Serious Cat meet Sirius Black

Most of my ‘stolen-time’ (I don’t think I actually have any identifiable ‘free time’) recently has been following & participating in the swell of Education Technology, Web Literacy and everything in between.  It seems as though conversation about open education, digital literacy and the state of traditional education has suddenly erupted. Or maybe I just started paying attention.   As a technology person working in a university, I can’t read enough or learn enough about initiatives like  Mozilla’s Web MakersDrupal LMS  and Mozilla badges – I even got my own badge this month :)  As a mother of 3 little technology consumers, I *feel* the importance of re-routing that consuming-focus to participation; to ‘making’. Children need to be web literate, they need to be empowered to make choices about where technology is headed, how it’s used – and what it can become.  It’s their future.

Anyway… as part of the upcoming Mozilla Summer of Code , we have a participating event: Victoria Hack Jam – Hackasaurus!  June 23rd, University of Victoria – we’ll be rocking out with a room full of kids hacking with Hackasaurus!   We have limited space, so registering through the eventbrite link is recommended…

Running out of stolen-time, must blog faster…

I’ve spent a few days in the last couple of weeks doing (what Mozilla is calling)  Kitchen Table Hack Jams with my oldest daughter (nearly 9).  Usually about 45 min sessions, and always at her request.  She revisited hacking her school site, Webkins, the news paper…and then starting getting bored changing colours, images. Understandable – “what else can I do?” Animation or event-driven development was the obvious next step for us (AKA ‘making stuff do things’)

Quick realization: 1/2 an hour before bedtime isn’t the right time to start learning HTML5 / Canvas, we focused on Jquery instead.

NIGHT 1 (1/2 hr)  HELLO WORLD!

  • Programmers, often ‘Google’ specific functionality they don’t know, can’t remember or cant remember exactly… (at least that’s what I do).  We did this and found page of JQuery example
  • Using Hacksaurus-learned skill ‘cut and paste’, we copied the JQuery example to a blank HTML doc (I created that for her, explained header, body etc but she did the rest).  Comparing back & forth we got our animated div working !  Excitement level:  10


My attendance was not required this night.  Molly spent her half changing colour & size of div – speeding it up, changing directions.  I think this was an important night, as she came to see what each line of code and CSS did.

I maybe should have tested this one myself before we sat down – but ‘stolen time’ doesn’t often come with ‘preparation time’.

  • Molly added a new div matching our Hello World example. (easy)
  • She changed the colour (purple) and we added padding so we could see it easily.
  • Attempts to locate the <header> tag or add JQuery script  were confusing in the context of Hackasaurus
  • I couldn’t see if code was being added correctly .  I wished for a Hacksaurus tab ‘add to header’  (for JQuery include and functions).
  • TRY SOMETHING ELSE!  We saved the HTML and added in the code locally.  This was a bit slow, and required a lot of direction from me  because there was ‘so much code back there’.
  • We learned ‘cntrl/command F’ to find our ‘Molly’ Div around serious cat.   We did the same to find the header.

This night was a bit frustrating, hey just like programming!  But that wasn’t really the intended lesson.  We left it for a couple of nights.


  • Using our ‘Find’ skills from earlier in the week, we added in our JQuery functions into the appropriate places (like our Hello World), and shockingly it worked first go!
  • More hacking without me – Sirius Black .
  • Ascii characters – some interest in this brought about by button arrows.

  Serious Cat Meets Sirius Black

  (Look for Cat Controls)

Two nights later, Molly wanted to hack again but needed my lead on the ‘next thing’, so I handed this list of pages Mozilla tweeted about.  Too much code though, the ascii images were cute, but confusing as to *why* they were there.  Trying to hack with Hacksaurus didn’t work because the results page is in an iframe?  Hmmm, perhaps we’ve finally run into a limitation in her age.

Next stop is Scratch, which I’ve downloaded but haven’t tried yet.  Maybe  next weekend I’ll have a bit of time to check it out.

So to summarize,  enthusiasm is no issue.  Hackasaurus is great and fun for kids, but eventually leads to the question ‘what else can I do’.  The answer can be a number of things, including hacking Hackasaurus as we did, or looking for the next ‘teaching tool’ like Scratch.  Programming can be frustrating, but sometimes that makes the end-result even more rewarding (find a solution).  No matter the method it all still boils down to Hello World.