A few years ago, the concept for Nerd Ninjaz came to me as I was re-watching the 1995 movie Hackers (starring a very young Angelina Jolie and Johnny Lee Miller). It was a story about young people using technology to explore their world, create (which included crashing 1,500 Wall Street Computers in the early 1990s for fun), and in the end, saving the day by preventing another hacker from stealing millions of dollars via a ‘worm’ program. The 1995 movie didn’t do so well at the box office at the time, but it was truly prophetic.
The general public had no idea that this quirky geek filled movie explored things in 1995 that we confront today. This past Sunday, 60 Minutes did a story on ransomware and as early as 2009, the Conficker worm was stealing our personal information (and a lot of our money). What stood out to me in Hackers was the concept of the ‘white hat’ (ethical) hackers. Hackers, doing positive hacking to help companies protect their data and actually hunting black hats (malicious) hackers. And today they get paid, A LOT, to hack!
Every child can learn how to code, even as coding itself is evolving (according to my student Shyne “Isn’t AI supposed to do that for us?”). Many of my students like calling themselves hackers as a status symbol. It means they have some coding skills. On a deeper level what they learn is how to think in a way that awakens their creativity, their ability to solve problems (both individually and collaboratively), and another way to communicate with others outside their circles. Whether for good or for ill, new careers and opportunities are out there!
Ten years ago, who would have thought that a hacker, once a term for a criminal, would come out of the basement to be in the light, with some being referred to as heroes. There are new careers now available in that light as a ‘white hat’ hacker. We share these careers with our young people so that they know that there is a lot of good they can do hacking and using the technology that they use every day. We’re not just teaching young people to code, we're grooming more ‘white hats’. Are you ready to join the 'white hats'?
William Teasley, President, Founder, and Nerd Ninja Sensei, HGEI
A blog for those working to refine the college access pipeline, create more opportunities to nurture future change agents, and mitigate the gaps.