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Notes from the NWP EduCon 2.4 Hack Jam

Notes from the NWP EduCon 2.4 Hack Jam

Written by Chad Sansing
January 31, 2012

You can catch the National Writing Project (NWP) EduCon 2.4 Hack Jam in its entirety here thanks to the Science Leadership Academy AV crew and our room tech in particular.

Here are a few snapshots of the action:

From the NWP EduCon 2.4 Hack Jam

From the NWP EduCon 2.4 Hack Jam

From the NWP EduCon 2.4 Hack Jam

From the NWP EduCon 2.4 Hack Jam

I also want to say thanks to my hack-jam co-facilitator Meenoo Rami, as well as to the NWP (especially to Christina Cantrill and Paul Oh), Mozilla’s Hackasuarus project, and the MacArthur Foundation for supporting – in diverse ways – the network of people who made this hack jam possible.

If you don’t want to watch the video, you can DM or email me to set up some time to talk about how we go about the joyful work of a hack jam. You can also get a feel for our style of hack jam here.

Here are my take-aways as co-facilitator:

    1. Start with play – work to create a sense of community in the jam by empowering people to have fun. The more imaginative play you can pack into the intro activity, the better, as it sets the tone and mindset for the rest of the jam

    1. Give participants a license and purpose to break the rules – make the play transformative; let hack jam participants tear-down and remake something trite and familiar into something new and wondrous for all. We reinvent Monopoly; others have re-choreographed the Macarena.

    1. Privilege play time over the rest of the jam – discovering and holding on to a sense of fun in re-imagining how things can be done is the whole point. If you cut short the fun, you short-circuit the hack jam.

    1. Acknowledge and value how people feel – hack jams are meant to draw our attention to the affective differences between work that is assigned and work that is chosen – between work that is rote and work that is discovery. Let people share out how they feel so that participants can voice and enact the purpose of the jam.

    1. Invite participants to consider the metaphors for schooling that are embedded in a hack jam – ask them what it would mean and take for a school to allow students this kind of playful, imaginative learning. Ask them how often we give students a chance to design their own experiences at school Ask them how often we give students a chance to program anything about their own educations.

    1. Like Faulkner said, kill your darlings – if there’s no time for the Ferris Bueller slide, skip it. Keep the Vader scream inside. No one will miss the slide; Matthew Broderick won’t miss you. Let the Vader scream out at home the next night.

    1. Use provocations to preserve a sense of energy and a sense of urgency after the play – keep acknowledging for everyone in the room how vital and invigorating this work of rethinking school can be and how good we and our kids can be at doing this work. We like to use a Rushkoff clip.

  1. End where you end – don’t cut short conversation to get to a particular web-authoring tool, even to one of those offered by Hackasaurus. Follow the participants’ investments in the work of hacking school and see what insights and suggestions everyone can share together.

The real work of a hack jam isn’t in learning to press “r” instead of “command+t,” but in working towards a common realization that together we can do this thing – we can recapture the joy of learning, the fun of play, and the support of community at school even as we try to make it into something else.

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