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Hacking in High School: yes, but….

Friday, February 28, 2014

A substantive article by Pete Herzog about hacking in High Schools.

I hope you read this reply, Mr. Herzog. You are so right about this. I think the key point is what schools do with hackers (geeks) when we find them.

Many times we have "caught" students doing stupid stuff like installing key-loggers, running port scans, writing bash scripts and changing /etc/hosts in amusing ways. When we catch them, we discipline them but then we invite them to learn. And this is my key point. We need to teach kids to be responsible and ethical digital citizens, but also teach them how to hack. And as you say, be "motivated, resourceful, and creative" learners.

I liken this to "geek fishing". Schools generally don't do a great job of fostering an environment of open exploration, discovery, hacking, and making. We have a curriculum to think about, after all. But when we discover a hacker / geek in our school, we have a duty to encourage them and grow them.

As I reflect more on this blog post, I think what should change in schools is our attitude towards hacking; to invite it, encourage it, and recognize the value this type of challenge / curiosity-based learning brings to learning. We also need to help kids make good decisions.

Hi Bill,

Thanks for reaching out and saying something! You know the problem with education today is that they focus on the “fundamentals” which are 1. good for only some types of kids, 2. come from an archaic model from well before neurobiology knew better how people learned or how kids think, and 3. are no longer the fundamentals of modern life. The hacking attitude we are asking schools to adopt are to help kids learn on their own and dig into whatever they like to do as well as finding parallels with the stuff they don’t like to do but can help them understand better how the world around them and what they like to do interact. Hacking gets them to try things they might think they don’t like to experience them in a positive way. Kids learn by playing and hacking as an attitude tells them to try it and play around with it in a controlled and learning way. We know we’re not going to make experts or aficionados through the hacker mentality but that’s not what it’s for. When the overwhelming majority of teens don’t care about anything and just fill their days with meaningless tasks and complaining to be bored, why not encourage them at school already to help them find what they might want to be really good at. Rarely people do for a living or practice what they studied at school in an expert way so understanding hacking helps them broaden where they couldn’t sharpen.

We don’t want to lose the kids interested and are already hacking around because of fear of what they might do with it. Because they’ll learn it anyway and in the wrong way (echoes of sex education there). We also don’t want kids to be afraid to try things out of curiosity but we want them to be smart and safe about it. But that’s a loaded concept. So we can’t have them accept some blog post or anecdote on what’s safe or right without finding other sources as well. Now we’re teaching them to think critically. And then we don’t want them to try stuff without considering impact and ramifications. So then we’re teaching them empathy. And that’s how we roll out the HHS lesson books full of critical thinking, empathy, and facts. That’s why so much effort goes into each one to make it right. Lesson 6 on Malware has been worked on now for over a year because it’s a tricky subject to balance and get right. Cyber-bullying has a team of 15 people who have worked the last 2 years on getting the facts right, researching neurobiology and behavioral psychology to get it right and it’s still not ready.

People who detract from the project and say it’s wrong or dangerous never read the lessons.

Thanks for your support!

By Pete Herzog on 2014 02 28

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