Ever since my teenage years, I have been utterly fascinated with hacking.
In high school, I picked Ghost in the Wires: My Adventures as the World’s Most Wanted Hacker off the local public library shelf and devoured it. One of my first characters was a skilled hacker. How cool, I thought, to climb inside a system, learn it, and work with or against it. To come and go, to explore. It all seemed a new, cyber-frontier. But, of course, I never hacked anything.
Instead, I became the inconspicuous tech-support of my social circle. C’est la vie.
Make, Hack, Play
While reading the post, “Centering on Essential Lenses” by Bud Hunt, I slightly disagreed with the statement that “Hackers improve things.” Hackers can improve things, of course — Kevin Mitnick, in the Catch-Me-If-You-Can tradition, eventually went on to work to improve security and runs his own company; many other white hatted hackers do likewise even without beginnings as criminals.
But on the darker, Oppenheimer, what-hath-science-wrought side of things… well, most of us have seen a spam bot slip into someone’s Facebook, or watched pallidly as our anti-virus software noticed the Trojan Horse sitting at our door.
The point, however – and I think Hunt conveys this well – is about the potential! It’s what we do. And not only what we do, but what we can do. What we might do. It’s about the possibilities.
Hacking brings with it a type of freedom — one of the aspects I was most fascinated with was the idea that one could, with the right opportunity and know-how, go anywhere. And that’s one of the reasons I’m loving this metaphor for learning so much; when we offer learners (including ourselves) the right opportunities, there’s the potential and the possibility to go anywhere.
TLC (Therapeutic Lifestyle Changes)
Logan LaPlante’s TED Talk, “Hackschooling Makes Me Happy” offers a glimpse of what hacking the education system — and even the general theory of learning — in order to provide learners with the best opportunities might look like.
At 6:24, he offers this summary of hackschooling:
It’s like a remix, or a mash-up of learning. It’s flexible, opportunistic, and it never loses sight of making happy, healthy, and creativity a priority. …It’s a mindset, not a system.
“It’s a mindset, not a system” stuck out to me. Mindset is a word I’ve heard repeated over the last few years. Learning – and life – is really all about mindset. It’s not an oval, it’s a circle in perspective.
Mindset is the foundation, but I think it’s the action that creates results. I don’t think “action” necessarily has to mean “Go ski down a mountain” (I would die); we have to consider how to make Hackschooling accessible for everyone. Because it is true that the hands-on, bodily aspect that makes learning exciting, fosters and blooms creativity, and makes learners excited. But maybe “bodily” doesn’t have to mean physical; maybe it just means being present and being free to explore whatever method works best for oneself. After all, flexibility was one of LaPlante’s main criteria for hackschooling.
In other words, exchanging that one-size-fits-all shirt for something more tailor-made makes everyone much more comfortable.
Life Learning Finds a Way
Both Hunt and LaPlante mention a key point: these learning-hacks can be used across any platform. Want to apply it in your classroom? BOOM. Go for it. Your library? YES! Do it. Your household? SWEET!
Want to apply in in your own daily life? Buddy you are ON FIRE.
There aren’t any rules. The only real structure is to take the philosophy to heart and make it work for oneself and for others. This is exciting and inspiring, yes, but I know some of you (myself included) might be thinking: “That sounds a little too optimistic; there will always be things that get in the way.”
A rule, however, isn’t the same as a limitation. Time, one’s mental and physical health, responsibilities, and just general life can and do limit us. Even with the best mindset, there are still obstacles. Mindset isn’t a panacea. I love nature, but I can’t mindset my leg into being chill with going on a hike. And that’s okay.
When a hacker comes across an obstacle, they don’t stop, shrug, and sigh, “Oh well.” In fact, the hacker exists because there is an obstacle: the security badge, the login credentials, the firewall. If none of these obstacles exist, there’s no challenge, and therefore very little or no drive to hack something. Where’s the fun?
So what can I do? I could simply sit outside in the sun. Or open a window to let in the fresh air.
Hacking is, in basic terms, using creativity to slip around an obstacle and reach a goal.
I still think that’s super cool.