I (Chad) wanted to capture a few thoughts about today’s Hack Jam with the Central Virginia Writing Project (CVWP) before I forget them or muddle them.
CVWP site directors Jane Hansen and Kateri Thunder invited me to join the CVWP Summer Institute for a morning of discussion about educational technology. The group expressed interest in a wide variety of topics ranging in scope from game-based learning to specific screen-casting tools. I wasn’t sure how to approach the different interests and needs expressed by the institute’s participants, but I figured that if we started a conversation together, we would be fine.
I also thought that a hack jam might help us talk about approaches to technology, rather than about specific technologies. So I brought along three sets of Monopoly - you know, just in case. Like how Paul Allison never goes anywhere without a microphone.
Given the choice between a conversation about different tech topics or a hack jam, the group chose to hack. I remember one participant expressing some worry - the hack jam “sounded like something you had to have a lot of preparation for.” I brought out Monopoly to set us all at ease and we began to play by imagining new ways to play.
Each group approached hacking Monopoly differently. One group collaboratively decided on an entire rule-set before starting to play. One group started with all the houses and hotels already in play. One group started with all the houses and hotels in the middle of the board. It was great to watch each group, in its own way, move farther and farther from parts of Monopoly. While one player rightly pointed out that this hacking activity could be done with any board game, we agreed that games like Monopoly - those with which many people have a common experience - are best for ice-breaking over a hack.
I’m not sure I gave enough time for us to share out our new games before we moved on to visualizing hackers and hacking. Our group talked a lot about the negative connotations of hacking, but also asserted that digital agency and authorship were missing from - and desperately needed in - most schools and classrooms.
When we tried to come up with synonyms for hacker, we wondered how using those synonyms - like “author” or “digital producer” - sent power and/or positive connotations back into hacking. If a hacker can be called an author, does that mean we should view and treat hackers as authors?
The group consistently named and described the tensions of hacking without being at all defensive about hacking or dismissing it from their work.
We talked about whether or not technology is neutral (consider the biases Rushkoff would cite), but also about how important it is to weigh human intent in using technology, or in choosing to program or not.
Before we played with Hackasaurus and the Web X-Ray Goggles, we talked about access and equity and the role of hacking in teaching. What rules can be bent and broken to give authorship, control, and voice over to those kept out of digital/social programming courses in our schools? How can we hack school in positive ways for students and their learning? I mentioned Greg Hill’s work with the Disruption Department.
You can see some of our hacks below - I will add more as they arrive.
Here are some thoughts from hack jam participants, captured by Jane in her notes:
- The more you do this, the more you want to do it.
- This is fun.
- For some students, they may come into creativity, writing while hacking.
- I’m going to share this with tech people at our school.
- This can be a form of authorship.
- Students can post headlines and articles alongside New York Times pieces and compare them.
- If kids aren’t allowed to blog, maybe they can change headlines on New York Times instead.
I hope all of today’s hack jam participants will share a reflection here, as well. Please let me know if any of us facilitators can be of service to your schools!