Sort of an abstract

I first came across the term “hackschooling” when watching the TedxTalk “Hackschooling makes me happy” by Logan LaPlante at TEDxUniversityofNevada from February 2013 (which has 6.1 Million views by now).

[Original source: http://tedxtalks.ted.com/video/Hackschooling-Makes-Me-Happy-Lo%5D

While doing some research on the term “hackschooling”, it struck me that there is apparently no (official) academic article published focusing on it. Is this because hackschooling fits perfectly within the unschooling/homeschooling classification¬†or because it has not been recognized so far?

If it does fit – how does it fit? How is it related to these terms and where does it differ? How is hackschooling defined?

Due to a lack of academic resources, my attempt to answer these questions is based on grey literature such as blogs, videos and websites.

The method used: Initial Search / Browsing for resources

Since my university’s library search resulted in one source only [19], and google scholar made it to eight in total, from which I could use one [20], I turned to Wikipedia and Google.

Wikipedia does not list¬†hackschooling. When entering this term in the search engine, it simply refers to “Homeschooling”.

Search result from wikipedia.org on 17th of September 2014 20:42
Search result from wikipedia.org on 17th of September 2014 20:42

However, entering “hackschooling” on Google showed approximately 157.000 results. [Approx. 5.480 for “hack schooling”]

Search result from Google on 17th of September 2014 20:46
Search result from Google on 17th of September 2014 20:46

Would there be any resource available, which could offer a definition or try to put hackschooling into a broader perspective?

My prerequisites for browsing appropriate grey resources:

  • Term “hack schooling” or “hackschooling” in direct relation to Logan LaPlante’s Tedx Talk¬†and
  • Hackschooling either defined and/or compared to other types of alternative education (e.g. homeschooling, unschooling etc.) [exceptions: 5+18+19; definition only]

A Definition of hackschooling

Watching the video of LaPlante already offers some starting points that have to be considered for a proper definition

  • Hackschooling is seen as the center of the four elements “Happy & Healthy / 8 TLCS*”, “Creativity/ Hacker mindset”, “Experimental classes & camps” and “Technology & Online Resources”.
    *8 TLCs: Therapeutic Lifestyle Changes by Dr. Roger Walsh (Exercise, Diet & Nutrition, Time in Nature, Contribution & Service, Relationships, Recreation, Relaxation & Stress Management, Religious & Spiritual)
The Hackschooling Mindset, taken from https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=h11u3vtcpaY (min. 6:00)
The Hackschooling Mindset, taken from https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=h11u3vtcpaY (min. 6:00)
  • Hacking is described as innovative and as to challenge an existing system.
  • Hackschooling as¬†mindset, not a system that¬†can be used by anyone, even schools.
  • No particular curriculum¬†nor¬†approach, instead a network of people, a “re-mix or mash-up of learning“, focus on experiencing what one is learning and on hacks or shortcuts to get faster/better results

After the initial browsing, I selected 20 web sources based on the above criteria. Surprisingly, most of them only explain the term “hackschooling” very vaguely (if at all: by citing the video) and seldom relate it to other alternative education ideas (e.g. unschooling, homeschooling) by giving detailed information on why they mention this relation. The vast majority reports on the Ted Talk, only two are giving opinions and critical approaches to think about it.

Main findings

Out of 20 resources, a connection to unschooling could be found in two sources [1, 16], a connection to homeschooling in 10 [2, 3, 4, 7, 8, 9, 10, 11, 13, 15] a definition only in seven [5, 6, 12, 14, 18, 19, 20] and two sources did put hackschooling in a broader context [16, 17].

As for the definition, there were some sources reaching for more than already given by LaPlante’s talk:

  • Unschooling and hackschooling as different variations of homeschooling [3], but hackschooling is not restricted to homeschooling [2]
  • A concept in which education is open to being hacked or improved (by working within the current system and outside educational establishments) [4]
  • A way of creatively challenging traditional assumptions (more from a leadership perspective) and a benevolent form of hacking which includes hacking schooling [7]
  • A fresh take on homeschooling [9]
  • A home-school with a de-emphasis on “home” [15]
  • Hackschooling dedicated to unschooling [16]
  • ‚ÄúHacking school‚ÄĚ means something more than ‚Äúadopting education technology” [18]
  • Hack schooling focuses on¬†small diverse teams and meaningful¬†learning and thus enhances social learning [19]
  • Hacker¬†are¬†challenging and changing the system so that it works in a better way,¬†a mindset¬†criticizing the actual education systems, mindset as a¬†foundation to¬†build a civic intelligence [20]

Open questions and what’s next?

First of all it would be pretentious to say, that the resources used represent the unitary point of view on hackschooling. Rather do they represent a point of departure for future investigations. But still – these first results mentioned above are leading towards some open questions.

Just because LaPlante¬†comes from a homeschooling family, does this mean, hackschooling fits with homeschooling definitions? The most important next step will be an analysis of the definition of homeschooling and unschooling. How do these three terms “hackschooling, unschooling and homeschooling” relate to each other? For this more sound research on the terminology is needed. The following step will be the link to the broader perspective, which was already offered by some sources (incl. raised questions), e.g.:

  • Hugely lacking in supporting evidence, effectiveness? does the existing education system not¬†already include/encourage creativity? arguing for something that already exists? [16]
  • Leaving open a lot of questions [17]

In conclusion, I am very surprised that no author¬†tried to be more specific in what hackschooling is and where it can be placed within the educational environment. It might be, that this definition and classification is so obvious, that it is not worth mentioning it. It might as well be, that by leaving out lines of argument these resources miss an important point: defining hackschooling is harder than simply¬†reporting on it as “just another form of homeschooling”.

Maybe this research was a waste of time – but this topic made me think and try to investigate something by using academic approaches. This blog post is thus more than just a post for me. It is also a way to work with the input given in the last few days of my Master’s program. I don’t know yet if this could become the foundation of my term paper. But I would appreciate feedback on my idea. ūüôā


  1. [Leo, Unschoolery, 19.11.2013]
  2. [Deepa Ranganathan, Voniz, 11.09.2014]
  3. [Katie Lepie, edudemic, 02.12.2013] 
  4. [Bucky Fuller, hackschooling.net, no date]
  5. [Brenda Nicholson, Answers, AFF Pages, no date]
  6. [Goli Mohammadi, make:, 05.03.2013]
  7. [Victor Lipman, forbes, 03.7.2013]
  8. [Penelope Trunk, Penelope Trunk, 08.03.2013]
  9. [Carol Greenhouse, The Intelligent Optimist, 19.12.2013]
  10. [n.n., social consciousness, 14.03.2013]
  11. [Diane Ravitch, Diane Ravitch’s blog,¬†25.01.2014]
  12. [Meena Kadri, open ideo, 17.09.2013]
  13. [Joe Martino, collective evolution, 07.01.2014]
  14. [Amy Rozel Martin, Amy Rozel Martin, 08.04.2013] 
  15. [Shannan, flower patch farmgirl, 14.01.2014]
  16. [Brent Silby, The Journal of Education, 26.11.2013]
  17. [Audrey Watters, hackeducation.com, 03.03.2013] 
  18. [Audrey Watters, hackschooling] 
  19. [Martin Kesselman , (2014) “On the horizon: The 2014 Consumer Electronics Show in Las Vegas, Part II”,Library Hi Tech News, Vol. 31 Iss: 4, pp.1 – 6]¬† review of the TransformingEDU workshop
  20. [Sara Sanz Rodríguez, Universidad de Cantabria, Citizenship education, option or necessity?, July 2014] Spanish version only

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