Hackasaurus in the Board Room

July 14, 2011 § 4 Comments

As Mark Surman’s blog post explains, Mozilla’s Hackasaurus project has been crisping up its story for high-level stakeholders like the Mozilla Board and our colleagues at the MacArthur Foundation. This post shares some of those talking points for “c-level,” Board-type audiences. More mainstream messaging is available on the Hackasaurus web site.

Mozilla: Creating a generation of web makers with Hackasaurus

  • Hackasaurus makes it easy for youth to learn about, explore and make stuff on the web.
  • Out-of-school web-making for tweens. Digital literacy through tinkering and messing around with the online spaces kids already hang out in.
  • Play with the web like Lego. Use real HTML, not simplified sandbox or toy language. Like “Scratch for the web.”
  • Face-to-face design jams plus online games at Hackasaurus.org. With learning pathways that invite kids to mess around with the web, and then help them move to high-level skills.

Kid-friendly tools + hack jams + online community

  • Hackasaurus includes three main offerings: 1. Kid-friendly software, 2. Local workshop curriculum, 3. An online community where kids can earn badges, find local design jams and share their work.
  • Software includes “X-ray Goggles” that make it easy to see and remix how web sites are put together. And a “WebPad” that makes it easy to make your own web pages.

Digital literacy through making and tinkering

  • Hackasaurus aims to help kids see the web as remixable by all of us. Like Lego or magic ink — as opposed to something passively consumed, like TV.
  • Longer term: on-ramp for youth to take deeper interest in web development. Geeking out with their own web projects and making, focused on their interests and passions.
  • Filling a gap in the market. There’s broad interest in digital literacy and maker kids, but few good programs. Hackasaurus brings both.

Progress to date:

  • Promising alpha software and successful events.
  • Alpha software and basic curriculum already developed.
  • Kids are participating as co-designers. Constant learner feedback via hack jams.
  • Have run 20+ hack jams so far in 2012. NYC, Chicago, Brussels, Birmingham.
  • Strong partnership with New Youth City Learning Network. Serving as lab for Hackasaurus.

What’s next?

1) Move from prototype to product. 2) Share with learning networks & partners. 3) Scale.

  • Improve UX and functionality of software. Becomes like Scratch for the Web. (2011/12)
  • Build out curriculum/pathway. Package so it can be replicated and self-organized. (2012)
  • Hackasaurus badges. Incentive and scaffolding for complete web-making pathway. (2012)
  • New learning networks. Rolled out to new YouMedia and Hive cities as they come online. (2012/13)
  • Create online community to help kids share their work, learn more, join clubs. (2012/13)
  • Global partners. Localization. Local clubs. (2013)

Risks and challenges

  • Gap between prototype and massively scalable product. There’s a significant gap between what we have now vs. program that can serve millions of kids. Need to draw on Mozilla’s product design and scaling skills, advice from Firefox and Mozilla Labs teams.
  • Getting beyond the “gee whiz” factor. Kids and adults say “wow” when we do the first hack jam. Need more. Plan to develop game-like pathways that map to real learning outcomes. Also, specific interest-driven modules (e.g. fashion, hip hop).

Presentation slides & video


“Maker kids,” Mozilla and the future of school

June 8, 2011 § 4 Comments

Hackasaurus Crew at TEDxKids

The Hackasaurus team at TEDx Kids

What would school look like if it was all about actively doing stuff — making, tinkering, building, exploring — instead of just passively learning about stuff? That’s the question the “Maker Kids” edition of TEDx Kids took up in Brussels last week. And the Mozilla Hackasaurus crew were there to bring web-making and hacking into the mix.

Sixty fired-up 10-year-olds got their hands dirty in a day of workshops and mini-maker jams, spanning everything from building their own chairs to soddering to tinkering with Arduino to remixing their own hip hop singles. All carved into 45-minute blocks, approximating a crazy utopian school day from the future.

The Hackasaurus hopThe Hackasaurus hopThe Hackasaurus HopMark Surman, executive director of the Mozilla FoundationMark Surman Mozilla FoundationRemixing with Mysto & Pizzi
TEDx Kids@BrusselsGever Tulley chair workshopMark Frauenfelder Technology Will Save Us labIMG_0028Gever Tulley on stage
soldering labkids and audience at the end of the dayTechnology Will Save Us labEd Baafi ModKIDS3D printed glasses!soldering lab

TEDx Kids Brussels — June 2011, a gallery on Flickr.

Web-making with Mozilla’s Hackasaurus

The Hackasaurus "hack dance" introduces the concepts of remixing & creative sharing...

...which carries over into remixing web pages with Mozilla's Hackasaurus tools...

...like adding cupcakes to your gmail! Why didn't Google think of that?

Learning as making, tinkering and hacking

The event offered a taste of how the DIY maker spirit is revitalizing learning. There’s a growing sense that traditional education contains too much passive “book learning,” making it out of touch and dull. And that “hands-on learning” or “engaged learning” — learning by doing — works better. It’s what kids want, what parents want for their kids, and what innovative educators like Gever Tulley — who outlined the active learning philosophy behind his “Tinkering School” backstage at the TEDx event — are already providing.

“The re-enchantment of education”

That’s how one of TEDx speaker referred to the impact these collective ideas are having on learning. There’s a renaissance stirring. Talking about educational reform once seemed dry as dust — now it’s a topic full of life and magic. Dave Eggers’ 826 Valencia project, with its Pirate and Superhero Supply Stores. Quest to Learn and its “video game school.” DIY U. The Tinkering School and “50 Dangerous Things You Should Let Your Kids Do.” HASTAC’s Future Class. MacArthur’s Digital Media and Learning community and its vision for Connected Learning.

Something’s up. It’s a diverse movement of youth, educators and edu-preneurs attacking the idea that learning has to be boring, difficult, or confined to school. And it represents a huge opportunity for the open web and Mozilla mission.

Mozilla seeks Product Manager for Hackasaurus. Help kids hack.

April 28, 2011 § 2 Comments

Another great new job posting at Mozilla. The Hackasaurus project is seeking a visionary Product Manager to help Hackasaurus scale up and go on a global digital literacy rampage. Create software and experiences that teach kids HTML and the building blocks of the web. But more importantly, teach them to think like hackers. More below. Apply here.

Product Manager, Hackasaurus

Learn more and apply here.


  • Wake up every morning focused on making Hackasaurus awesome.
  • Build a strategy and product requirements for new  Hackasaurus features, focused on user experience and learning. Ensure that the  tool and curriculum development are tied to real learning outcomes.
  • Own the overall Hackasaurus user experience. Ensure  Hackasaurus “customers” and partners are well served. Create a finished  product on the web that people — especially youth — want to use.
  • Manage the overall development roadmap for Hackasaurus tools (like X-Ray Goggles, HTMLpad, etc.). Work closely with the Technical Lead.
  • Constantly incorporate testing and feedback from learners and users in  the field.
  • Provide project management and support to the Creative and Technical Leads.
  • Enable participation and co-building. Empower communities to help develop the tools and curriculum together. Work in the open and follow open source development processes.
  • Drive links to other Mozilla education projects like School of Webcraft and badges.
  • Help this grow into one of Mozilla’s biggest and most successful global projects. Change the way kids learn the web. Create something on the same level of scope and ambition as the “Boys and Girl Scouts of the web.”


  • Has a mix of technical and educational / curriculum experience.
  • Is passionate about digital literacy and empowering youth.
  • Able to communicate and work with partners, especially Learning Networks.
  • Manage a growing and geographically distributed team.
  • Evangelize for the project and Mozilla’s larger vision for open education and digital literacy.
  • Understand the Mozilla / open source ethos around “hacking” and why teaching youth hacker habits is important

Learn more and apply here.

A recent Hackasaurus event at New York's Hall of Science

About Hackasaurus

Hackasaurus helps youth hack. Hackasaurus tools, events and online experiences make it easy for youth to uncover and mess around with the building blocks that make up the web — empowering them to move from  digital consumers to active producers, and see the web as a space they  can  shape, remix and make better.

Learners make use of youth-friendly tools — like “X-Ray Goggles” and “HTMLpad” — that help them uncover, remix and start creating and sharing on the web in seconds. Youth can also participate in “hack jam” events around the world that make hacking and digital literacy accessible, social and  fun.

Learners come away with  fundamentals like HTML and CSS skills, safe browsing habits, iterative design, and an understanding the web’s conceptual building  blocks. More importantly, they gain hacker habits and the combination of technical and social skills they need to become  active co-creators, shape their online environments, and take charge of their own learning.

Learn more and apply here.

Best Hackasaurus event ever

April 26, 2011 § 1 Comment

The design jam's drawing and paper prototyping station

75 kids. From as young as 11 all the way to pre-College age. Building stuff in the controlled chaos of a mini-maker festival. Becoming experts, teaching each other, and using Hackasaurus tools to learn about how hacking and the web connect to topics they’re already interested in.

Mini design challenges and maker jams for kids

That’s what happened at the New York Hall of Science last week. Check out Jess Klein’s thorough and thoughtful post for a detailed account. It’s our most successful and well-attended Hackasaurus event to date.

And thanks to some stellar work from Mozilla’s Atul Varma and Dan Mosedale, it’s now easier than ever for participants to share their hacks. Using a new easy screen-sharing add-on, learners can post their hacks directly to the Hackasaurus Flickr stream with the touch of a button. Adding Lady Gaga’s face to your Facebook log-in page — and recording it for posterity — has never been simpler.

"i hacked facebook to put lady gagas face on it :)" -- One of the hacks shared using the new easy-share functionality.

What did we learn?

  • Start with stuff participants are already interested in. The event was framed less around “teaching kids to hack,” and more around a specific design challenge. Namely, creating representations of learners’ carbon footprint on the planet, which was part of a larger unit they were already working on.
  • Use existing communities and event structures. Working with the New York Hall of Science (NYSCI) “My Carbon Footprint” project allowed the Hackasaurus team to provide an experience for a readymade audience, instead of building from scratch.
  • Use embedded assessment. Atul’s new self-guided missions are a great example — it’s always immediately clear whether what you’re doing is working and on track. Just like in a video game. (Jess will say more about this later.)

Students help prototype exhibits about climate change for the Virtual Hall of Science, the kickoff project of My Carbon Footprint.

  • Create a maker space and divide it up into stations. So that kids can self-select and focus on the aspect they’re most interested in.
  • Make sure kids come away with shareable artifacts. That’s why the new easy-share functionality is so important. Many kids don’t have their own Facebook or email accounts either, so easy sharing is crucial.
  • Build in opportunities for kids to teach their parents. When parents came by to pick up their kids, the kids got to teach their folks. Cool huh?
  • Mix digital and analog materials. For a range of different experiences. Draw some stuff that can be digitized and incorporated into web pages. Get your hands dirty. Bridge the physical and digital.
  • Have food. Duh.

Hackasaurus attacks TEDx Kids

April 20, 2011 § 1 Comment

The Hackasaurus team is incredibly excited to take part in a unique upcoming TEDx Kids event in Brussels. The goal: create an awesome one-day educational experiment that emphasizes making, tinkering and hands-on creating. The Hackasaurus duo of Atul Varma and Jessica Klein will be there to invite kids to hack and remix the web. Other attendees will include:

  • Cory Doctorow, from Boing Boing
  • Jamie Oliver, presenting on his Dream School
  • Gever Tulley, from the Tinkering School
  • Ed Baafi, from Modkit
  • Walter Bender, the MIT MediaLab
  • Ted Robinson, TED guru
  • And many, many others

The June 1 event’s mission:

Create an educational experiment for primary schools with some of the best TED speakers: a day when everything about school will be unrecognizably different and exciting.

2 events in 1
48 kids, all of them born in 2000, are going to get their hands dirty, soldering, tinkering, hacking and composing. A series of hands-on workshops will introduce the kids to a range of skills and methods. At the same time 400 adults will be treated to an all day program of leading thinkers, experts and makers. They’ll get regular updates on the workshops from some leading child psychologists throughout the day.

Maker Kids?
The future aims of primary education could be a rich mix of learning by doing, hacking the physical world and taking direct control of the technologies around us
. Kids could use this knowledge to be more connected to each other and the wider world. We want to give them the tools to directly influence the physical and social ecosphere in the hope that this creates freedom and empowerment for the future.

“Teens Learn the Power of Programming at Mozilla’s Hackasaurus”

April 15, 2011 § Leave a comment

The MacArthur Foundation’s “Spotlight on Digital Media and Learning” just published this excellent video and story on Mozilla’s Hackasaurus project. Mozilla’s Atul Varma explains the inspiration behind the project, and you can see kids try out and explain the Hackasaurus tools and experience in their own words.

“A lot of public schools just assume, ‘Oh, kids these days are digital natives, so we don’t need to teach them anything about computers,’” Atul says. “Whereas all of these kids that we’re talking to now, they’ve never had any kind of computer classes. They know how to use Facebook, but nothing else.”

Mozilla’s media and digital literacy projects in PCWorld

March 30, 2011 § Leave a comment

PC World interviews Mozilla’s Ben Moskowitz on the open Web, open video, media literacy and new Mozilla projects like Popcorn, Butter and Hackasaurus.

As our factory, playground, and public square, the Web is the medium at the top of mind for all of us. We have to keep it open to new entrants, innovative, transparent…  Mozilla is all about giving users the power to control the code.

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