Every event is a laboratory

January 24, 2012 § 9 Comments

This weekend’s Hive Pop Up Tokyo reminded me that every event is a laboratory. Events are a great places to test our products and our ideas. They provide a chance to iterate quickly, improving our products fast. And, they can be a pipeline for new ideas. This kind of labby goodness is one of the reasons I’m committed to do more and better Mozilla learning events this year.

The Hive Pop Up format offers a particular kind of lab: one where you bang different products and ideas together. Format-wise, it’s a mash up of a workshop and a science fair. Building on MacArthur Foundation’s Hive learning network concept, the event recipe is:

  1. Find six to ten groups that teach some kind of web making lesson.
  2. Set up shop in a big room for a day on weekend or school holiday. Give each group their own area.
  3. Invite young people who are keen to play and make with technology. Schedule them in waves / cohorts (e.g. 3 hours).
  4. Quickly intro the kids to each program, then let them move to whichever stations they like, making and learning as they go.
  5. Watch for patterns. Take notes. Have fun.

We’ve  done two of these now. One in London, another in Tokyo. Both of them have focused on late primary and middle school kids, but you could do this for older ages too.

Apart from the actual fun and learning that goes on (that’s our actual goal and also why the kids showed up), the Pop Ups provide and opportunity for experiments, pattern recognition and quick improvement of our learning offerings.

One experiment we ran in Tokyo was to combine Mozilla’s basic Hackasaurus lesson with a short workshop on  MIT Media Lab’s Scratch. I’ll do another post detailing this, but bottom line is that we found a way to mash these two things together: the kids ‘busted a hack’ by embedding their Scratch game in their favourite gaming web site. The kids seem to enjoy this. A bunch of them kept working on these pages for an hour after we’d wrapped up the session.  More importantly from a lab perspective, we found a way to combine two important web making concepts — ‘the web is lego that you can take apart and remix’ and ‘the basics of telling a computer to do something’ — into a single hour.

There were more wins from the ‘many learning experiments loosely joined’ experience of Hive Pop Up Tokyo. We learned about a cool paper-protyping-for-interface-design Firefox add on called Domova that Keio University and Mozilla Japan have created. This is something we can roll into other learning events. We had a chance to see Jono’s Run Jump Build HTML5 side scroller in the wild as something kids were excited to play with (thanks, Jono!). We flagged the idea of mashing up Run Jump Build w/ the SVG animation elements of Mozilla Japan’s ParaPara. And, we identified a number of improvements for both the Xray Goggles and the Hackasaurus curriculum. Phewph. Lots of good and meaty stuff.

Not every Mozilla learning event should be a Hive Pop Up. In fact, the most important thing we can do right now is package up the basic Hackasaurus Hackjam so lots of people can be running those in their own local community. But we definitely should do a few more Pop Ups this year: they offer a rich way to test out our thinking and bring new ideas. These are both things we need as we critically need as we solidify our webmaker learning offerings in 2012.

PS. Hugest thanks to the Mozilla Japan for taking the leadership to make Hive Pop Up Tokyo happen. Special thanks go to Tetsuya Kosaka who really rocked it as organizer and thought partner. I look forward to doing more stuff like this with all of you in future.

§ 9 Responses to Every event is a laboratory

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