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Zainab Oni

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On Becoming A Hacker

Posted: 02/ 1/2012 9:22 am

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

I am a member of MOUSE Corps, a technology design and leadership program in NYC. Part of this program is to meet and learn advanced skills from professionals in technology. I was recently chosen to take part in a Mozilla Hackasaurus workshop -- it was a once in a lifetime experience and also an eye-opening event about hacking. The purpose was to train students from MOUSE to become Mozilla Youth Ambassadors, to learn how to facilitate Hack Jams later this year using Mozilla webmaking tools. Over the course of the workshop, we learned about hacking in general, how to use the Hackasaurus tool, HTML, CSS and how to teach other youth/students what we learned.

There were a total of four workshops and then we practiced facilitating with our peers. The first session was an introduction to hacking and an introduction to X-Ray Goggles, a tool that helps you see the inner workings of websites. We were also split up into teams so that we could come up with a definition for hacking. Prior to this, we thought that hacking meant just going into other people's, companies' or schools' systems illegally. Hacking pretty much meant "snooping around" to us. We learned that hacking doesn't only happen with computers. You can hack clothes, games, decorations, styles, etc. We also learned that hacking isn't always illegal and you can hack for good sometimes. After learning more about hacking, our hacking definitions changed. We also hacked Monopoly and Tic Tac Toe by creating our own set of rules for the games and inventing new ways to play them.

In the second session, we were introduced to Hackasaurus, a tool that makes it easy to mash up and change any website with the use of X-ray Goggles. You can remix any website and change it up to become your own, so we all hacked the MOUSE.org homepage -- it was new and exciting. We also discussed why it's important to code and the uniqueness of the World Wide Web.

In the third session, we talked about facilitation, aka Hack Jam 101, for our fellow MOUSE Corps students. We will be facilitating hack jams at TASC (The After School Program) schools later in the year. We started the training by reviewing the five steps to running a hack jam for youth. Our team brainstormed and came up with a theme for our practice hack jam: "Hacking the Holidays." We simplified our hack jam to be only about hacking instead of everything we covered in our last two workshops. We also came up with a list of learning objectives for the hack jam. We came up with icebreakers, the agenda, assigned roles, etc.

For the fourth workshop, we came in early to practice our parts in "Hacking the Holiday." The Hack Jam 101 was great and we had lots of fun. We reached all our learning objectives and our peers were excited. The Mozilla Hackasaurus workshop was a once in a lifetime experience. The #MoYo team is grateful we had the opportunity to learn webmaking skills and we're excited to share them with other students through facilitating more hack jams later this year.

See more information and photos from our workshop:

http://mousemozillashadowship.wordpress.com/
http://www.flickr.com/photos/chase_0704/sets/72157628404917159/

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