Gregory Hill was a teacher in a North City school for 5 years, frustrated by the void of educational innovation and the lack of space and resources to create exciting and creative learning experiences for his students.
He spent hours collecting a class set of laptops and installing Ubuntu (a free operating system) on them so students could access the internet and share their projects online. He had to argue endlessly with his principal to get websites unblocked. It broke his heart to know how much his students wanted to use technology to learn, build and share, but knew that this would never happen in a school like his. It also angered him that most people felt sorry for his students because of their socio-economic status (100% of his students were free and reduced lunch), when they didn’t feel sorry for themselves.
When given the resources, the space and the “permission” to make, they did so brilliantly. They wanted to take risks. They wanted to be creative. They wanted other people to know the amazing things they were doing.
He decided to invest his efforts in building an independent technology department for the learners of St. Louis, freeing them from the isolated islands of their schools.
COLLABORATION AND RESEARCH
At the same time, Gregory and his friend Andrew would have weekly discussions about the future of learning, and what they could do to change it. Over the next two years, Andrew and Gregory spent loads of their free time soliciting the thoughts of teachers (in St. Louis and online), designers, startup finders, IT professionals, engineers, community activists, families and their students. During that time, they learned a lot about how they could operate, and what St. Louis needed them to do. In October 2012, they were ready to start their next phase- the formation of The Disruption Department.
PRESENT DAY: APPROACHES AND PROGRAMMING
Since the very beginning, the mentality and approach of The Disruption Department has grown and evolved. By shifting mindsets to seeing the city as our school, all its population as our teachers, and all it’s resources as our curriculum, The Disruption Department begun to see how excited teachers and students are to build and make. We’ve hosted meetups for teachers and creative types to connect (join our meetup group here). We’re working with 6 students, teaching them how to build online applications using donated Linux laptops and how to build prototypes of their inventions using the micro-controller Arduino. We run a monthly Hack Day so students can work together and gain exposure to a new aspect of the technology industry. We host “Pop-Up Makerspaces” so everyone can learn, and after merely 20 minutes of tinkering, feel the thrill of achieving something previously thought impossible.
We do this because we honestly believe that St. Louis can become the most innovative city in the country, but only if we support those making the future and are the source of this transformation.