With the release of the Mozilla Hackasaurus “hacktivity kit,” hack jams are starting to pop up around the world — including the first-ever Hackasaurus event in Africa.
Held last week at the Nairobits Design School in Nairobi, the jam introduced youth and novice web makers to the basic building blocks of HTML, all by messing around with their favorite web pages. (Check out Cliff Argwings post on the event here.)
The goal: help youth see the web as something they can actively make and shape, and potentially open the door to deeper design and web developer skills.
Prototyping web maker jams for the world
The event was also a chance to test out some of the new Hackasaurus Hacktivity Kit, a how-to guide designed to make it easy for anyone to host their own design jam for novice web makers.
Our goal is to massively scale up these local design jams in 2012, by providing the tools and resources local communities need to self-organize and adapt the template to their interests and needs.
Messing around with the web
That’s what the Mozilla Kenya team did last week, kicking off with a brief intro to the Mozilla Mission before diving into Hackasaurus. Cliff writes:
Then came the moment of truth: we had to test if the kids grasped how the Hackasaurus X-ray Goggles worked — and also test their html and css skills.
The results are a great example of what we mean by web making, and the “a ha!” moment that can happen when people play around with Hackasaurus for the first time: a shift to seeing the web as something you can tinker with, and a potential gateway to deeper skills.
Sponsored by the National Writing Project, the recent jam gave educators a chance to use Firefox and Hackasaurus to mess around with websites by changing the underlying HTML that makes them tick.
Meredith’s post about the experience perfectly captures the value of getting our hands dirty through webmaking, and reminded me of Mitchell Baker’s keynote on creation vs. one-way consumption at the Mozilla Festival. Meredith writes:
It’d be easy to say, “That sounds fun, but what’s the point?”
For me, mucking around in the HTML was like making bread from scratch or changing a tire. They’re activities in which I want to engage as an act of understanding and joy, not necessarily of utility or efficiency.
I think for ourselves and our students understanding the means of production are important, so that we can be responsible and thoughtful teachers, students, and humans.
The hack jam’s organizer, Andrea Zellner, also writes beautifully about revealing the hidden structures that make up our digital lives:
As more and more research and attention is paid to the ways our literate lives are mediated by interactions on the internet, less attention is paid to the function of the tools that get us there. How many facebook posters understand the algorithm of the newsfeed? How many people uploading content to Youtube understand the genesis of the embed code? There is an entire hidden structure of the webpages with which we interact that mediates the way we compose and present ourselves on the web.
Enter the hackjam: designed to make visible the hidden structure of the internet for K12 students (but most grownups I know would benefit, too!), these tools provide an entry into inquiry about the ways we are both freed and bounded by the hidden structure of the internet pages we visit. By developing our hacker selves, we are then empowered to move ourselves more critically through these spaces, rather than being led through them.