This is a 'Hackathon'

GR- iBooks Author Hackathon, photo via Steve Dickie

I can't tell you how often I get asked the question: "Why is this called the iBooks Author Hackathon? What does that mean?"  Let's break it down and tell you why.

What is a 'Hackathon'?

According to Wikipedia
an event in which computer programmers and others involved in software development, including graphic designers, interface designers and project managers, collaborate intensively on software projects. Hackathons typically last between a day and a week in length. Some hackathons are intended simply for educational or social purposes, although in many cases the goal is to create usable software. 

But aren't 'hackathons' just for programmers? Nope! Back in February 2012, Steven Leckart wrote in Wired Magazine 

The trend [hackathon] has already spread beyond the conventional tech world. There are women-only hackathons, hackathons for teens, hackathons for college students, hackathons to fight autism, hackathons to improve education, hackathons to help veterans, hackathons to build Occupy Wall Street protest tools, hackathons on clean energy...

So this is how we found ourselves calling this the iBooks Author Hackathon. It is a multi-day, intensive, collaborative event to create usable products that will improve education...this is a hackathon! 

The Characteristics of an iBooks Author Hackathon 

1. Passionate and creative educators seeking to author high quality interactive content. 
To date over 85 educators and a half a dozen trainers have come together at a hackathon to learn about iBooks Author and create interactive 'books' for their content area / grade level. In addition, participants learn about copyright, creative commons licenses, open educational resources and a way to collaborate with colleagues to share these books. 

2. Collaboration of workers to create in community. 
We truly believe one of the factors that makes this event so powerful is the ability to collaborate with a common goal in mind. Participants spend some time throughout the two days whiteboarding their thoughts and ideas for their books. A lot of our time is spent with individuals helping them think through creative ways to build their books. 

3. Inspiring each other with their creativity and sharing of ideas.
In addition to collaboration, sharing is another big goal of this project. Too often teachers create and work in isolation from one another. A key factor of any hackathon or Google 20% time is to share out what you are working on, what you are creating and get feedback, input, and help from the greater audience. Throughout our time together we paused to share out what we were doing. 

4. Energy and a buzz of excitement around the end goal. 

For me, this is perhaps the greatest characteristic of these events. A full day of professional development can be a lot to ask of a teacher especially in June (early June). But we weren't asking for 1 day, this was 2 FULL days of learning and making. At the end you'd expect folks to be checking out, playing games, and basically doing anything but creating. Not here. 

Participants worked up to the bell. They were excited about the potential for impact these interactive modules (see and download my examples here) could have. They weren't jumping through some administrative hoop, they weren't checking an item off their to-do list. Rather, the product they were making was desirable, it will help teachers and schools sustain their iPad environments, and the they could grasp how to make it happen through the training and resources they were equipped with. 

Of course when you put on a hackathon there are a few requirements to keep that edge of excitement. For us, that meant raffles a few times throughout the day, a video chat from the team at, cool t-shirts supplied by Bookry for the participants, awesome lunch food, great snacks throughout the event and finally a free registration towards MACUL 2014 to give away. 

This was a great two days of making. We have several more planned throughout the summer (see details here). However, we also recognize this is the first in a string of years to come that will be necessary to truly meet the end goals of this project- open educational ibooks for k-12 content- that others can download, personalize, and distribute to their students. 

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