Hacking – hackathon and micro-hack

Hacking is a method of collaboration, used to solve problems and get feedback on promising practices. Hackathons and micro-hacks are two events which use hacking. Teachers attend as either a presenter or participant and collaborate to make templates, toolkits, strategies and ideas more detailed and workable. Often, presenters will have an existing promising practice they wish to get feedback on. A promising practice is a strategy, model or idea which has been tested but needs further refinement.

Hackathons and micro-hacks can be used as a 'pit-stop' as a practice is trialled or developed. Presenters pitch their practice and participants opt in to work with a team, depending on their interests, where they then refine the practice for future implementation.

What is a hackathon?

A Hackathon is usually a half a day to a day in duration. Presenters pitch their practice (1 to 2 minutes) and participants choose to work with a team on one of the practices, depending on their interests. Teams then refine the practice in a long collaboration session.

The most powerful examples of hackathons see participants commit to testing the refined practice across different contexts, building the potential for evaluation and refinement through a process of iteration. Teachers feedback to the original group who 'hacked it' leading to further refinement.

What is a micro-hack?

A Micro-Hack takes place in a much shorter timeframe (approximately 60 minutes). Presenters pitch their practice (30 to 60 seconds) and participants choose to work with a team on one of the practices, depending on their interests. Teams then refine the practice, with participants contributing to promising practices that they might want to take away and use.

In order to be effective, this short time frame relies on presenters having a clear and succinct strategy (see examples below in the 'micro-hack' section) to 'hack' and does not always rely on participants then trialling the strategy and feeding back to the group.

Key elements

  • Promotes creativity and relies on collaboration between educators from different contexts.
  • Allows participants to 'opt-in' to the practice or strategy which appeals to them most and is most relevant to their context and goals.
  • Relies on teacher feedback to develop improved practices.
  • Flexible versions of 'hacking' allow the strategy to suit the context.

How do I facilitate a hackathon?

A facilitator runs a hackathon and provides participants with an overview of how the session will work, based on the steps below:

  1. All presenters pitch their promising ideas to all participants in a Pitch It Session for 1 to 2 minutes each. Presenters outline what the practice is, what the intended purpose of the practice is, how it works and why they feel it is a promising practice.
  2. Participants select a practice they wish to help refine and move into the Hack It Session, led by a presenter (90 minutes).
    • 10 minutes – understanding. The presenter explains in more depth what the problem or issue is that they were trying to address, what their promising practice looks like in its current form, and why it needs to be developed or refined further.
    • 10 minutes – clarifying. Clarifying questions are asked by participants to understand the issue and promising practice at a deeper level.
    • 10 minutes – feedback. Participants provide initial feedback on the current promising practice, suggesting broad possible directions and key considerations.
  3. 3 minutes. Teams re-pitch their refined model, strategy or product in the Feedback Session to gain feedback from all participants. They complete their presentation with a question/s that they need answered by the group. Participants provide answers to the question/s and feedback on the refined product.
  4. 15-30 minutes. Participants move back into groups and consider and use relevant feedback. The group will commit to testing the new model, strategy or product across contexts (15 to 30 minutes). Team members will assign tasks and a time frame for testing the practice and decide on the evaluation and communication methods the team will use to keep track of their test.
  5. Following the testing of strategies in different contexts, teams will usually feedback to the original group who hacked the strategy, leading to further refinement.

How do I facilitate a micro-hack?

Micro-Hack facilitators provide participants with an overview of how the session will work, based on the steps below:

  1. Presenters give an 'elevator pitch' briefly outlining the promising practice or idea to the whole group. An elevator pitch works on the premise that you have limited time to tell someone your idea (30 to 60 seconds).
  2. Participants choose which tool or idea they want to 'hack' (make more detailed and workable).
  3. Facilitator reminds participants of simple feedback protocols. Protocols include kind, specific, helpful (Ron Berger), hard on the content, soft on the people, sentence starters such as 'I like...' for warm feedback and 'I wonder...' for cool feedback.
  4. All teams have 45 minutes to develop the promising practice and gain feedback.
  5. If time permits, teams present ideas back to all participants (2 minutes). The following questions may prove useful:
    1. What does this promising practice aim to achieve?
    2. What was 'hacked' to develop this strategy? Templates? Tools? Scaffolds?
    3. What is one way the presenter will move forward with this practice?

Micro-hack tips for presenters

  1. Start with an idea, tool or strategy and what the intended purpose of this is. This is your 'promising practice'. For example, 'I am pitching a toolkit of resources that I have been working on that will help Head Teachers support early career teachers and encourage self-reflection. The purpose of this toolkit is to support both HT and ECTs understand what good practice 'looks like' and be able to identify areas to improve.'
  2. Give participants clear and specific instructions about what you need feedback on. Example: 'I would like to know if this lesson observation process and reflection template is useful. What is missing? What works?
  3. Divide tasks up to be completed by small groups. You may instruct or ask participants to self-select for example:
    1. 'Can you three please provide feedback on observation process?'
    2. 'Can you three people please write all over the template to make it better?'
    3. 'Can you three please brainstorm how I can gather evidence to find out whether this process is allowing teachers to self-reflect?'
  4. Accept every idea and consider how you will capture and scale the ideas. For example, Be open to new ideas presented by others and be prepared to reconsider the purpose of your intention regarding the promising practice.

Things to consider

  • For best results, presenters must have a clear and succinct promising practice and be prepared with notes, handouts, templates or resources that they want feedback on. Ideally, they should also have specific questions or challenges that they want addressed through the hack.
  • Clear feedback protocols must be put in place to ensure the focus is on improving the strategy based on the intended purpose.

Further reading and resources

Ron Berger - In-Depth Critique Protocol (DOCX 20KB) Ron Berger, appropriated from Expeditionary Learning

Hackathon resource 'What is eduhack?' video

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