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Zainab Oni Headshot

Don't Be A User, Be a Maker

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This column features stories from students exploring the intersection of creativity and technology through Hive Learning Network programs in NYC and Chicago.

Technology isn't something that I really expressed an interest in until recently. As a matter of fact, the word "technology" didn't become a part of my vocabulary until I became a student at Hudson High School of Learning Technologies. I started to really notice the involvement of technology in our/my world when my high school informed the students that we were to use laptops as learning tools in classrooms rather than traditional textbooks. I thought my principal was crazy at first (no offense) but as time passed, I became more interested and involved in technology. Using the Internet started to mean more than just social media and it started involving research, online classes and creating and sharing what we made. I started using different tools on the web such as JayCut, Glogster, Prezi, K12, etc.

Since I began to develop interest in technology, I decided to join the MOUSE Squad in my school. It's a group of students that serve as in-house technicians for the school, helping with daily tech maintenance and troubleshooting wireless and equipment issues. Gradually, I started getting into creating and designing technology, which inevitably led to webmaking. Earlier this year, I was also trained on how to use and teach others about X-Ray Goggles, a web tool that allows people to "hack" or remix a website by letting you see what web pages are made of and then putting in your own text and images. This was when I first started thinking about how to not only use the web, but to start making the web. From then on, I just basically started grabbing every opportunity I could to develop and gather more skills as a webmaker.

I recently attended an event for teenagers and educators called the Hive NYC Summer Code Party, which kicked off with a graffiti board titled, "What Does Your Web Look Like?" We drew pictures of what the web looked liked from our perspectives. I drew a wireless router because that is what stood out the most in my mind (I think it's because I've been having some problems with mine lately). There were a bunch of laptops and other activities too, to help people learn how to code, make webpages, build online games and more. There was a projector in the front of the room and attendees showcased all the amazing projects that they were working on throughout the day, which was also really inspiring for me.

While all this cool stuff was going on, a non-profit called Institute of Play led an activity where we brainstormed and designed two new sports, Dolly Ball and Bowling Chair. Dolly Ball is a sport in which you have six players, three on each team, and a goalie who moves the dolly around. The players have to attempt to shoot the ball into the moving dolly without passing the penalty line. There is a certain line which neither sides can pass. Bowling Chair is similar to bowling but the target is a chair. The chair is placed in front of a line and you have to hit it with a ball to push the chair behind the line, and then do the reverse. Whichever team accomplishes that first wins the game. It never really crossed my mind that you could create your own sport until now, so that was a really eye-opening experience. I think I'm going to try to create more of my own sports with my friends that we can actually play.

The event was part of a bigger effort by Mozilla (the Firefox people) to help "build a generation of webmakers." Events like the one I attended have been held in Nigeria, Germany, Greece and all across the U.S. I think it's great that there's an initiative to teach youth useful skills they can use to create the web. Some people might argue that it is not important to learn things like HTML and CSS, but in a world where we are being introduced to new technology every day and where technology has become a part of our everyday life, it is advisable to not be an ignorant technology user. It's a part of your world and you don't want to be blind to what's going on in your environment. Skills like HTML or CSS are not generally taught in schools today even though having these skills may help you gain an edge when applying for college or looking for jobs.

Since the event, I've been playing around with some of the tools I learned how to use and I've actually created my own project! I was motivated by the documentary "Bully" and the purpose of my web project is for people to take a stand and make an impact on an issue that they really care about by creating a simple web page about it. Check it out and let me know what you think!