Hackasaurus in the Board Room

As Mark Surman’s blog post explains, Mozilla’s Hackasaurus project has been crisping up its story for high-level stakeholders like the Mozilla Board and our colleagues at the MacArthur Foundation. This post shares some of those talking points for “c-level,” Board-type audiences. More mainstream messaging is available on the Hackasaurus web site.

Mozilla: Creating a generation of web makers with Hackasaurus

  • Hackasaurus makes it easy for youth to learn about, explore and make stuff on the web.
  • Out-of-school web-making for tweens. Digital literacy through tinkering and messing around with the online spaces kids already hang out in.
  • Play with the web like Lego. Use real HTML, not simplified sandbox or toy language. Like “Scratch for the web.”
  • Face-to-face design jams plus online games at Hackasaurus.org. With learning pathways that invite kids to mess around with the web, and then help them move to high-level skills.

Kid-friendly tools + hack jams + online community

  • Hackasaurus includes three main offerings: 1. Kid-friendly software, 2. Local workshop curriculum, 3. An online community where kids can earn badges, find local design jams and share their work.
  • Software includes “X-ray Goggles” that make it easy to see and remix how web sites are put together. And a “WebPad” that makes it easy to make your own web pages.

Digital literacy through making and tinkering

  • Hackasaurus aims to help kids see the web as remixable by all of us. Like Lego or magic ink — as opposed to something passively consumed, like TV.
  • Longer term: on-ramp for youth to take deeper interest in web development. Geeking out with their own web projects and making, focused on their interests and passions.
  • Filling a gap in the market. There’s broad interest in digital literacy and maker kids, but few good programs. Hackasaurus brings both.

Progress to date:

  • Promising alpha software and successful events.
  • Alpha software and basic curriculum already developed.
  • Kids are participating as co-designers. Constant learner feedback via hack jams.
  • Have run 20+ hack jams so far in 2012. NYC, Chicago, Brussels, Birmingham.
  • Strong partnership with New Youth City Learning Network. Serving as lab for Hackasaurus.

What’s next?

1) Move from prototype to product. 2) Share with learning networks & partners. 3) Scale.

  • Improve UX and functionality of software. Becomes like Scratch for the Web. (2011/12)
  • Build out curriculum/pathway. Package so it can be replicated and self-organized. (2012)
  • Hackasaurus badges. Incentive and scaffolding for complete web-making pathway. (2012)
  • New learning networks. Rolled out to new YouMedia and Hive cities as they come online. (2012/13)
  • Create online community to help kids share their work, learn more, join clubs. (2012/13)
  • Global partners. Localization. Local clubs. (2013)

Risks and challenges

  • Gap between prototype and massively scalable product. There’s a significant gap between what we have now vs. program that can serve millions of kids. Need to draw on Mozilla’s product design and scaling skills, advice from Firefox and Mozilla Labs teams.
  • Getting beyond the “gee whiz” factor. Kids and adults say “wow” when we do the first hack jam. Need more. Plan to develop game-like pathways that map to real learning outcomes. Also, specific interest-driven modules (e.g. fashion, hip hop).

Presentation slides & video


  • This is pretty fascinating. This issue of building “game like pathways” has a lot in common with lots of other initiatives like Global Kids. And lots of opportunities to build motivation/assessment design principles using badges.

    I wonder if you think that the Designing for Participation framework that emerged from our work with Quest Atlantis MUVE and elsewhere would be helpful. You challenges look an awful lot like what we hope this framework can solve. We have a working example about it up at http://workingexamples.org/frontend/project/34.

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