OER Hack Day
A few weeks ago, an email arrived in my inbox from a wikimedia.org email address that I initially thought was a broad appeal for support. It said some things about Open Educational Resources (OER) and the Hewlett Foundation, neither of which I was familiar with, so I set it aside for later deletion. I’m glad I eventually reread it, as it was actually an invitation to participate in a "Hacking Open Education" day at Harvard. Open education, I learned after some light Googling, is a movement to reduce barriers and increase access to education through the creation, distribution, and modification of open source learning materials. Pretty cool. Light Googling also revealed that the person who had invited me — SJ Klein — seemed like a real person, so I accepted and found myself in Cambridge last week.
The Hack Day took place after the Hewlett Foundation OER Grantees Meeting. Over the 2-day conference, the grantees had come up with dozens of great ideas for supporting and expanding the OER movement. As OER hackers (programmers, teachers, advocates, and designers) our task was to develop prototypes of a handful of ideas, summarized nicely by SJ over on his blog.
I began the day with a group that was working on creating a GitHub-like repository for OERs, bringing some anthropological/design thinking/user experience considerations to the table. As the prototypes began to take shape, I moved to another group which required help wireframing and visualizing a student portfolio platform that would allow for curation and storytelling. The prototype came about through a neat collision of technology, design thinking, and serendipity. It had to be easy to maintain, so it would have Dropbox integration. It had to look lovely, so there would be numerous visualization options — timelines, node maps, gallery style, etc. And perhaps most importantly or uniquely, it had to enable users to tell stories about their education; we were lucky enough to have Matthew Battles of Zeega in the room and able to give us beta access so we could figure out how to integrate this interactive storytelling tool into our prototype.
The whole experience was pretty mind expanding. I met and heard from a ton of interesting people working on things like Open Badges, Finals Club, and Scratch. The conference itself made me wonder how many of my own projects, especially games and workshops, could be released on open education licenses. And the Hack Day was a cool reminder of the kinds of creative sparks that can fly when designers, programmers, and experts in the field in question sit down together at a project’s inception.
I’m really glad I didn’t delete that email right away.