Tuesday, August 16, 2011

Learning Objectives for Hackasaurus

While many people speak about how Hackasaurus is an open source development project, I think that it is important to note that this is an open educational resource project (OER) as well. What is particularly challenging and stimulating about the work that I do is that I am integrating ideas and creative thinking of both technologists and educators on a daily basis.

The project was birthed out of conversations between Mozilla and The Hive Learning Networks in New York and Chicago. Some of the initial test beds for the project were the New York Pubic Library, The Chicago Public Library YouMedia and the New York Hall of Science. The Hive involvement in the project is still strong and we have more contributors including the Digital Youth Network, Eyebeam, The National Writing Project, the Institute of Play and Mouse, as well as many international contributors, including Brussels, Barcelona, the United Kingdom and Nigeria. The strong involvement of these organizations as well as individual educators who have volunteered their time and energy towards Hackasaurus helps to strengthen the design of the tools as well as the curricular aspects of the project.

The development team of the project and the learning experience team worked together to iterate on defining the learning objectives for the project. I am sharing with you a bit of our thinking around this because I feel that it is truly interesting to see how our project has evolved over the past year as well as where we believe that we are headed.

We initially came up with a set of learning objectives that we know we are currently satisfying with our tools and design jams. The objectives sketched out here more or less fit into three categories: browser basics, web making basics and tool basics.

We then started to develop out what our aspirational learning objectives are for the project. This included everything from being able to code websites to understanding what ethical web making means. One area of particular interest was defining what we mean when we talk to teens and tweens about the open web, which one participant on our open web etherpad described as:

"It's better to teach kids how to tie their shoelaces (an "open" skill needed for making knots, useful for many other purposes) vs just making them use shoes with easy Velcro fasteners (which is also much less challenging for developing fine motor skills)."
This process was really interesting because it was a mix of the technical side of building for the web with the emotional side of creating- that is, acknowledging that humans are crafting the web and thus, have a responsibility to themselves and others to understand the power of their medium. Finally, and this was probably the most difficult part for us, we started to list what are NOT our learning objectives. Yeah, this list is probably too short, but I think that it is a good place for us to begin. Ultimately the learning experience that we are interested in supporting is that of a web maker, someone who is thinking of the web as a place for designing, crafting, challenging and coding, which allowed us to remove some of the other areas that are tangentially associated with the work we do, but are not our direct focus.