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When 13-year-old Tahoe native Logan LaPlante takes the stage for his TEDx talk at the University of Nevada, what follows are 11 minutes of eloquent, confident wisdom on his style of education, which he calls “hackschooling.” Here’s a sample:

I’m not tied to one particular curriculum, and I’m not dedicated to one particular approach. I hack my education. I take advantages of opportunities in my community and through a network of my friends and family. I take advantage of opportunities to experience what I’m learning, and I’m not afraid to look for shortcuts or hacks to get a better, faster result. It’s like a remix or a mashup of learning. … And here’s the cool part: because it’s a mindset, not a system, hackschooling can be used by anyone, even traditional schools.

He touts the virtues of having the hacker mindset:

A lot of people think of hackers as geeky computer nerds who live in their parents’ basement and spread computer viruses, but I don’t see it that way. Hackers are innovators. Hacker are people who challenge and change the systems to make them work differently, to make them work better. It’s just how they think, it’s a mindset.

I’m growing up in a world that needs more people with the hacker mindset, and not just for technology. Everything is up for being hacked, even skiing, even education. So whether it’s Steve Jobs, Mark Zuckerberg, or Shane McConkey, having the hacker mindset can change the world.

He emphasizes the importance of being happy:

We don’t seem to make how to be healthy and happy a priority in our schools; it’s separate from schools, and for some kids it doesn’t exist at all, but what if we didn’t make it separate? What if we based our education on the practice of being happy and healthy because that’s what it is: a practice, and a simple practice at that. … Education is important, but why is being happy and healthy not considered education? I just don’t get it.

And he pays homage to Sir Ken Robinson’s famous 2006 TED talk on how schools kill creativity, touting that creativity is as important as literacy and should be treated with the same status. Thus, the key components of hackschooling are to be healthy, happy, and creative, with a hacker mindset.

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Check out Logan’s full TEDx talk, “Hackschooling Makes Me Happy,” and get excited about the future:

Goli Mohammadi

I’m senior editor at MAKE and have worked on MAKE magazine since the first issue. I’m a word nerd who particularly loves to geek out on how emerging technology affects the lexicon as a whole. When not fawning over perfect word choices, I can be found on the nearest mountain, looking for the ideal alpine lake or hunting for snow to feed my inner snowboard addict.

The maker movement provides me with endless inspiration, and I love shining light on the incredible makers in our community. The specific beat I cover is art, and I’m a huge proponent of STEAM (as opposed to STEM). After all, the first thing most of us ever made was art.

Contact me at goli (at) makermedia (dot) com.


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Comments

  1. I know Logan’s dad Dave, been following Logan and family rip Tahoe apart for the last couple of years…

    1. Goli Mohammadi says:

      Rad, Jake! We need to get Logan to come speak at Maker Faire Bay Area. I’m fully inspired by him.

    2. Goli Mohammadi says:

      And yes, that analogy he makes between skiing a powder day and education in the end def pulled at my snow addict heartstrings ;)

  2. Kevin says:

    Adults don’t ask kids about wanting to be happy or healthy because happiness and healthiness are fleeting.

    The purpose of public education is usually not happiness because such an education would offend our secular sensibilities. We don’t want our public schools telling our children what to value because we all have different values.

    1. Roel says:

      If schools should not tell kids what to value, perhaps they should teach them how to value or how to express the values they give to things. Perhaps children should be tought how to argue, instead of being repressed with arguments like “because I said so!”.

      But then again, I do not have children, so I do not have any authority or expertise.

      1. Dustan says:

        Everyone has experience its called being a kid just imagine yourself as a kid and how you felt and how you could of learned better with more motivation and less direction. I remember when I met this kid doing online high school the first time i saw it I said wow if I would of had that when I was a kid I could of finished high school in 1 year. If school is really about knowledge why not encourage kids to test out instead of saying you have to be in high school for x years.

      2. William says:

        I am all for encouraging children to excel and think creatively, but there are some things that only time and experience can teach. One of those things is how to educate other children. Why do schools not teach “happiness”? First, because happiness is not a quantifiable thing, everyone experiences happiness differently and for different reasons. Second, but more importantly, because it’s not the job of schools to teach EVERYTHING to our children. Parents have to stop insisting that schools take the reins on every subject, and start making time to teach at home. You don’t have to have “classes” at home, but there’s nothing wrong with making time in the evening to talk to your children about things that matter to you, and things that matter to them. Then explore why they matter. You won’t teach happiness, but you might make them experience it, if you give them your time and attention.

      3. Julie says:

        “Values Education” almost got me fired when I was teaching…it’s a slippery slope. As a teacher, I was told I couldn’t impart my values on my students (which was zero tolerance for guns, including written or artistic representations.) I had a student who had a military family, and they hunted — they called me on it, and I nearly got fired for it (this was over 15 years ago — before Columbine.)

        I left the education system soon after that…now we’re homeschooling (hackschooling!)

    2. You cannot be involved in the process of education without values being included. Every choice a school makes reflects the values of the institution or the individual making it. Life and learning are essentially values-based activities.

      1. Kevin says:

        Of course public education promotes certain values, like how to be a productive member of society, whatever that means. However as mentioned in the video, there is a religious/spiritual component to happiness that our public schools cannot provide.

        1. Sarakenobi says:

          THIS! My kindergarten son is so incredibly excited about the discovery of learning! he pours over his school things, LOVES doing his homework and wants to do extra. This excitement of learning doesn’t carry on, and why not? learning is happiness, how do we urge our children to learn and explore with written standardized tests and boring lectures? I can’t imagine being excited about repeating patterns but.. here we are!

        2. Sarakenobi says:

          although keep religion at home thank you :) to me, teaching happiness is exploring your interests.

  3. lizg says:

    Def think our public education system needs a huge overhaul. More time outside, better math and science education.
    The one thing I would say to this talk is that sometimes you have to do things you do not want to do for a variety of reasons. Sometimes you will be uncomfortable, sometimes you need to interact with people you do not like very much. Sometimes you will be sad. I hope that Logan’s education includes those things. Because if he can find happiness in life’s hardest moments then he has truly been educated.

    1. Austin R. Range says:

      Yes, we need a large overhaul of our education system to go back to more hard work, I know going from high school to college I had a major adjustment to make. And yes, an education where you don’t learn the long, tedious methods isn’t an education it’s memorization. You can remember all of the various equations in calculus or physics but if you understand them and their relation to each other you can learn a few and know how to derive or integrate them into what you need and those are not something people ever enjoy in the process of learning. My university is big on methods and doesn’t allow calculators on any calc or physics exams.

  4. Thor says:

    Logan is right! He has discovered experiential learning. The process of experiential learning could be carried out right now in all classrooms across the country. With some large screen monitors and the correct programs the schools would allow the students to be immersed in any subject. Emotional immersion has been shown to be the way the mind remembers the experience the best .

  5. We need more kids like this!!!

    1. Christine says:

      There are tons of kids like this. They’re unschoolers.

    2. SK says:

      Do we need more kids like this, or do we need to open our eyes and our ears to the kids who are already here? Because most of them are gems already.

  6. Somehow we need to make school and learning enjoyable so children’s natural curiosity will be engaged and they’ll see learning as something they want to do even in their time off. When I was in high school I was unhappy and wondered why schools didn’t address this and show us how to be happy and figure out activities and policies that would encourage our happiness as students.

    1. Justine says:

      Its a parents job to inspire children and its easy

  7. Chad Buestonte says:

    Wow are you all duped… are you that impressed with a kid reading off a teleprompter of a speech his dad wrote? Maybe or maybe not there is a real underlying argument on schooling (my take this is why the millennial generation is the just hand it to me without working for it generation – i want to do fun things, i dont want to be in a classroom and learning math, give me what i want) but this kid did not write this or formate this speech and sentiment. Here is a tip, cut your hair, stop your bitching and get to school. What ever happened to parenting?

    1. Goli Mohammadi says:

      Chad, you shouldn’t make assumptions about things you know nothing of. Perhaps you don’t have faith in how brilliant kids can be, but Logan did in fact write his own speech.

    2. Justine says:

      Hey Chad, I get what you are saying. But personally i have tried the alternative education and traditional, I have three children. My oldest child is 16 tomorrow, she is by nature an average student, and for years I have been challenged by her grumpy disposition….her sport (ski racing and her love of the mountains and her drive changed her completely, she found her mojo, excels at main stream school (when she is there….) and her sport and is a happy driven person……i think the point is to find what you love doing and make it work in the future, long hair, short hair, mainstream school, alternative, I think doing something you love can always be translated into a job or a future that involves a large degree of happiness (you just have to think creatively how to do this) and when it doesnt any more for what ever reason its time for a change. Sure this kid is maybe a mouth piece for his Father (maybe) but what he is saying is so obvious i dont know why its a revolution, you just need to really look at your kids and see what makes them happy and then try and help them maintain the momentum, pretty simple.
      Lily my 16 YO just blew her ACL race training….check out her page Lily Newton Brown athlete on face book…..who knows if she will come back but she is happy trying and thats all i can ask for. This kid is stating the obvious, do your school work, do your sport or whatever it is you love doing and try to make a way to make it a job!! I have done this of course it is possible!!

      1. Justine says:

        Sorry me again, by the way….its the parents Job not the schools…

    3. Comments like this are sad. Let’s discount an entire generation because I feel like they’re expecting too much. Let’s discount a kid because he’s young.

      I started programming when I was 11 years old (younger than this kid) before there was a World Wide Web. At 16 I got my first professional IT job, and after 16 years I’m one of the top in my field. I’ve done judging for community contests in complex IT areas for high schoolers all over the world and I have to say, there’s a number of ‘kids’ who are incredibly more talented than most I meet in the IT field.

      The millenials don’t work for things? All of them? I’m tired of hearing that kids today have it so easy. Take a look at this: http://www.thesimpledollar.com/2011/10/13/a-dose-of-financial-reality/

      Compared to 1970, the cost of a 4 year degree has increased by 994%. And good luck getting a loan. Minimum wage part time was enough to afford college then. Housing has increased 917%. Grocery costs up 30%.

      Kids today are growing up, going to schools that they hear are going to crap because of politicians and decreased focus on education. They are working to get into colleges that are impossibly expensive and hard to get financial aid for. Upon getting out they are finding out that there are people with dozens of years experience willing to work cheap thanks to outsourcing or unemployment. Instead of relative peace, jobs, and low national debt they hear and see hopelessness all around them, in politics and school and jobs and medicine and everything else. But of course, let’s just ask them to cut their hair and go to school. That’ll make it all better.

    4. I was tempted to offer a rebuke to the comment, but I realize there’s actually something important in his sentiment. Many people have this attitude; it’s what society tries to breed into us. It’s the tendency to first believe the negative, even when presented with the positive, and then demand proof that we’re not being duped before we’re willing to give in and admit that someone might actually be smart, independent, creative and not necessarily one of the “entitlement culture”. We see it all around us. We tend to assume, even in the complete absense of evidence to back it up, that someone – especially public figures – are automatically liying, defrauding and hiding things. We tend to not look at the facts first, but rather jump to conclusions based on our own belief that people are selfish, liars and “in it” for themselves only. That’s the attitude society teaches us to have. It goes far beyond critical thinking and questioning the world around us. Society all too often teaches us to take it to the extreme and not question at all but rather merely believe the worst in people. Worst of all, that’s the message we adults then give to the kids. We are teaching them to believe the worst of people and the world, that there really isn’t any hope in individual achievement and even if they do achieve something, they’ll be ridiculed for it anyway – so why try. Better to just shut up, do homework, conform and be just like everyone else – be productive but never excel. Logan doesn’t fit that mold, and so he is surprising and shocking to some people. And some people refuse to believe. I don’t blame people for feeling that way. It’s actually understandable and I have to fight that tendency as well. The problem is society, and by extension, the education system (“industry”) that instills those attitudes which propagate from parent to child across generations. Perhaps we adults should stop telling children what they are and how they think and listen more to them when they tell us who they are, how they think and what they believe. I think we can learn as much from them as they can from us. In some aspects, perhaps more.

  8. amine dz says:

    A reblogué ceci sur and commented:
    Hackschooling

  9. Thomas Wolf says:

    Nice kid, cute, eloquent, coming from a progressive family (installing a certain mindset), and every parent would be proud of. No doubt. This is a ‘TED style’ speech to create the typical wow factor. Btw, why is it necessary to use the term ‘hack’ or ‘hacking’, it is way to overused these days and just adds to impression that it is used to make this speech pop more.
    In term of contents, I am not impressed. All this falls into the nothing new, has been tried before category (Waldorf schools).
    The school system is not perfect. No complex system is (government, cities, companies). It is their nature. He mentions that he got a business idea from one of his ventures. So I assume that creating a business is still in line of living a happy life. Now, to be successful in business the most important skill is persistence and overcoming obstacles. This is not normally equivalent to happiness. I do not see this skill being developed in an experimental, playful environment. Schools are there to provide a structured environment preparing for real life. But it is not 24/7. There is a lot of time outside school to develop personality.
    And can we please stop use the term hacking where it dose not apply.

  10. Brad Mayeux says:

    it used to be called “innovation” unless you were a farmer, or lived in the country – without a machinist, a mechanic, a vet, a doctor, an herbalist, etc… that lived nearby, you made do, you make things work cos you have to. it was called common sense.
    One can do a LOT with shoe strings and bubble gum, if one HAS to.

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