A week or so ago four college students at a Princeton University hackathon came up with a way to identify fake news on Facebook. You can read about the specific fake news solution at a Business Insider article, Students Solve Facebook’s Fake News Problem in 36 Hours.
A hackathon is an event attended by students who gather for a few days to focus on solving problems by using their programming skills. Collaboration is key. According to Zachary Liu, a manager for the Princeton event, about 600 students attended from over 80 universities.
A hackathon is 21st Century learning at its best. The aim of each event is to identify problems that need solving and encourage students to work collaboratively, using their programming (coding) skills, to figure out potential solutions.
At the Princeton event, and at many other hackathons around the country, there is no charge for room and board, and in some cases buses pick up participants at different schools. Travel costs can be reimbursed.
At the beginning of the Princeton activity — and any hackathon — participants come up with all sorts of ideas for problems they might address, and then smaller groups of participants coalesce around various issues. The event also included a workshop on Ideation and Design Thinking, led by Princeton University Professor Derek Lidow, to help people brainstorm new ideas.
The four students who created a fake news extension for Chrome that verifies Facebook posts named their extension — FiB:Stop Living a Lie. It evaluates a news posting and then attaches a verified tag to the item.
What is so cool about hackathons, in general, is the opportunity that participants have to work, play, and live together for a short time — all the while sharing ideas and figuring out when ideas work and when they do not. Students expect to try things out, fail a fair amount, troubleshoot, and try again. Teamwork is critical.