What “Hack” Means to Me
“Hack the Classroom”
Words have meaning.
Speakers use their own words to convey a certain message. In the perfect world of a speaker, his/her message will resonate and match that of the audience. Sometimes there is a disconnect, sometimes there is not. Speakers are not in total control of the words uttered. Different audiences construct and attach labels to a speaker’s words.
So here we sit with “hack”.
“Hack” is loaded with myriad understanding and labels. Some of them good, many more bad. Yet we as speakers for the event, use “hack” purposely and hope to construct a new meaning. In our context, “hacking” is not a criminal activity engaged by anonymous degenerates or mischievous digital vagabonds. It is not the scary threat imagined by the defense industry, or a potential nuisance to online banking. It is not something we need to guard our email against.
So what is my definition of “hack”?
To “hack” is one’s agency to recreate, rethink, tinker, offer ideas, and illicit change within fixed, usually closed systems. While many think of the closed systems of software, I think of the fixed systems of school. How can I jump into a system that is closed, that is walled off from change? How can I explore new boundaries? How can I work with others to propose radical shifts in stationary structures? How can I “debug” the institution of school with the purpose of making it better?
This is not an easy process. It is hard to get a foot in the door and a voice at the table. Established norms and ideas, regardless of how outdated and misinformed, are hard to change. Those in power do not want people below them to experiment and fix things without codified consent. So while I see nothing negative about “hacking” the classroom, the somewhat subversive connotations of the word fit and are part of my construct.
It is not easy to propose new ideas within closed systems. It is not easy to suggest massive rethinks. It is not comforting to realize we have been doing it wrong. Courage and hope are needed to think for and implement new solutions. “Hacking” is this process. Putting yourself out there to create some disruption for greater change and good. Change is not always what people want, but it may be what they need. “Hackers” are willing to risk some displeasure to empower students, teachers, and learners.