Posted by: Ross | March 29, 2010

Educating the New Hacker Generation

I have decided to base my entire project on Plato’s quote “No free person should learn anything like a slave”. This quote demonstrates the way The Hacker Ethic can be applied to basic education.

My project will focus mostly on “The Academy and the Monastery”, chapter 4 of The Hacker Ethic. I want to set up a teaching experiment of my own design (and with a little help from my education major roommate) that will help evaluate/teach the difference between the academy and monastery teaching styles. On top of that, I will also tie in Raymond’s “The Cathedral and the Bazaar” . I’m am not 100% sure how I plan to test out the different teaching style, but here is my rough idea of how it would go:

I would pick two unrelated topics in history and teach the class for about 3-5 minutes on each subject. One subject I will use basic Academy teaching style, and the other subject I will use Monastery/Hacker style of teaching. After each session, I will make a short quiz for the class to take. My intention for this project is to see which style of teaching is more effective based on quiz score comparisons. My hypothesis is that the hacker type style of free thinking passion and innovation will prove much for effective that old style lecture, thus leading to higher test scores.

The time line of my project is tentative, but i hope to have both lesson plans complete 2 weeks from now, and the quizzes done the week after that. I hope to meet with an education professor (one of my roommates recommendations) to gain a better understanding of the complexity of lessons plans and how much time I will potentially need to spend in order to perfect them.



  1. I think you definitely have a good point that the ethic utilized to present material can change the outcome of a test score, and the effectiveness of “learning” material. Have you considered the place of the HWE/PWE in the content of the material being taught? (i.e. Johnny is learning calculus because he has to take the class to graduate vs. Suzie is learning calculus because she finds it fascinating, and wants to grow up to be a graphic modeler)

  2. My mom is a 5th grade teacher so I am sure this something that she would be interested in. I know that she attempts to constantly change her teaching methods while teaching the same materials from year to year. That keeps her interested every year and makes the class less boring for the kids. Do you know what grade you would be teaching because that potentially could make a huge difference.

    • Chris, you have a teacher mom and a coach Dad. No wonder you are so interested in hwo to convey knowledge and skills.

  3. Sounds like a great psychology/education experiment. I feel that this kind of experiment is something we could all relate to. We have all undoubtedly had excellent and sub-par learning experiences throughout our life in school. I’d love to see which methods tend to work best in your experiment, and which classmates seem to prefer.

  4. Fascinating idea. Where will you find students?

    Is 3-5 minutes enough?

    If you are teaching the same material, then the assessment is likely to be higher whichever method comes secondly if it is the same students due to greater exposure. Maybe you can have tow grousp of roughly comparable students.

    What form would final project take? How would you document and share the process and results?

    Tim raised some interesting points about the context of that quote. It might be worth picking his brain to see what Plato meant and how that relates to our context now.

    Another resource to maybe look at is a book I read and always liked about education called a A school of Their Own by Deborah Meir (?). It is about creating a more academey like school in the NYC public school system.

  5. Undoubtedly you will be spending a good portion of time putting together your ‘hacker’ history lesson. Do teachers that have seven or eight periods a day, each forty minutes long, have enough time in their life to invent and put together ‘hacker’ history lessons? Is the ordinary lecture style of teaching kind of inherent in the system?

    • Great point, Sean. What does the Hacker ethic say about that? Do you simply find ways to do the best you can as an individual and just worry about being as creative and passionate as you can in teaching? Or do you try and affect the conditions that make it difficult for more people to do hacker teaching?

  6. How much further than the rough idea have you come? Do you have a plan for having “test subjects”?

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