In his book Here Comes Everybody: The Power of Organizing without Organizations, U.S. author and NYU professor Clay Shirky wrote, “The Internet runs on love.” He was talking about the power of very many Internet users volunteering their time—for example, how Wikipedia works. However, that quote often makes me think of all the many labors of love that have gone into creating MNOHS.

Here’s the recipe:

1 score of teachers
1 pair of counselors
1 handful of staff members

Put a rich palette of tools in the hands of the individuals listed. Create interesting online spaces where they can hang out with each other and experiment with the tools. Trust them to engage students in whatever subject they know best—applied statistics, applying to college, British literature, computers, enrolling at MNOHS, geometry, media arts, music theory, physics, physical education, world history, or you name it.

People often ask what difference it makes that MNOHS teachers create their own courses. Isn’t one algebra course just like the next? No it’s not! One algebra book or e-book or video may be a lot like the next, but a course isn’t a widget. A course is a complex set of creative decisions made by someone who loves his or her subject and sharing it with students. When teachers and staff experience the joy and freedom of creative online collaboration, they are more likely to foster that in students as well.

At MNOHS, our work revolves around the two-fold question of what students will create and how they will share it with others. Already a fan of Shirky, I was delighted when I found this video of his TED talk about his second book, Cognitive Surplus: Creativity and Generosity in a Connected Age. In the video, Shirky too highlights the words ‘create’ and ‘share’. In his view, when a person creates anything online, even a LOL cat, he or she has crossed over the gap from doing nothing to doing anything and that this is changing our world.

I don’t have any LOL cats of my own, so instead I will share with you a few more photos from the My MNOHS project. Notice the kitties and other symbols of comfort.

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