Learning through Landscapes & Geeklist #Hack4Good 0.5

As you may have previously read, Alliants hosted Geeklist #Hack4good 0.5 this weekend.We were lucky enough to work with two fabulous charities, Learning Through Landscapes and Nukanti Foundation. Chloe from LTL has kindly agreed to let us share her initial misconceptions and thoughts on the weekend!

48 hours, 2 web-apps and 20 remarkable individuals!

12 February 2014

The view from LTL
I wouldn’t describe myself as a technophobe, I even did a stint of coding in HTML once upon a time, but in recent years I’ve developed something of a stubbornness towards technology. I refuse to own a particular brand of phone/laptop/tablet - but I couldn’t tell you why.

So when my oldest and dearest friend asked if LTL would be interested in participating in Geeklist’s Hack4good - where thousands of tech developers across the world give up their time (48 hours straight in fact) to find tech solutions for charitable causes I was hesitant... sceptical... stubborn!

Stubborn I may be but I do love a challenge.

Educators, environmentalist and health professionals will tell you our children are spending an unhealthy amount of time glued to screens. In fact the average British 10 year old has access to at least 5 screens at home. The effects on children of prolonged screen time go further than those simply associated with being sedentary for long periods - “the greater the time spent in front of the screen, the greater the negative impact on both behavioural and emotional issues relating to the child’s development” says Professor Kevin Fenton, director of health and wellbeing at PHE.

But even as a stubborn refuser of technology I recognise it does have its place in modern society. Today’s technologies and ‘screen time’ have forged new ways that young people can engage with words, ideas and each other and it is increasingly recognised that it is imperative for youth to be able to readily use, communicate and innovate with information and communication technologies.

Herein lays the challenge. How can we exploit children’s engagement with technology and screen-time to increase the amount of time they play and learn outside; is it possible to find a tech response to getting more children outside? Inspired by the Project Wildthing ‘Screen time for Wildtime’ movement this is the quandary I posed to 20 volunteers who had braved a very wet, windy and dark Hampshire to attend the Southampton Hack4Good event hosted by Alliants at the weekend..

I arrived at Alliants HQ, expecting a dark basement of pallid faced programmers, shuffling quietly so as not to disturb the gentle keyboard tap-tap-tap of binary coding. I couldn’t have been more wrong. On arrival I was thrown off-guard by a couple of stand-up paddle boards leaning against the office door. I was then greeted by a room of cheerful and vibrant men and women of all ages with a passion for tech. From Tristan Alliants’ CEO, to Josh - a 14 year old with a talent for coding.

The volunteers immediately understood the challenge - and the contradiction - of using screen time to increase and improve children’s experiences of being outside. Without prompting, two ideas emerged...

Ventsi enthusiastically came forward with an idea to share outdoor games across the globe. This immediately got the room reminiscing about games we used to play as children. I’d completely forgotten about ‘Kerby’ until this night (look it up if you don’t know what it is).

Dwain, who’d clearly done his LTL homework, explained his concept for an electronic treasure hunt app; describing astonishing technological possibilities to engage children in their learning.

Within 48 hours, after a lot of pizza (kindly supplied by the local event sponsor Twilio), caffeine based energy drinks and very little sleep the volunteers had produced two amazing products for LTL, exceeding all of our expectations.

The first is a web app that allows children to use their mobile screen device to search for and share their favourite outside games. Children can search by the size of their group and/or the amount of time they have. They can upload their favourite games, ‘like’ games uploaded by others, and submit their own versions of games from around the world. The team developing this app, led by Sam Ward at Alliants, paid particular attention to the safeguarding of children and the complex moderation requirements needed when developing web solutions for children.

The second, an amazing ‘treasure hunt’ app, allows teachers and educators to set photographic clues up around a given area (the school grounds or a museum for example) and through picture recognition software the children can follow the clues using a mobile screen device. Dwain Faithful (from Alliants too) and his team really grasped how a solution of this nature could support children with Autism to feel comfortable when exploring and learning away from familiar surroundings.

A few final tweaks are being made and then these apps will be ready to go. Watch this space.

I learnt a lot from this weekend. Screen time can be positive and doesn’t have to stop children from being active outdoors. Techies are fun and do go outdoors. Dwain Faithful can stay awake for 60 hours straight. Women can code. I’m a dinosaur.

Thanks to Antonia Murphy at Alliants for organising the event, Lee-Jon and all the team at Alliants who supported LTL and the other charities, Dan Cunningham at Geeklist and all the event sponsors for a truly inspiring and actually very useful weekend. I stand corrected.

(I’d also like to mention the other charity partner at the Southampton Hack4Good event. Nukanti is an amazing global charity run completely by volunteers to support children to overcome conflict, poverty, and human-rights violations. Charlotte, the UK director, came to the event with a simple request for someone to review the eCommerce section of the Nukanti website. The result? An entirely new website - in just 48 hours. Take a look at the stunning fair trade jewellery and handbags available to buy - all proceeds go back in to the communities that made them)

— http://www.ltl.org.uk/news/article.php?item=215