As we plan an April mobile media showcase of student work for the state’s editors and publishers, I’m guided by what I tried last fall that didn’t work out so well.
In an effort to bring computer science, journalism, design, and business students together to work on a joint project, I planned a mobile media hackathon. Despite offering prizes totaling $3,000, having lots of food and promising a fun time for students who would be learning new skills and creating a mobile app, only four students showed up.
The soul-searching began because, as I said during my Teaching Tips session at the 2013 Journalism Interactive conference at the University of Florida, I still strongly believe in the educational benefits of joint, nondisciplinary projects like a hackathon. I said those benefits include:
· Creating an opportunity for students in programming, data management, design, journalism, advertising, public relations, marketing and entrepreneurship to work in teams
· Focusing those students on creating a real product
· Requiring problem-solving skills
· Giving students a chance to learn from one another
· Teaching technical skills like mobile app creation
· Encouraging group communication skills
· Teaching how to study the market and the audience
· Encouraging entrepreneurial skills
We were motivated to figure out why the hackathon didn’t work because we didn’t want to give up on ways to teach the skills of working in nondisciplinary teams.
Here’s what we decided (as listed in another blog post):
· Calling the event a “hackathon” might have scared away some students without technical skills. Next time, we’ll be marketing it as a way to learn new problem-solving skills and new technical skills that will help students get a job.
· Having the event on a Friday and Saturday required too much commitment from the students who already had weekend plans.
· Offering $3,000 in prizes wasn’t as huge of a draw as I thought it would be.
· Marketing would need to be longer than six weeks.
· We would need to be more active in personally recruiting people and in making sure the students had a mix of skills.
The hackathon we’re planning for April is now a “mobile media development contest to teach new jobs skills to students.” We’ve broken the event into separate Saturday sessions on entrepreneurial thinking, creative ideas, coding and pulling it all together in a presentation. We’re partnering with the Nebraska Press Association to use its annual spring convention to showcase students’ projects and to introduce the state’s editors and publishers to students with product creation skills. This weekend’s mini-seminar will be on creative ideas.
— Gary Kebbel