20 Nov

I’m moving this blog over to!
Come enjoy!


The expert opinion

15 Nov

Ha! I found this article today and thought it was fantastic: A Blueprint for Reinventing Education.

A lot of Marty Nemko’s suggestions parallel my own ideas for a hacked education:

Super teachers: we try to get this in a hacked education by “taking” classes from iTunes U and OpenCourseWare classes.

Life skills classes: I agree. Life skills are essential to learn. What’s better? Passing algebra or knowing how to budget your money so you’re not drowning in debt by the time you’re 25?

More big projects: This one excites me. First, because I learn way more if my education is couched in a large project. Second,  I have several ideas in mind to suggest to you on how to implement big projects in your education. They’re tenatively titled “High School MBA” and “College Prep Video Games.” Interested? Comment below.

Give students a choice: Letting students choose what they’ll learn gives them a vested interest in their own education. The key, as Marty Nemko emphasizes, is to keep it high quality.

Mentor-centric curriculum: YES. I am a proponent of mentoring and reccomend it to anyone hacking their education. I love his idea of having a site like for students and potential mentors.

It’s always nice when smart people and experts back you up. I am off to explore more of Marty Nemko’s site to get more ideas for Hacking High School.

Do you have any suggestions on ways to reinvent education? Comment below!

Free Ivy League…to Reuse as High School

12 Nov

Sound too good to be true? Check out iTunes U in for a source of free, high quality university courses you can use as a high school class.


I don’t need to tout the value of free, but the classes are the exact same courses that would cost you thousands of dollars each if you attended them in person.

Ivy League

Not just any college, mind you: big-name colleges like Harvard, Yale, Oxford, Stanford. The classes cover just about anything you’d want to know: English, history, math, science, even study skills and things like “lumped circuit abstraction” (whatever that is).

High school success

Yes, these are college-level classes, but they’re not impossible for a high school student. First of all, don’t be intimidated by the “university” label. There’s no need. You’re smart enough. The only thing that might give you trouble is insufficient background knowledge. But since these videos are recorded, if you come up on something that you don’t understand, you can pause and look it up.  Looking it up will not only answer your question, but refine your research skills. (If you’re keeping a daily log, be sure to include “research” as an entry every time you look something up.)

Concentrate on the class. Unless you’ve proven that you study better with music or whatever, turn off all distractions (especially text messages and status updates) and concentrate fully on the class. The less you allow yourself to be distracted, the easier the class will be. Plus, the more you concentrate, the better you learn.

Take notes during the classes. If you don’t have the chance to look up your questions immediately, write them down and look them up as soon as you can afterwards.


If you have an iPod (or other Apple creation), mp3 player, or computer, you can enjoy these classes wherever you can take your device. Do you learn best outside? Go to the beach or lie on the hammock and enjoy the breeze as you learn. Would you rather be curled in a snug chair at Barnes & Noble or your favorite library? Go for it. There’s no rule saying you have to study in a boring place.

What’s the point of school?

10 Nov

What is the point of high school? Seriously.

What do you want?

List out the things you want to know and want to have done by the time graduation day rolls around.

Do you want to be accepted into a college? To have taken four years of science? To be valedvictorian? Are you interested in having a pocket full of cash or your own business?

Include your dreams: do you want to invent something? Travel the world?

Put anything you want on the list. Remember your academic goals first, but include other things that you hope to accomplish before high school is over.

Build the list


  • School-related things you think you ought to know
  • High school graduation requirements (find this on your state’s education agency website or
  • Things you’re interested in
  • Preparation for SAT, ACT, or AP exams
  • College entry requirements (check the university’s website)
  • Preparation for future job (for example, in order to be an actor, you need acting experience and to study acting techniques)
  • Cultural Literacy: What Every American Needs to Know by ED Hirsch
  • Your dreams (like to be a writer, a logician, a traveler, whatever)

Make it happen

Does your public high school provide you with opportunities to fulfill most of these?

Most people will have to say no. Unless you have a really amazing school or a really boring list, you probably won’t accomplish most your goals at your public high school.

You have two choices for accomplishing your dreams outside of school: extracurricular activities and a hacked education.


Doing stuff before and after school (extracurricular) is a great time to get a lot of your goals accomplished. Unfortunately, homework and projects tend to leech into this time. But if you’re able to work on your list without sacrificing quality in your schoolwork, go for it.

Before School

Don’t knock the early morning. If you get enough sleep, the morning hours are great for getting things done. That’s how I run Hacking High School, which is not my day job.

Not sure if you’re a morning person? Try going to bed early enough that you get 7-8 hours of sleep before an early alarm. The thing is, you have to do this for about a week before you see any benefits. If you’re used to going to bed at 1 am, the first night will be really hard to go to bed at 10. You can also try the gradual route: go to bed 15 minutes earlier and wake up 15 minutes sooner. Do this every day until you’re waking up early enough to get an hour or more in the morning.

Instead of School

Hacking your education means you get to work on your list for school. Dream of inventing something? That can be your science class. Never again will schoolwork interfere with accomplishing your educational goals.

Be extraordinary

However you choose to do it, your list will provide you with a map to accomplishing a lot. This list alone will set you apart and above the majority of your fellow students. Knowing what you want out of school will help motivate you and make school worth going to. Doing things to take you one step closer to your dreams is a rush. Start your list today and be extraordinary.

Study Hacks

8 Nov

photo by lusi at

I just found a fabulous website at the end of last week: Study Hacks, by Cal Newport. I’m now a huge fan. Cal wrote a book called How to Be a High School Superstar. I haven’t read it yet, but I’m heading out to my library today to pick it up.

Study Hacks is a great website for learning how to study without killing yourself. Cal’s idea is that you should study efficiently, rather than wasting your time like the majority of people do when they “study.” My favorite so far is “The Art of Stealth Studying: How To Earn a 4.0 With Only 1.0 Hours of Work” (I developed a method very similar to this when I was in school–it works!).

He also says you should do fewer things, but do them incredibly well, to make yourself appealing to college admissions folks. He makes the case well, particularly in his post, “How to get into Stanford with Bs on your Transcript.”
Cal compares two students, one who was captain of the track team and other usual activities that ambitious high school students, another who does marketing and lobbied delegates at the UN.

The second is way more interesting and way more likely to get into a good college.

That’s one of the motivating things behind Hacking High School: make your education vastly more interesting, both to you now and college recruiters on the future. You’ll learn more, learn better, and go farther.

The High School Butterfly Effect

5 Nov

photo by carre23 at

I was listening to a business webinar on Wednesday and a lot of what the speaker, Marie Forleo, said was incredibly applicable to students who are hacking their high school career.

The Butterfly Effect

The “butterfly effect” is the idea that a butterfly can flap its wings and eventually it will cause a tornado: basically, small changes have huge effects.

Some of the smallest and most effective changes you can make are all in your head: they are the decisions you make and the mindset you have. Decide that you want to succeed in high school. Decide that you want your hacked education to be so successful that you get into any college you want or get your dream job or are prepared for an extraordinary life. As Marie Forleo said, “Small decisions can make you unstoppable.”

Change of Mind

The most spectacular part of the webinar was a question that sparked a framework shift (what your parents would call a changed attitude). Ask yourself: how would I behave if I were the best in the world at what I do? The best student, perhaps? The best college candidate? The best high school hacker?

What would you do differently in life? Would you study more? Would you aim higher? Apply to more prestigious or interesting colleges? I know I wanted to apply to Harvard, but didn’t think I was good enough, so I never did.

Who would you get to know if you were the best? Presumably everyone would want to know you if they knew you were the best–they’d want to interview you for the news, they’d want to be your friends, they’d want you in their college or employed at their company.

Act Like It

Okay, so act like it. Act like you are the best. No, don’t go be arrogant and all “I’m better than you.” No. But if you were legitimately the best student in the world, what would you be doing with your time? Go do that.

You need to act, and the time to act is NOW.

Hack your education. Even if it’s just one thing you do differently, do it now. Maybe you spend half an hour watching a YouTube video on game theory instead of watching TV. Whatever you do, start now and you’ll watch yourself really become the best in the world at what you do.

The Genius in You

3 Nov

picture by artM at

Genius is one percent inspiration and ninety-nine percent perspiration. Accordingly, a genius is often merely a talented person who has done all of his homework. – Thomas Edison

Science backs up Edison’s words. In a recently published book, The Genius in All of Us, David Shenk discusses how genius is not solely based on your genes. “No one is born with a predetermined amount of intelligence. Intelligence (and IQ scores) can be improved.”

This is great news! Ever feel like you were born dumb? Or that other people are just smarter than you and there’s nothing you can do about it? That you have no chance to be like Shakespeare or Einstein or even the smart kid next door?

Think again. Genius is something you can develop, something you can create.

Never let anyone convince you that you’re just not smart enough. Intelligence is made, not born.