Teach like a hacker

It’s very seldom that I type a phrase into Google and get no results, but that is what a Google search for “Teach like a hacker” returns (Bing also returns no results). Maybe it is the negative connotations that Hollywood has embedded into our culture on the term hacker that scares people away from it. I believe that the educational community should embrace hacking. Teach like a hacker does not mean going all Matthew Broderick in Wargames and break into computers. I prefer the Wikipedia hobbyist hacker definition:

In home and hobby circles, a hacker is a person who enjoys exploring the limits of what is possible, in a spirit of playful cleverness.

An example of educational hacking came in the San Jose teacher contract that was unified in May. California state law requires that teacher evaluations include standardized testing, but since “There is no reliable study showing that increase so-called accountability by making student test scores a significant part of evaluation improves outcomes for students or teacher performance” “student performance will be part of the discussion on evaluations, teachers won’t be penalized if students don’t meet expectations.” They followed the letter of the law by doing what is best for the students of the districts, evaluating and giving the district tools to hire and retain the best teachers available.

Or how about using Amazon Mechanical Turk to assist in grading? You could upload anonymized student work and pay someone to check for spelling and/or grammatical errors, allowing you to concentrate on the concepts. This is even easier for subjects with only one answer.

Have you used the phrase, “work smarter, not harder”? Hacking is working smarter. In simple terms, it is the act of working efficiently, allowing your students and yourself to be more effective. When I am tasked with completing something tedious, the first thing I think about is how I can automate it. Now, as you read this, you may be thinking, “Ryan, you’re nuts! I don’t have time to learn all this computer stuff.” Hacking in the long run will save you time. It may take a little bit of time to set up, but over the long haul it pays off.

Is it worth the time?

Is it worth the time

That chart really is an eye opener. You can spend up to 6 days (144 hours) automating a daily task that saves you 5 minutes a day and you will still save time over 5 years. One hundred and forty four hours is equivalent to over 3 and a half 40 hour work weeks. And that’s just to automate something to save 5 minutes a day!

What tedious tasks would you like to automate?