Hacking and Learning

imagePhoto CC-By University of Illinois Library

Logan LaPlante, in his TedX talk in 2015, informed over 8,000,000 YouTube viewers about “hackschooling,” a concept he thought of where students and teachers take control of their learning by adapting their learning styles and interests to their schooling, be it in a traditional setting or otherwise. He spoke about how he was homeschooled, and how his learning environment often involved him on a laptop with headphones, in settings that “sometimes looked like Starbucks.” He spoke about how, in this environment, he was able to correlate his learning with his passion, skiing. For such a young kid, LaPlante was full of so many innovative and mature insights about the world in general.

One quote in particular that stuck with me was when he asked why teaching children how to be happy and healthy was seperate from traditional  subjects at school. His words reminded me of all of the times in school that I struggled with anxiety and depression with no way of knowing if my thoughts were normal and no one to confide in, either. I had several friends that had the same struggles as me. Being surrounded by such distress in school, and hearing LaPlante’s statement, got me thinking. Had happiness and mental health been priorities, our teachers and even our parents could have been more in tune with our struggles that hinder our learning. Children experience all sorts of mental traumas at such young ages. Their parents could be fighting well into the night while their children listen. A family member or pet could have passed away. They could be fighting with the only friend they have. They could be bullied daily, relentlessly, with no one to tell. And then, in a traditional school setting, they are bombarded with hours of information with little breaks, while distracted or tired or a multitude of things that hinder learning.

If we want our children to learn, we need to figure out ways to focus on their happiness and healthiness before we can teach them all of the essential skills they need to function.

Part of LaPlante’s “hackschooling” is spending one day a week, all day, outdoors. This day allows his mind to mull over all the things he has learned in the previous days while tuning him to nature. Time in nature,  according to Dr. Robert Walsh, a scientist who studies happiness as cited by LaPlante, is one of the eight “TLCs” of being happy. The other seven are exercise, diet and nutrition, contribution and service to others, relationships, recreation, relaxation and stress management, and finally, religious and spiritual happiness. LaPlante is able to practice several of these TLCs with his full day outside. I think that children and even teenagers in school benefit immensely from days like this. Traditional schooling should look to stop cutting recess and free times in order to benefit their students.

While I mostly agree with the TLCs that Dr. Walsh laid out, I don’t necessarily agree with requiring religious and spiritual connections to be happy. Several of my non-religious friends, including myself, are happy. I don’t need to have spirituality or religion to be happy. I have never been religious and most likely never will be. However, I am the type of person to immerse myself in fantasy worlds, delving into their lore and history, with universes such as the Elder Scrolls, League of Legends, Undertale, and several other games. While it’s not the same as religion and spirituality in the least, being able to dive into these worlds is one source of my happiness due to the outlet it provides, which I believe is similar to the outlets that religion and spirituality provide. Keep in mind, I am not trying to say religion is the same as fantasy.

LaPlante also said that the world is in need of more “hackers,” as in people who are innovators, who challenge and change the system. I agree with him wholeheartedly. All we must do is look at outdated law policies that never change because the thinking in politics ae the same, curriculums in school that haven’t changed for years despite the evolving world of technology and its connections to learning. We need innovators, especially those in my own generation that are just entering the job market and thinking about futures in education, politics, science, public relations in my case, and every other field in the world.

Bud Hunt, in his blog post, says similar things about “hackers” and how we all need to be one in order to learn the best. He also emphasizes that we need to be able to make things and be able to play hard in order to be the best learners we can. I completely agree with him. You can read about something as much as you want, but most people won’t fully learn it until they actually try it.

Without “hackers,” the world will never change for the better.


4 thoughts on “Hacking and Learning”

  1. This is really good stuff, Angelina. Not only did you have incredibly recollection from the module materials, but you’ve processed it in such a meaningful way. I enjoy witnessing the application process, and you’ve seamlessly expressed it here. BOOM! I look forward to reading more, this semester. Thanks!


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