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. 


  1. eFirst: you have a great idea here. It is kind of like a rolling conference. Old-style conventions may be useless, but everyone knows that the meetups in the convention hallways are being sorely missed by all.

    I would hit up any one of the newer LMS's: Canvas, Haiku, or my favorite, Schoology. I would bet that a $15,000 sole sponsorship of your travel would help you, help the schools that hear about these great new platforms for content and discussion, and help them become better known.

    I don't work for any of these guys, but I can't tell you enough good about the things that I am doing with my LMS in the areas of student engagement and course organization. I was just too hard before. But, I am preaching to the choir.

    If you are worried that this is an ad, I appreciate that. Feel free to delete. I didn't know how else to answer your question about funding your travel. I wish you were coming to central California (Fresno), but I understand. Boy, do I understand.

    Best of luck with this and I hope a funding source shows up.

  2. Kass in McKinney,TX10:33 AM

    Wish you were coming to the Dallas area. Will be anxious to read about how this is going and so appreciate and admire your commitment to real change in education.

  3. Hi Steve, I'd love to help with the Redwood City events--I'm about two hours away and will try to recruit some colleagues to make the trip with me. I don't see any info on the venues. Please let me know what I can do.

    Cheers, Fred
    Fred Mindlin
    Associate Director for Technology Integration
    Central California Writing Project

    "Intelligence is knowing what to do when you don't know what to do."--John Holt

    "All that is gold does not glitter; not all those who wander are lost."–-J.R.R. Tolkien

  4. Mr. Scientist--thank you!
    Arnie--great ideas, and I actually want to do Fresno. Let's just see if this idea works and if I can get any funding!
    Kass--thanks for the interest--same story! If this works, Dallas would be great. :)

  5. Hi Steve,
    This idea and timing is perfect. I'd like to help in anyway I can. Let's talk sometime this weekend. (Anytime after noon your time today works for me.)
    Mark Tozer

  6. When you get to Philly would you consider coming to the 'burbs? This is such a great idea! Can't wait for November!

  7. I'm too far from Portland to have any contacts there, (well, none anywhere, to be honest)and don't know if you have a venue there, but here's a place that might be sympathetic and up your alley, as they deal with kids who've had problems in public schools:
    Also, Reed College is generally open to anything radical, and Lewis & Clark might be. Even Portland State might have a venue for you, and it's a convenient location.

  8. Great call, "Unknown," on Open Meadow. I'll reach out to them. We have venues in Portland lined up, so thanks! Huge response to this announcement--so far it's taken me over 7 hours to respond to all the emails.

  9. Hi Steve,
    Excited that you included LA in this trip! Already on it, in terms of securing a location for your time with us! Reaching out to my LA constituency such as USC and others.
    Looking forward to working with you and seeing you in LA in Novemeber!

  10. Steve, your passion, curiosity and energy is inspiring. Keep up the good work. We need to get you over to Europe.

  11. Steve, your passion, curiosity and energy is inspiring. Keep up the good work. We need to get you over to Europe.

  12. If an organization would like to work with you to get this event going in Phoenix, how should we reach you?

  13. If an organization wanted to work with you to help you book this event for Phoenix, how should that organization reach you? Thank you.

  14. Julia--sure! Just go to and fill out the contact form or email me at Thanks!

  15. Thanks for coming to Philly. Enjoyed spending time exploring our personal learning networks and how they will impact learning and ignite passion for ourselves and our students. Shout out to SLA and SEPAETC for sponsoring the event.


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