree with you. Your goal is not to get all the students to like you, it is to educate them and the rest of the student body. You need to determine right off the bat whether a student responds well to positive or negative reinforcement, compare to the rest of the class, and work accordingly. You may need to be the bad guy, and that’s okay. Being an authority figure means not everyone is going to like you all the time. What matters is the respect that comes out of conflict resolution.
  2. Compassion is not a resource. You can’t look at your own patience or understanding as something that can run low or run out. You aren’t teaching kids for your own recreation or as a way to make money, you are there for them. This means you are a constant reminder of an unmovable force, and a representative of what a strong support structure of a human being you are supposed to be. If you grow impatient, so will the students. A genuine smile and constant enthusiasm is contagious.
  3. Communication will advance progress exponentially. There was a picture I saw years ago of a flowchart displaying the relationship between teachers, students, and parents. You cannot have success in a child without effort from all three. Not only can knowledge be gained from this interaction, but wisdom, motivation, ambition, and deepening the value and understanding of social skills. I am still talking to one of the parents from the summer camp we had, and every theory I’ve had about how I should be as an educator I have discussed with her. She approves it or gives advice, and I implement it. I look at this interaction as the most valuable resource I have the honor to use, and it also gives the parents another perspective as to how their child behaves outside of the home.
  4. Learn to use your instincts as a tool. If you sense a child (or even a fellow instructor) is struggling, even if they don’t admit it when asked, help them. If someone is going for a power grab at the expense of the rest of the class, act like the alpha wolf and bring them back down to the correct level. I’m not saying act like a barbarian and display archaic displays of intimidation, nor am I saying fight fire with fire and embarrass the child, which results in either shame or anger, but use your instincts to find symptoms of an issue that need to be addressed.

I’m not going to be so pompous as to think that I’m completely correct in any of these theories, because that’s the thing about hacking education as a process, isn’t it? You need to adjust to what’s needed by each student or class. You create a theory or a process, apply it to real life situations, take a peek under the microscope, and record your findings. That’s why I really like teaching on a hackerspace level. I have no formal training on educating those who are of a later generation than myself, but I believe I have the skills needed to do the most important thing, which is to just go for it and adapt as needed.

Phase Two: Commenced

Registration for the after school programs is open, as of five minutes ago. I am about to enter into the state of constant anxiety as I check and check again for a new email, hoping that the title is tagged with the phrase “ASP – Fall.”

This weekend is the time for proper promotion. I know how people found out about the summer camp, but we have only half of those resources this time around, and so I feel as if I should actually let the community know about this instead of talking about it all the time and hope people are talking about us.

I’ve spent the past few months looking around the internet for a group of people, of whom also call themselves a hackerspace, who are doing the same thing as us. It would make me, as a class coordinator, feel a lot better if I knew someone else did it first, but I really don’t feel that’s the case. All Hands Active is the first hackerspace to do alternative learning in a DIY class environment.

This is intimidating, exhilarating, and beautiful to me. Strange thing is, this isn’t even my passion. I view this as a necessity. Our type of organization cannot sit idly by and wait for the right people to walk in our doors. We can’t make the things we want to make without wondering how the roof is still over our heads and what is powering our computers, soldering irons, and sewing machines. We can’t appeal to the same crowd, who is our own age or older, without thinking of the next generation who will replace us.

I want to give these kids a better chance that I had growing up. I want them to remember when they learned how to bend the world to their whim. Every community is an open source project. Everyone can make an imprint, make their lives easier, and express their passions in an effort to ignite the dreams in their fellow beings. When the world revolves around technology, typewriters no longer get a say. When children of the age of nine are writing smartphone applications and gamers are finding the secret to unlocking a cure to AIDS, something has to change. I find it sad that these things are headlines. I don’t want them to have the same excuse that I did. “I didn’t know” is no longer valid.

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