Monday, June 29, 2015

Hacking Begins At School

I was recently contacted by a NE Wisconsin resident interested in civic hacking. She said, “I wonder how cities/schools might collaborate?”

To figure out how cities and schools might collaborate, let's get people who are involved with schools to think about civic hacking. One might say, "hacking begins at school."

So the goal of today’s post is to start people thinking, learning and talking about how civic hacking might relate to schools and education. (Maybe a few readers of the post will even launch civic hacks focused on education!)

One of the higher-profile civic hacks relevant to schools is DiscoverBPS.
“...In 2011, the Boston Code for America team was in a rough spot. They wanted to build a whiz-bang suite of tools tied to Boston's student ID cards. The only problem was that government officials couldn't be fast enough or flexible enough — especially with potentially identifiable information about students — to do any of that. CfA and their Boston partners tabled the student ID card project. What they did instead was create DiscoverBPS, a web application that allows public-school parents to figure out exactly where they want to send their kid to school by showing the schools they're eligible for and even measuring if they are within walking distance. DiscoverBPS took an arcane and frustrating aspect of every parent's school experience and made it more accessible. It solved a problem everyone had and allowed people a way in to an aspect of their government. It will not change government. It was not even a particularly sweeping idea. But it was an instant hit...” [Click here for the CfA page about DiscoverBPS and click here for the GitHub code.] 
What other ways might  civic hackers improve, innovate and solve problems in the broad area of education and the more specific area of schools and students?

If you’ve got a civic hack for this topic you’re itching to work on, scratch that itch! If you value local schools and education opportunities, but don’t know where to start, talk to local school administrators, teachers, students and parents. Get their ideas and suggestions and find out what types of civic hacks they’d like to work on. By doing this, you’ll know you’re working on something that’s definitely of interest to people who will be affected by your hack. Below are a few topics related to schools and education that might help begin the conversation or kick start increased neural activity.

  • Which school do I want to send my children to?  (DiscoverGBAPSD, DiscoverOASD, DiscoverAASD, etc.)
  • Appathon: teach students how to build simple apps.
  • Cost-saving school data warehouse owned by a consortium of schools.
  • Workshop: student-based approach to civic hacking.
  • Student ideation sessions on civic hacks; sessions done at school or at hackathon.
  • EduCamp: an unconference for education and schools.
  • Student civic hacking options for community service requirements.
  • Encouraging students to enter civic hack competitions.
  • Contact other civic hacking schools or school districts; find out what they’ve done.
  • Involve homeschoolers and charter schools.
  • Visualization on school spending and other school statistics to support new or revised programs or to enable comparisons of a local school or school district vs:
    • Other NE Wisconsin schools
    • Other Wisconsin schools
    • Other states
    • Other highly-ranked school districts
    • Other similar size school districts

If people in NE Wisconsin want to launch and work on school / education civic hacks, I’ll be happy to assist them in finding helpful contacts and info or to incorporate that theme into a civic hackathon. You can contact Bob Waldron at bwaldron (at) gmail [dott] com. Involving students, teachers, administrators and students’ parents in civic hacking will benefit NE Wisconsin, whether they work on school and education hacks or on a different topic.

How can you begin civic hacking on school and educations issues?

Hacking begins at school.


Advanced Degrees of School & Education Civic Hacks:

[thanks to my sister, Kathryn, for the title of this post!]


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