The Unusual Suspects

Holler_H_spacingI’m going to go out on a limb and make a prediction. In a year, or so, there is going to be a new mobile app or video project that will surface on the Internet and people will go crazy over it, share it across the social networks, and wonder where it came from and who made it. You’ll have the usual suspects: Silicon Valley, New York, Chicago, an emerging start-up community in Kansas City or Chattanooga, but all of those will be wrong. It’s going to come from a much smaller place, a place where small town doesn’t mean a hundred thousand people and broadband Internet connection is still not a guarantee. It’s going to come from the hollers of Central Appalachia and it’s going to usher in the mindset that anyone can create anything with the right amount of hard work and opportunity.

mrDANGER_mountainPOSTCARDIt is my goal that this website,, will be the catalyst for that disrupting and systemic change in the Appalachian region. There are numerous pockets of start-up communities currently forming around the United States and after school programs focusing on teaching young people programming languages. As of right now, the entire country is behind in this initiative, and if we act quickly, Central Appalachia will not be behind in this educational opportunity. We can be on par with the other emerging areas, but more importantly, we can shape these new technologies and learning models to suit our own needs and creative avenues.

The initial launch will attempt to create this new community with a social learning website. In this basic online community instead of groups you have “hollers.” One holler might consist of documentary production and another would be graphic design or photography. As an example, we will create a holler focused on school-produced news programs. College students from multiple universities would post their finished productions, scripts, behind-the-scenes information, schematics, lighting and set design. They would share their process, struggles, and advice. Students or teachers from other institutions will do the same and ideally, students at local high schools would do so as well. Once everyone is contributing, you’ll have a holler full of new ideas and tech tips to help the schools that are just starting out, or those that want to create such work but don’t know where to begin. Together, we will establish one big collective – and we will all be better for it.

After the models have been established, the same steps could be repeated with just about any topic. Documentary film students will brainstorm ideas and find crewmembers and collaborators they didn’t know existed. Those interested in web or graphic design will add new layers and expertise to the mix. I’m starting with these topics because there is a tremendous deficiency in Central Appalachia in these disciplines and I want to remedy that. Our youth should be shooting their own videos and creating a simple web app to deliver the goods, but they don’t know how to approach it. That is where the Holler comes in.

The second phase of the project will be an open course delivery system offering free instruction on all of these topics, and more. There is a wave of massive open online courses, or MOOCS, causing quite a stir in higher education, but it doesn’t directly address the issues and obstacles to learning in Central Appalachia. While traditional MOOCS are great, the courses are designed to engage as many students as possible, sometimes more than 10,000 at a time, and are structured like advanced graduate level courses. What happens if we take a free online delivery system and create course work designed for a specific culture and region, and direct it to a much smaller class size?

We’re going to find out.

In his book A Whole New Mind, Daniel Pink writes “As more people develop a design sensibility, we’ll increasingly be able to deploy design for its ultimate purpose, changing the world.”

We are going to use that philosophy to change education and access to learning in Central Appalachia … and then Central Appalachia is going to change the world.

We’re not looking for a path; we’re going to create one.



Illustration by Paul Hornschemeier



4 thoughts on “The Unusual Suspects”

  1. Exciting prediction, but more than that. I don’t know if it is really a prediction if you have the drive, the expertise, and the people to make it work. Maybe more a goal, and certainly one worth attaining. I’m all in! Thanks for your vision!

  2. I heard of this site. I truly believe it will bne someting grand. I am working to incorporate this site into my classroom. I am a math teacher at Breathitt Coutny High School. I will need help from you “Hollarians” out there, so I thank you in advance.

  3. I had not replied to Bruce’s prediction because I had to first give it some thought. Now I am ready to say that I believe he just might be right!

    The Bible says in Proverbs 29:18, “Where there is no vision, the people perish.” Bruce can’t predict the future, but he can help create it. None of us are prophets or fortune tellers, but if we truly have a vision of for our future it just might unfold exactly as we see it. We cannot let ourselves be limited by our abilities or current circumstances. We must create the future rather than limiting by our vision of what we can be. Our vision is not just a picture of what we can be; it is an appeal to become something much better, a call to shape and re-create the future for ourselves and for future generations. We can actually change the future of our region by simply changing our vision for it.

    Where do we want to be in three years? Do we have a vision to be more than what we are today? Or are we simply happy to drift along adopting a will be, will be attitude? I am reminded of another quote (attributed to the Bible-but it isn’t really there), “There is none so blind, as he who will not see.’” I guess that statement raises the real issue here. Do we see things as they appear to be and limit our vision or do we see things as they can be and embrace the change necessary to get us there.

    Hey Bruce, I am right there on that limb with you!

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