Book Review: Hacking Education: 10 Quick Fixes for Every School

Click picture for purchase info.
Click picture for purchase info.

During Fall Break, I promised myself I’d read one professional book and one novel. For my professional book,  I chose to read something I’d purchased a while ago, Hacking Education: 10 Quick Fixes for Every School, by Mark Barnes and Jennifer Gonzalez.

The authors speak on the idea of not waiting for that great initiative to happen or if it has happened, to fall apart, but to become empowered to make change inside your school with simple, quick fixes that can make all the difference in how the school functions and the culture among staff and students can change for the better.

There are lots of ways we, as educators, can fix the issues in our schools without permission from “up on high”.  Here are ten of them.

Without getting into details (buy the book, duh), here are the 10 hacks:

  1. Meet me in the Cloud:Replace meetings with a Backchannel and a bin
  2. Pineapple Charts: Boost teacher collaboration with a public chart of “open door” lessons
  3. Teacher Quiet Zones: Escape the chaos and maximize planning time
  4. Track Records: Make classroom management enduring and real with a simple notebook
  5. Student Tech Gurus:Fix small scale tech problems with a team of students
  6. Marigold Committees: Nurture new teachers with a circle of mentors
  7. The In Class Flip: Bypass the hurdles of flipped learning by keeping it in school
  8. The Book Nook: Create a culture of readers with free books for everyone
  9. The Glass Classroom:  Put learning on display with social media
  10. The 360 Spreadsheet: Collect a different kind of student data

Hacking Education is the first in a series of books on making change at the grassroots level.  Its authors are both seasoned professionals in the classroom and passionate about creating learning environments where bother student and teacher WANT to be in that space, both WANT to be part of the learning process and both WANT to also share knowledge.  Its a powerful concept.

I’ve already begun trying a few of these hacks.  #1: Meet me in the Cloud:  I’m the leader of our building’s technology team and there are 9 of us on the team.  Have you ever attempted to get 9 teachers, 1 who is a coach, 1 who teaches AP (and therefore, according to her, has lost her life to the learning), the principal and has 20 other places to be instead of the library to talk tech, 1 finishing her dissertation, 2 who are sponsors of groups and the others with various personal and professional obligations, to ALL sit down in one room together for 30 minutes to discuss things?  Last year, I tried, desperately to make this happen.  I think I got all 9 of us in the same place at the same time once.

This year, we’ve had one meeting face to face, 8 of us were there.  For the second meeting (after reading the book), I decided to try a virtual meeting.  See the results (sans comments) below.  I loved the way a couple of the members wrote all their inline comments in a different color so we knew who was speaking.  I’ll have each of them choose a color for next month’s meeting.  Though you can’t see the comments on the side, even the district IT director got in the convo! (I send him our meeting notes every month)  Its a permanent record of what we discussed and anyone that didn’t “show up”, still knows what’s going on. Its a keeper!  Now, time spent together can be for more hand on activities, like learning how to produce flipped lesson videos!

My second hack was #4: Track Records. We have a couple of students in our community that just can’t get it together discipline wise.  They aren’t so bad that we need to get the dean involved, but their behavior is just disruptive enough to keep us on our toes and in their faces.  My four community team members and I started track records on them.  We’ve made notes, positive and negative on them through the class periods and have shown them to them.  They can plainly see where they are out of order and not.  It puts the ball in their court regarding behavior.  For at least one of them, its making a change.  The other, well, we’ll keep working on it.

And finally, #7: In Class Flip. I’ve been attempting to flip my class for a couple of years now with limited success. I’ve even tried the in class flip without much success.  The beauty of this hack is HOW to do the flip in the classroom.  I haven’t started it yet.  I’m finishing a unit and will begin this hack with the new unit.  I’ll keep you posted on that via my “Adventures in Google Classroomland” series of posts.

Our tech team has muttered quietly about #5: Student Tech Gurus before.  It would involve some rearrangement of schedules and permissions from above to make it happen.  We’ll let that one simmer a while longer.

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So, the book!  If you and your colleagues want to make fundamental change in what happens in your building and classrooms, consider reading this book.  For me, it has already made a different in how much I get done and how its impacting interactions with others.  I highly recommend it!  Click the picture above to get more info on purchasing it as an ebook or in hardcopy.

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