Design Inspirations for the Hackjam


The room at the library is a double room. One side will have 30 computers (desktops and laptops), and one side will be for taking breaks and eating lunch. The room is spacious and well lit. Computers are set up two to a table, so there is plenty of room to walk around, but there is also opportunity for collaboration between participants.


Analogous Site: Bloominglabs
The hackerspace at Bloominglabs looked like a physical workshop with many people working on projects and getting ideas for new projects. It was messy and dirty, and you could tell that a lot of work goes on there. It is like they never know what projects will be finished and what ones will be started. There are tools and materials everywhere, but you don’t see everyone working at the same time. While work is done in this space, people talk to each other, socialize (and eat ice cream and cookies), and generally hang out in this space. So projects are stretched over long periods of time.

We learned that while the technical hours are Wednesday from 7:00-10:00 p.m., some people stay until 1:00 a.m. working and hanging out. They types of work range from mechanical to electric to woodworking, to computer projects. There is a space where people work with their computers and generally socialize, and then there are separate rooms for working with electronics, radios, and with mechanical tools.






Interviews: Experts: Jess Klein

What has been the general response to Hackjams that you have seen put on by teens? By schools? By parents?

“Usually the teens in these scenarios are self selecting and often already identify as hackers, techies, geeks, nerds, digital artists, and occasionally designers”

“…however teens tend to appreciate the subversive nature of the word ‘hack’ and own it. Schools and parents I would say are hit or miss. Often when people run the events there is the glance or look of – what are you talking about? HACKING?! But after the initial shock factor wears off, these events are often quite supported by schools and parents. Schools love that youth are taking ownership and forming  identities around technology and media, while parents are appreciate the innovative programming that their children are engaged in.”

In Hackjams for teens, have you seen any practices that work well across contexts? In other words, are there specific practices that you have seen in multiple Hackjams?

We need to find an analogous entity to introduce hacking and what it means to hack. We are thinking of using Impromptu to hack a song.

We are thinking of ways to engage older teens in the Hackjam without leaving the younger ones behind. We are thinking of having the young hackers contribute to a forum where they can post how to perform different actions as they hack, and to a troubleshooting forum throughout the day. Have you seen other Hackjams do this? If so, how did it work out?

Jess suggests peer mentorship as a way to engage everyone and help each student learn more throughout the day.

We created a wiki on for last year’s Hackjam where the hackers’ reflections and work live. Are there other such sites that we should/could look at?

“That’s fantastic. I have seen tons of other blogs and wikis. You might want to check out the recently launched Webmaker Teach: where Mozilla has compiled a ton of these kinds of resources.”

Interview: Users: Students

We sent a survey out to students who attended last year’s hackjam, and while responses are still coming in, initial responses are very helpful. It seems like they liked creating a webpage and using the knowledge they gained from hacking in a different context. This is good to know, since we weren’t planning on having them make a webpage this year. Now we are rethinking this.

The students also reported that toward the end they ran out of ideas for their hacks, and one student reported that she did not like writing reflectively throughout the day. Something for us to think about is that one student was disappointed that hacking was not something more scandalous than appropriating news stories. We don’t want to have them do anything illegal, but we should capitalize on the connotations of “hacking.”

Interview: Non Users: Phil Carspecken

Phil was also disappointed that he couldn’t learn how to hack his bank account, but he liked our project and the direction it is going.

He suggested some ideas for research: try to capture how children learn about the relationship between mean and form, for instance, in hacking advertising.

He also suggested that we frame this workshop from the perspective of critical pedagogy. This means having kids hack advertisements or newspaper articles, and then reflect on how the changes they made affect the original intent of the advertisement. Literally, we want the hackers to understand the meaning of the layout and how that affects what is communicated.


By interviewing different types of people and visiting an analogous space we have a better sense of how we want to design the Hackjam so that the young hackers get the most out of the day. We will take all of this information into consideration as we proceed. Likely, we will include a frame for the workshop and activities that continually ask hackers to come up with new ideas in new ways.

Our understanding of the terms “hack,” “hacker,” and “hacking” are developing as we go through this process. The activity of hacking is not new, but the appropriation of the term is. We are learning that to hack in the broader sense is to transform and tinker.

Spiral Gear – Circular Reflection


My object is a spiral spinning toy and it makes me think of the circular nature of reflection. As we reflect on our practice, we can improve upon our actions. By reflecting on our reflection process, we become aware of our learning process and can be more attentive, autonomous thinkers. This spiral is infinite as it spins, as is the reflective cycle through which we can grow and change and iterate our practices. The magnet on the back of this toy signifies the strength of reflection if we attach it to practice. Once attached, it can grab hold and stick, but it can also easily be removed if we are not careful. We must stay attentive to our reflection-in-action and continually reflect on our reflective practice.



The feed back from our first prototype revealed we needed to reconsider the amount of space and amount of seating, keep seating with storage, add a refrigerator under the Keurig coffee maker, and put a lock on the door.

In our redesign we have: Replaced bean bags with a modular couch, kept the seating with storage, added a refrigerator, and added a lock on the door like those used to sell houses. We also now suggest that the round quarter-circle table in the corner be modded from an existing round table in the CRLT space.

Action Plan: To get people to come to the space, we have added a coffee maker and refrigerator. We also propose a First Fridays event where people come to play games and mingle every first Friday of the month. The game lab would be advertised to people/students on the 5th floor and the Learning Sciences students and faculty, not the whole building. There are a variety of game types in this space to attract different interests. This should be a comfortable place to relax, play, and discuss work



Our budget totals $3,212.73. Since we didn’t have time to share our budget in class, I’m uploading it here:

-Rebecca, Hilary, and Sophia

RebeccaSwirl – Scratch Project

Well that was fun. I had an idea of what I wanted to happen with this project, but in programming it, I came out with something I like even better. I had intended the letters to be in a straight line across the bottom, to swirl, and to come back to the straight line. What I got was a diagonal, which is pretty neat. It took some playing with the coordinates to get them to line up correctly, and I had to play with the timing of the sound to get it to play the whole clip.

See my project here:

Papert Chapters 3 and 4

Chapter 3: “These examples show how the continuity and the power principle make Turtle geometry learnable. But we wanted it to do something else as well, to open intellectual doors, preferable to be a carrier of important, powerful ideas. …” (p. 63).

Heuristics can aid the learning of complex concepts. The process though which students use Turtle geometry to learn complex concepts and debug their program and their thinking helps them develop reflective and metacognitive skills.

Chapter 4: The centipede story, p. 95. The centipede story brings to light the importance of learning to debug not only one’s programs, but one’s thinking as well. The metacognitive processes of reflective thinking should not be a stumbling block, but an empowering tool through which one can access and make sense of complex and powerful ideas.

Brandy and Tool Use

Brandy poses some interesting questions for educators and educational designers. Using seemingly advanced literary tools for preliterate students can be a way to introduce literacy and the written word in a non-threatening way. I think it all comes back to context. Learning doesn’t happen in a vacuum. Learning experiences are very closely tied to the contexts in which they take place, and educational designers must take context and social space into account when designing learning spaces and activities. 

What worked for Brandy takes a lot of patience and may not work for everyone else. But the concept of using the advanced tools around us to enhance learning experiences for all levels of learners is an important take-away from this reading. We need to be innovative about our tool use and design of space and activity. It is easy to fall into routines of tool use and classroom setup. I think about my own classroom and the kinds of activities we did that other teachers thought were questionable, like using Etherpad to write essays or discussion forums to explore literary symbols. These aren’t odd practices, but they are different than “normal” ELA classroom practices. There are plenty of tools freely available that can enhance the learning space, and we should think more broadly and make use of them.

Beginning to Design the Hackjam

Alejandro and I met to visit the Monroe County Public Library and visit the space where the Summer Hackjam 2013 will be held. The MCPL is a wonderful  welcoming space that hosts many events throughout the year to engage  and educate the community. The day we visited, they were hosting an event to help people with their taxes.

Chris Hosler met us at the information desk and showed us the room where the Hackjam will be held. It is a room with several computers and a projection screen. The room has a removable wall, and we will use the open space on the other side of the wall for lunch, snacks, and general break time throughout the six hour day. Chris also showed us where the 12 Hour Comic Book Day will be held the Thursday before the Hackjam. We are hoping to integrate the characters youth create during Comic Book Day into the Hackjam, so I intend to attend that event as well to get to know the youth who will be at the Hackjam and to learn about the kinds of characters they  create.

After seeing the library, we sat down to work out the logistics of designing the Hackjam. We made a list of goals, tasks, and created a detailed timeline. The timeline includes making community relationships and partnerships, redesigning the assessments, and refining the curriculum.

Here is the short description of the event that will go in the library’s program:

2013 Summer Hackjam Learn to (legally) “hack” the Herald-Times or any other online newspaper or webpage. Create and publish news or stories about you and your friends, family, team, pets, superheroes—whatever you care about.  Expert web designers, writers, and journalists will first help you create, write, edit, and design for the Internet.  Working individually or collaboratively, you will then find a newspaper or website to remix at Mozilla’s Hackasaurus site after activating their X-Ray Goggles in any web browser. No previous experience in web design is required.

Details:  Open to all youth ages 13-18.  June 29, 2013 at the Monroe County Public Library, 11:00-5:00.  Complimentary pizza lunch and snacks will be provided, along with all of the materials.  Sponsored by the Indiana University Center for Research on Learning and Technology and the Monroe County Public Library.  Please register by ___ at ____.  Space is limited; drop-ins welcome as space allows.  For information about this event, contact Christopher Hosler at ____  Visit to find more information and other hackjams, or to learn about hosting your own.

You can read more about last year’s Hackjam in the following blog posts:

Three Firsts: Bloomington’s First Hackjam, ForAllBadges App, and Participatory Assessment + Hackasaurus

Summer 2012 Hackjam: The Wiki

The Role of Artifact Reflections in Participatory Assessment

We are well on our way to designing an engaging six hour Hackjam for the young hackers of Bloomington.

When Are Labels Appropriate (or are they?)

After finishing Mindstorms, I have a better sense of the kinds of learning that happen in LOGO and the concepts of which students make sense. I really like the idea of experiencing and exploring concepts  prior to learning the “official definitions” and terms used in a particular domain. It allows the learner to make sense of the material in a way that is meaningful to them, so that when labels are attached, those concepts have more meaning than they would if they were being memorized for an exam.

I am still curious, though, about how readily the knowledge learned in LOGO can transfer to a physics class. When do you start teaching the labels for the concepts the learners are exploring. It is a delicate issue because the learners need time to internalize the concepts before making them formal, but I feel like they should become formal at some point so that they are recognizable when learners run into them again in a different setting. Or should they? I’m not sure.


Thoughts on Mindstorms (Through Chapter 3)

Papert presents educators with a challenge of grounding content in a relevant context and allowing them to explore that content freely. As they try new things, they run into bugs, fix them, and try new approaches, giving meaning to otherwise abstract concepts. I find myself thinking of Kapur  and Bielaczyc’s productive failure (2012). Failure is inevitable, but failure is not scary or bad, it is part of the process. And it is through failure and working through the bugs that learning occurs. 

I think that teaching students how to deal with failure is an important skill. I saw many students come up against a challenge or a minor failure and, not knowing how to proceed, tried to give up. It tool a lot of convincing to get them to work through the problem and revise their work so that they could learn from their mistakes and improve. LOGO and other programs that present failure as something natural and something to overcome teach learners an invaluable skill that they can carry throughout their lives. 

I’ve only read through chapter three, so perhaps this will be addressed later, but one criticism I have of LOGO so far is that, while it is great that students are learning these mathetic and mathematical skills in LOGO, it is not clear that they are “attuned to the constraints and affordances” (Greeno, 1997) of the system so they can transfer this knowledge to a new, dissimilar context. I understand that they are embodying the mathematical concepts, but I am not convinced that, given a problem outside of LOGO, students would be able to demonstrate their knowledge of geometry. Papert asserts that they are learning several important mathematical principles, but are they ever told that they are learning them? At some point it will be important to assign the real labels to these concepts if students are to successfully use this knowledge in other contexts including other math classes. Perhaps Papert will address this later in the book, but these are my thoughts for now. 

– Rebecca

Working in this Space

We envision this blog to be a place of reflection and collaboration as we engage in the design process. This should be a place to express thoughts and reflections as we read, discuss, and design. This should be a place to safely engage in debate as we theorize and challenge ourselves and one another to look at our designs from many different perspectives and angles. We expect that we will engage in productive discourse around complex concepts in the comments feature this blog affords, and that each member of the class will offer their insights freely and with respect.