Why Every Educator Should Read Hacker News

I ENVY the design community. I am JEALOUS of the programmer/developer community. Want to know why? It’s simple: They thrive on sharing, collaborating, and improving their field.

I know a lot of educators who feel the same way, and many educators who also want our community to share, collaborate, and constantly improve practices in our field. However, the reality is that despite many of our best efforts…this is not our current culture.

What We Can Learn From Their Community

This post isn’t meant to put down our field, but rather to inspire other educators to join in what many of us are already doing, and what is necessary to keep education progressive and effective for the 21st century. Above all, I believe we can learn so much from the “hacker” community and how they have grown.

Let’s start with Hacker News. Hacker News is a simple site for the community to submit articles, read those articles, vote them up, and comment. In their guidelines they state what to submit:

“On-Topic: Anything that good hackers would find interesting. That includes more than hacking and startups. If you had to reduce it to a sentence, the answer might be: anything that gratifies one’s intellectual curiosity.“

As educators we are constantly trying to spark our student’s “intellectual curiosity”.  Many of us have sought out to spark our colleagues’ intellectual curiosity as well through social media sharing. However, what makes Hacker News so special is the community within this simple site. Ed Weissman does a great job explaining the dynamics in a recent post.

I’ve been periodically reading Hacker News for the past couple of years, but I joined the community almost a year ago. What I’ve learned is that this group of people care about sharing knowledge, advancing their field, and holding each other accountable (which is WHY you should read it as an educator). But Hacker News is not the only place where this type of communication and collaboration happen. Here are some other sites I envy.

Github 

“Originally founded by Chris Wanstrath, PJ Hyett and Tom Preston-Werner as a project to simplify sharing code, GitHub has grown into an application used by over a million people to store over two million code repositories, making GitHub the largest code host in the world.”

“Code is about the people writing it. We focus on lowering the barriers of collaboration by building powerful features into our products that make it easier to contribute. The tools we create help individuals and companies, public and private, to write better code, faster. Ship it!

Do we have a site like this for education?

 

Dribbble

 

“Dribbble is a show and tell for designers. Players share shots—small screenshots of the designs and applications they are working on. Shots are small screenshots (400×300 pixels max) posted by members to show what they are working on. Some have called Dribbble ‘Twitter for designers.’ Shots are to Dribbble as tweets are to Twitter.”

This is a great site to browse and be wowed. It provides inspiration for other designers and allows people in the field to see “what everyone else is working on”.

Do we have a site like this for education?

The Point Is Clear

The list could go on, but I think the point is clear. If we want education to continue to move forward we all need to get on board with sharing, collaborating, and discussing best and next practices. I’m thrilled that thousands of educators around the world have been doing this for years, and I know how many of us want this type of open culture to be “our culture”. But we need to reach out to our fellow educators who may be intimidated of this type of community, and show them it’s all about improvement.

Sites like Better Lesson and Mastery Connect are already bringing in educators to share and communicate. There is a litany of Ning networks like Classroom 2.0 and the Educator’s PLN that also form social connections between teachers. With so many education startups taking on this task our community is spread thin, with the real “hub” of conversation for educators being Twitter (in my opinion). Wouldn’t it be great to have another hub to share our own perspectives and writing on education?

We think the first step may be making a “Hacker News” like site for education. I don’t know about you, but I am constantly using news aggregators like Pulse, Flipboard, and Zite to find great articles and resources (as well as Twitter and my RSS reader).

This site would be curated by other educators, and function similar to Hacker News (or Reddit). The benefits would span many areas including the altruistic (sharing with the community for the good of the community) and opportunistic (the “Hacker News” effect).

We want to know if you would be interested in being a part of this community. We are calling it “Academic Recess” and hope you’ll sign up to be notified when we launch the site. It will be simple, clean, and all about the content and conversation.

Check it out here: AcademicRecess.com

 

AJ Juliani

AJ Juliani is a founder and chief editor of Education Is My Life. AJ works as a K-12 Technology Staff Developer running a 1:1 laptop initiative. AJ also writes, speaks, and presents at various education conferences and is currently working on a new book!

14 Comments

  • Reply February 10, 2012

    Andrew de Andrade

    Interestingly I think you indirectly touch upon the reason why everyone should learn to program and not just people who want to do so as a profession.

    Programming is the lever which allows members of a community to surmount all the obstacles that form a barrier to sharing, collaboration and developing best practices out in the open with others.

    Without programming, sharing and collaboration is reduced to the amount afforded by fundamentally human “bandwidth”. Programming gives you the tools to create and marginally, but constantly improve systems to increase not only the bandwidth between two members of the community, but the number of people within the community with whom a single member can collaborate and share with.

    I would say that tools like Github are the most important tools in the community because use of it ultimately inspires a lot of the discussion in the community. It takes the basic building block of what the community is most passionate about, code, and accelerates and multiplies the interactions between two to many people involving that code.

    In the educational community, something similar that involves lesson plans, exercises and other teaching material would be awesome.

    For example, were I a science teacher, how could would it be if it were easy to share exercises, fork and modify them, hack together individual exercises of greater complexity that not only teach underlying principles but how multiple underlying principles work together.

    What tools would allow people who have a passion for teaching to come together and collaborate over material? Programming allows the building of those tools.

  • Reply February 10, 2012

    S Suh

    There *is* a subreddit for education: http://www.reddit.com/r/education
    And one for teachers, adult education, early childhood, higher ed and science ed (check the sidebar on the education subreddit).

    Not sure if it has the critical mass necessary for a great community but it’s a starting point.

    But I think there’s a lot of room for a site like github for education where teachers could share lesson plans and other useful resources, even collaboratively work on textbooks (like the math teachers in Minnesota that wrote their own and saved their district 175K). It’s frustrating to see all the buzz about edtech in the hacker community but hear that some of the projects aren’t even *talking* to teachers.

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  • [...] planning on releasing an “Education” version of the popular social curation site “Hacker News” (http://news.ycombinator.com/news). This site would allow educators to submit, read, vote, [...]

  • [...] AJ Juliani: Why Every Educator Should Read Hacker News [...]

  • Reply November 11, 2012

    Andreas D

    Hey, interesting idea, I think many domains could benefit from such curated news aggregators (science, for example). I am currently working on an open-source web app to build news sites like Hackernews. Let me know if you’re interested and would like to get involved (e.g. by providing feedback), would love to help you with your idea.

  • [...] Hackers everywhere Most people don’t know what an hacker is. It’s not easy for me to come up with a definition with which most people would agree… But here it comes: Hackers thrive on sharing, collaborating, and improving their field. (inspired by this). [...]

  • Reply November 13, 2012

    Jason M

    Being a designer and an educator I do admit I miss being hip to all the cool design news. I just don’t have the time to follow links, tweets, stories, or attend any events.

    This highlights the real challenge to the educator community. Collaboration is the culture. What isn’t part of the culture is a respect for time to experiment, reflect, and try new things. Designers thrive on this. Need this. Design won’t work without it. Design doesn’t happen if you’re in meetings all day.

    Also. There are tons of places online to share, collaborate, etc. for educators. But the UX sucks and they’re boring to look at.

  • [...] Why Every Educator Should Read Hacker News [...]

  • Reply November 14, 2012

    chris

    Hacker news really is about exploring intellectual curiosity (on any topic). What’s implied and intuitively obvious is that in order to excel in the field of software development, you must first have a curious mind and an ability to process incredible amounts of knowledge quickly in any subject (hmm.. those qualities would be useful to any student). Moreover, we don’t need any explanations as to why these qualities are important. Our industry validates and rewards them quite explicitly ($$$).

    Education, on the other hand, doesn’t reward random intellectual curiosity; it mandates conformity (from faculty and student alike). Nor does education have a real-world reward system. You may argue grades themselves are rewards, but they arbitrary; a currency only truly redeemable in the future (and then it’s a crap shoot). Neither student nor teacher sees any merit moving outside the current structure which, at least in the American educational system, values only mediocrity.

    Remove the restrictions to learning and fix the reward system and you will have an entirely different perspective for both student and teacher, alike.

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