Thursday, September 06, 2012

The "Hack Your Education" City-by-City Tour


Next week I'm going on the road to try out an idea. I want to see if I can make a difference by cultivating local conversations on education, and to learn some things in the process. I've listed below some different ways that I could use some help, and am hoping to find some "kindred spirits" to make this possible.

Here's my tentative schedule:
  • September 12:  Redwood City, CA
  • September 14 - 15:  Portland, OR
  • September 21 - 22:  Seattle, WA
  • October 19 - 20:  Sacramento, CA (or Chicago, IL)
  • October 25 - 27:  New York, NY
  • November 2 - 3:  Boston, MA
  • November 9 - 10:  Philadelphia, PA
  • November 16 - 17:  Washington, DC
  • November 30 - December 1:  Los Angeles, CA
  • December 7 - 8:  Phoenix, AZ
Here's what I'm planning for each city:
  • Friday Night:  
    • 5pm local time - Live recording of weekly podcast with Audrey Watters of Hack Education. Mostly this will involve bringing Audrey in remotely, but in some of the cities she may be able to join us.
    • 6pm local time - Picnic / brown-bag dinner with anyone who would like to join us.
    • 7pm local time - Community education discussion - Tentatively titled "Your Child Is Not Defective" - 2 hours. A participative workshop particularly for those feeling dispossessed or discouraged by the current educational system, designed to provide a meaningful path forward to improve personal or community educational opportunities. This will be an open, comforting, and hopefully empowering event.
  • Saturday 
    • 8am - 3pm - "Hack Your Education" workshop for students, teachers, parents, and/or administrators. The focus is on how to use Web 2.0 and social media for your personal, educational, and professional growth. The word "hack" has a couple of cultural connotations: first, it means to find a way to do something that may not be fancy, but gets the job done; second, it can mean an attempt to subvert the existing system. There's something of both in "Hack Your Education." We'll walk through building a personal learning network, creating your online personal learning environment, managing your digital profile, and cultivating your personal passions and life purposes. If the goal of education is learning how to learn, then students and adults alike face similar challenges and unique opportunities, and this is a chance to define your own independent learning goals and your personal educational or career path.
Here's some help I need:
  • I'd like some feedback on the Friday night workshop title, "Your Child Is Not Defective." I know there are a lot of different opinions about how to promote educational improvement. After over 300 interviews on education, I've come to a conclusion: that the message of educational change cannot center on the elite. In fact, I believe that trying to convince policy-makers and/or those who have had success in the existing system is not likely to have any real impact, as we have seen the overwhelming narratives for political discussion on both sides of the aisle increasingly revolve around high-stakes accountability... and not around the inherent worth and value of every child, and not in the belief that the ultimate goal of education is to develop the ability for students to take responsibility for their own lives and become increasingly self-directed. If I am right, we need to find a way to help pull out of deep discouragement the huge number of parents and students that are told that they are failures, and to give them hope that learning is not an arbitrary gift bestowed capriciously to a select few but is something anyone can own, and is infinitely better when so discovered. While I believe this disproportionately affects those in poverty, I don't think by any means that it's exclusive to any one group. Does this title provide a compelling entry point to the topic? 
  • That being said, I'm not sure how to bring the dispossessed and discouraged audience together. I'm willing to start small (we may be really small!), and to figure out as we go along how to get the word out and bring more people to the table. If you have ideas, let me know. I'm looking for simple, no-frills ways of finding and helping those who feel this way. Community centers? "Under-performing" or alternative schools? Religious communities? Help?!
  • I'll also need to find meeting spaces in each city. I'm willing to meet in a living room, a classroom, a library--anywhere someone who cares about improving the education conversation in this country is willing to arrange. If you can help in one of the cities on the dates above, email me at (If you really care about this and your city is not on the above list, reach out and let's talk.) I will need space both for Friday night and Saturday, and they don't have to be in the same place--but the Saturday venue needs to have access to the Internet (without filtering Web 2.0 / social media sites).
  • I'm not doing this to make money, but if you can think of a creative way for me to fund this travel, let me know at the above email address. I'll ask for donations for the Saturday workshop, but don't want anyone not to come because they can't afford it. If the first month of this experiment works, perhaps I'll start a crowd-source funding campaign. If your school/library/organization wants to sponsor the Saturday event, that would be great. For the cities where Audrey might join us, we'd need to fund her travel as well.
OK. Wish me luck.