Course 1 Random Thoughts

Aaron Swartz – A geeky Role Model?

I can’t remember fully when I heard the words nerd and geek the first time in my life. Probably it was during my time working for a Software Company as a trainer for their products. I thought some of my colleagues were nerds/geeks and for some reasons I was very impressed by them.

In theory everybody can be a geek and geeking out (Living and Learning with New Media, page 28ff.) on the internet. Compared to hanging out and messing around it is very intense, only interest-driven, therefore very knowledgeable, and highly social and engaged learning. Another big difference is the fact that

geeking out engagement involves accessing as well as producing knowledge to contribute to the knowledge network. (page 29.)

At the beginning of the year I read about the sad news of Aaron Swartz (Wikipedia) who killed himself. Unfortunately it was the first time I heard from him – probably I was / I am not geeky enough to hear from him early (or because I’m not surrounded by geeks anymore). It difficult for me to list what he was involved in and what he was fighting for – Wikipedia does it’s job. Anyways – I’m still very impressed by his knowledge, engagement, activism, understanding of complex topics, networked thinking, etc.

Today at school I had a group of five students (Grade 5) and I took some time to ask them what they are actually doing when they are on the internet. They definitely all playing games like f.e. Minecraft – hanging out with friends (chatting, etc.) and also kind of messing around (producing Minecraft-videos and posting them on youtube).

It’s a start but as a educator it would be great to support them to become more skilled on the internet, to use technology in a geeky way, to use their networks and eventually do action on whatever they are passioned about. Like Aaron Swartz who died way to early.


2 replies on “Aaron Swartz – A geeky Role Model?”

It is now cool to be geeky. Back in my day, geeks were social misfits. I was a bookworm– so a geek.

For my own children at home, I would come across a free software on the internet or something that was installed on my first macbook (I love Mac!). I would open it up for them and tell them what it “did”. This makes movies (imovie). This makes stop motion videos (iStop Motion). This allows you to design things (Sketch-up). This allows you to create songs (Garage Band). This makes comics (Comic Life) My eldest was 10 at the time. She and her younger siblings would fool around with whatever it was. It was so much fun for them. They would spend hours playing. In a matter of days, they knew more about the software than I ever did, or ever will. That’s because they have the time to play with it whereas adults don’t. Now, if I have a question, I go to them.

This was easy for me to do, as I was their mother. It would be hard to justify letting your students have gobs of open time on the computer; but that is what they need to learn software. When my kids encountered a problem that they couldn’t solve, they would ask me and I would google the answer for them. In a traditional classroom, it’s hard to say, “Uh. I don’t know. Let me get back to you in a couple of days…”

The landscape for learning is sure different, but the kids know how to do it!


Hi Vivian,

your comment is highly appreciated! Thanks!

Yes, the landscape for learning is very different depending of the learning environment, school, teacher, financial situation etc.; I don’t even want think about many public schools in Germany.
As a teacher I don’t give them time to idle around but I definitely integrate technology into my teaching. Many students have laptops at home and who knows – maybe they try something new. From Grade 6 they will have their own laptop, so the access becomes easier.


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