Teachers Hacking Education

Something potentially quite profound is happening in the way teacher development – and schooling itself – could be in the future. I’m delighted to see that it’s grown out of a project that I’ve always been associated with, Musical Futures, but can claim no credit for it. Please don’t dismiss this because it’s happening in music: what we’re seeing could be happening anywhere, and in any subject area. Oh, and let me know if you have come across similar movements.

Last week I gave a short presentation to a bunch of leading Musical Futures teachers in the UK. It’s now been 10 yrs since we started Musical Futures off, as an action research project with 20 pilot schools – now almost 60% of English schools adopt Musical Futures approaches, and the programme is also running in 8 other countries. But my challenge to the teachers present was to ask how they could now take the initiative going forwards. Their immediate response has been thrilling.

Here’s what’s happened in just a few days.

We launched an idea for new innovation in two areas of music in the classroom: Singing and music technology. We were looking to work  on a pilot project with 15 schools, but had over 100 high-quality apllications. It seemed a shame to be excluding so many. When the leading teachers got together last week, we did a bit of singing and a bit of music tech and a bit of sharing. It was clear that there was an urgency to work out ways to support teachers in these two areas.

So, yesterday a post appeared on the Musical Futures blog, inviting schools to sign up for an experiment in open sourced, and crowd-sourced approaches to innovation:


In less than 24 hours over 50 schools have signed up to this ‘co-pilot’ programme. it will run alongside the ‘official’ pilot, but will happen entirely through social media. Teachers will get to see videos of training from the pilot, but will ‘co-pilot’ their own; we’ll create resources, but invite the teachers to hack them and create their own. It is, as I said, an experiment. Will the teachers working together through social media – and they’re coming from all around the world – be able to generate and sustain their own momentum? Will they be able to co-create as quickly as those schools getting additional expert input?

The early signs are positive. We haven’t even designed the training programme, or any of the resources, but last night the ‘co-pilots’ were already at it, sharing videos on the Facebook page, and tweeting like mad.


So, they’ve already got a head start on those schools in the ‘official’ pilot. If you’re involved in music education and want to take part in this DIY teacher development experiement, please start here.

We know that open source hacking has worked powerfully in the developer’s community,  (as in Linux, et al) but if this experiment works, then this could be the future of innovation in education. Not carefully controlled randomised trialling, or small-scale closed action research projects. Just get an idea out there and, as Google say, ‘fail fast and iterate’.

We recently started describing Musical Futures as  a teacher-led ‘movement’ – you can’t keep calling yourself a ‘project’ after 10 years –  but felt a little embarrassed about making such grandiose claims. If this bunch of enthusiastic hackers can pull this off, it will have been exactly the right word.

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