calling all teaching wolves by your name

Last week I wrote about interdependence over independence, and this week I am launching the online Open-Source Learning community.

Join the online Open-Source Learning community HERE.

More than ever, I want everyone to understand that Open-Source Learning is a “we” thing – it is definitely not a “me” thing. I gave the name Open-Source Learning to a framework of ideas, strategies, and tactics that many, many people have used over thousands of years to help each other learn.


As Juliet points out in Act II, “It is nor hand, nor foot, nor arm, nor face, nor any other part…”

True to Shakespeare’s point: Open-Source Learning is an idea, not a thing.

To paraphrase the Bard, Open-Source Learning would, were it not Open-Source Learning call’d, retain that dear perfection which it owes without that title.

Open-Source Learning by any other name would work just as well and be just as amazing.

So why did I give Open-Source Learning a name? And why “Open-Source Learning”? Why not call it “Tao 2.0 (or Tao3/DAO3),” or give it some education-style acronym like The Simple Heuristic for Information Teaching* (*The SHIT) – or maybe just call it Fred, your AI-friendly learning bot?

In Academy of One I describe how my approach to teaching was inspired by the thinking behind open systems in thermodynamics and open source software development. For example:

  • Open-Source Learning integrates all our capacities with our key interests in ways that help us curate our progress.
  • We learn more and better when we share our thinking and get feedback from people who have experience in the realms we want to explore.
  • Someone has already done what we want to do. The fastest way to make progress is to learn about their work, imitate it, and expand on it. This is the art of the remix. It’s what Hunter S. Thompson was doing when he retyped Fitzgerald’s The Great Gatsby. It’s what I’m doing right now when I invoke ideas from Newton and some pre-Medieval guy named Bernard: “If I have seen further it is by standing on the shoulders of giants.”
  • Life is interdisciplinary, technology is transformative, and school sucks.

Now there is an even more important reason to fly the Open-Source Learning flag.


In case you haven’t noticed, we’re destroying our culture at least as fast as we’re destroying our physical world. Pick your issue. Pick your community. The most prosperous, powerful nation in human history is disintegrating into a monkey shitfight at the zoo. We can’t seem to agree on anything, even though we need to improve everything. In this context, every educator is at risk.

Therefore, every educator needs the validation and support we don’t get in faculty lounges, unions, or professional associations. We need a way of explaining – and occasionally defending – innovative practices when they’re challenged by parents, site administrators, or local / district officials.

Here’s the good news: We have the solution. We are the solution.

As Rudyard Kipling put it in The Jungle Book, “For the strength of the Pack is the Wolf, and the strength of the Wolf is the Pack.”


There is at least one teacher on every campus who doesn’t speak up at faculty meetings or sit on committees. You know who they (you?) are. They don’t want to make a spectacle of themselves or put a target on their back. But they know that teaching obsolete standards-based test prep from a textbook sucks ass. So, year after year, they quietly go about the business of shutting their classroom door and making magic with their students.

The Open-Source Learning community is for people who want to develop their learning practices out loud in a place where they don’t have to look over their shoulder.

In every course I’ve taught, my practices were (a) effective in engaging learners who produced more and better work than before, and (b) very different than what learners experienced in other courses. As my students became more visible online, they became more successful. They dominated scholarship competitions, gained admission to highly selective universities, and secured elite internships and jobs.

As a result, over the years I’ve been interviewed by quite a few academic researchers and popular journalists, and every single one of them asked me two questions:

  1. How do you do it?
  2. Aren’t you afraid of being fired?

It’s time to sunset question #2. Every effective educator deserves the security, time, and space they need to focus on the work, without worrying that they’ll  become the next tall poppy or the nail that sticks out and gets hammered.


If you’re even dreaming of doing good work as a teacher and somehow simultaneously remaining invisible, it’s time to wake up.

We’re all visible. And how we’re seen isn’t always up to us. To some, I’m a TED talking consultant thought leader person. To others, I’m a life-hacking guinea pig or a middle-aged white guy who calls out racism and “fascist, loofa-faced shitgibbons” when I see them.

“Oh my,” I can hear the kind-hearted, gentle people say, “I don’t know about that. Teachers are supposed to be apolitical. Neutral.”

Bullshit. Paolo Friere and many others have written about the danger of neutrality because it is an act. An illusion, nothing more than a rhetorical convenience. There is no neutral for teachers. There never was.

Open-Source Learning begins with integrity. Pull off your mask and identify yourself. Being our best authentic selves is the foundation of connection. Creating interdisciplinary learning adventures that begin with students’ interests and end with online awesomeness depends on our abilities to connect – with our own passionate curiosity, with informational resources, and with each other.

Beyond the obvious Mental, Physical, and Spiritual Fitness benefits, The Civic Fitness component of Open-Source Learning invites us to actively engage with our society. Practice. Exercise your First Amendment rights and tell us who you are.

I’ve made my choice. Anyone who knows me or reads stuff like this knows exactly where I stand on learning, education, and schooling. I’m always happy to have a good argument, and I’m always willing to listen and change my mind.

What about you? Are you OK with how everything is going in our country? Do you think every person in your community deserves a measure of respect, autonomy, and opportunity? (Or life, liberty, and happiness?) How about it then? Are you a sheep, or a wolf?


If you’re a sheep, you can stop reading here.

If you’re a wolf, your pack is waiting for you.

Join us over at the Open-Source Learning online community, where “I am because we are” (Ubuntu was a philosophy before it was software).

That last sentence is more than just a nice turn of phrase. I started thinking about wolves for this post because of Open-Source Learning community charter member Jeremy Harder, an amazing teacher in Montana and part-time wolf researcher, who taught me a few things that are so profound I’m still sorting them out. You can join me, Jeremy, and the rest of the Open-Source Learning community by clicking here.






happy interdependence day

Happy Fourth of July.

Independence Day.

What a scam.

I’m all for a party – I’m American! – but what exactly are we celebrating? The liberation of a few white colonists from King George?

Freedom? No woman I know is celebrating being told what to do with her uterus.



I’m going to celebrate Interdependence Day. I will light the grill and enjoy fireworks – I want to feed people I love and say “ooh” and “aah” with a bunch of people I don’t know. I will be grateful for everyone upon whom I depend, and for everyone who depends on me.

None of us are independent. We all need each other. Plus we need a lot of people we’ll never meet. Take for example everyone who made the screens where I’m typing this idea and you’re reading it.


I’m a proud American. By that I mean I’m the product of people who came from many different places and gene pools. My relatives include descendants of 17th century immigrants from the British Isles, Holocaust survivors, Jews, Catholics, Agnostics, Protestants, and a U.N.-grade variety of ethnic, racial, and cultural extensions by marriage. When I taught in the classroom I used to write pairs of words on the white board that symbolized dichotomies (UCLA/USC, Black/White, Rich/Poor, etc) and I’d tape a $20 bill next to the list, a prize for anyone who could figure out what the descriptors had in common. They were all characteristics of my family tree. I still have that twenty bucks.

As different as they were, the people in my family needed each other to make a family. That doesn’t mean they always got along. At every holiday meal my grandmother argued with my aunt about whether to open or close the window to the alley. Someone opened the window. Someone else closed it. Finally the simmering boiled over into a battle royale: “It’s too hot – open the damn window!” “It’s freezing in here, will you PLEASE close the window?”

This is how they said “I love you” and they didn’t just need each other, they needed us as their studio audience/ jury/ seconds. “Don’t you think it’s hot? Tell her it’s cold, she’ll listen to you!”

So it is with all of us. Whether it’s for validation, business, or life’s basics, we need each other. I needed all those people just to exist.

Today each of us will need to exchange goods, services, and currency that provide food, shelter, clothing, and transportation. Your t-shirt supply chain has been documented by approximately 9,000 websites and travels twice that many miles from the cotton plantation to your back.


In case you still have some Horatio Alger / Huck Finn – inspired dream of making your way in the world without depending on anyone, consider that every entrepreneur, athlete, entertainer, artist, author, and other “individual” performers you admire had people in their lives who provided help, support, and opportunity.

You can’t even tickle yourself. And what if you could? What if you could somehow override the sensory predictions made by an internal forward model of your motor system? You’d be missing out on most of what makes life worth living.

The Declaration of Independence was useful in its time. The Declaration of Interdependence is more relevant today.

We need each other. Go tickle someone.