January 29, 2012 § 2 Comments
Like many people, I’ve admired MIT’s Scratch for a long time. It’s a tool that makes it easy for kids to create simple games and animations. And, by design, it teaches some of the basics of programming and computational thinking along the way.
This approach is very much like Mozilla’s own Hackasaurus: invite kids to make something that excites them, and learning into the technology they are using to do the making. In fact, the Scratch approach really informed the ‘making is learning’ design philosophy that’s at the core of the webmaker work we’re doing at Mozilla this year.
Which is all to say, I see Scratch and Hackasaurus as cousins. And, as cousins, I think there is a great opportunity play together — for both to feed into the bigger picture goal of teaching and inspiring millions of new webmakers.
We did a first experiment in putting Scratch and Hackasaurus together at the Hive Tokyo Pop Up a week ago. The Tokyo Scratch community plus a handful of Mozilla people ran a combined workshop where kids used both tools to create a Scratch web page mash up. Concretely, we combined three things:
- Step 1. A short Scratch workshop where kids created simple animations and uploaded them to the Scratch gallery site.
- Step 2. A basic Hackasaurus Xray Goggles lesson where kids learned how to remix text and images on a web site.
- Step 3. A ‘be a famous game designer’ exercise where kids embedded their Scratch movie into their favourite gaming web site.
The whole thing took only an hour, so it was necessarily very simple and limited. But it still built 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. And the kids seemed to have fun. A number of them kept hacking for an hour after we’d finished the initial session.
Of course, the experiment was not without hickups. In fact, we had to iterate the process three times to get to what I described above. In the first two sessions, the Hackasaurus and Scratch teams taught separately and tripped over each occasionally. It was only in the third round where we had one Scratch and one Mozilla person teaching side by side in each session, which worked well.
I’m not sure where this goes. We might want to do the exact same thing again, especially if we can build local Hackasaurus communities in places where Scratch is also strong. Or, we might use as fuel to brainstorm a more ambitious vision of how Scratch and Hackasaurus can play together. Where ever it goes, it was a fun and good first step.
PS. Huge thanks to the Scratch Japan community for having the trust to try this experiment. I was both grateful and impressed. You and your team really rocked!
PPS. Kudos also to famous ‘Mexican’ wrestler Chris Lawrence for awesomely MC’ing the event.
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:
- Find six to ten groups that teach some kind of web making lesson.
- Set up shop in a big room for a day on weekend or school holiday. Give each group their own area.
- Invite young people who are keen to play and make with technology. Schedule them in waves / cohorts (e.g. 3 hours).
- Quickly intro the kids to each program, then let them move to whichever stations they like, making and learning as they go.
- 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.
January 2, 2012 § 4 Comments
As 2012 begins, I’m excited to be part of Mozilla. I’m excited about our plans to teach and equip millions of webmakers. About the open web apps technology we’re releasing. And about all the renewed energy around Firefox. In fact, I’m more excited about being part of Mozilla than I’ve been in years. And more proud.
When I first got involved Mozilla three years ago, there was already much to be proud of. Here was a global community of people who had not only won hearts of millions with an open source browser, but that had also helped save the web in the process. This was something huge.
However, the web has changed since then. It faces new challenges. The biggest of these challenges snapped into focus for me in 2011: we’re moving from a world where the web is an open and exciting platform where anyone can make anything to a world of elegant consumption shaped by just a few big players.
My excitement is rooted in Mozilla’s plans step up to this challenge in 2012: we’ve got new ideas — and new code — that can stem this tide.
Mozilla’s apps initiative is a good example: we’re building technology designed to open up the app marketplace, making it easier for anyone create, share, use, modify and sell apps using standard web technology. If we succeed, we have a chance to move beyond a world controlled by a few app vendors to one that’s much more like an open bazaar. And, we also get a world of apps based on the same standards and ‘view source ethos’ that the web was built on in the first place. This will be a radical shift.
Possibly just as radical is Mozilla’s webmakers initiative: an effort to move millions of people from using the web to making the web. As a starting point, we’re making software like PopcornMaker and running grassroots learning labs like Hackasaurus, both of which help everyday content creators learn basic web programming skills. Ultimately, we imagine a world where mainstream video and social network sites are built with software that also teaches how the web works, and then invites you to remix it. As the Mozilla Manifesto says, we want a world where everyone is in control of their internet life, where everyone is a webmaker. A big part of Mozilla’s 2012 will focus on build this world.
And, of course, there is much to be excited about in relation to Firefox, especially on mobile. I felt this yesterday as I (finally) updated my very old Firefox for Android to a recent nightly build. The tab experience. The search. The speed. It was all awesome. Which, of course, are nice things to say about a piece of software. But there is bigger meaning: for the first time ever I was actually enjoying the experience of using regular web pages on my tablet. Making sure the mainstream of the web is pleasant to use on mobile sounds like a no brainer, but it’s actually a radical yet difficult mission in a world increasingly oriented to apps. Firefox is taking on this mission.
Of course, these are only three of the things that have me excited. David Ascher, Dan Sinker and Glynn Moody have written about other emerging Mozilla initiatives. And there are many more in the works. The main point here is not Firefox + webmakers + apps: it’s that the Mozilla community is stepping up to the challenges faced by the web in 2012 with new and concrete ideas. And, as a community, we’re doing this with more force and enthusiasm than ever. It’s going to be an exciting year.
November 22, 2011 § 21 Comments
Building a generation of web makers has been a big topic of conversation recently. This was the theme of our recent Mozilla Festival. And it was the topic of a conversation I led on my blog. Moving people from using the web to making the web is becoming a major focus for Mozilla.
At the most recent Mozilla Foundation board meeting, we dug into the question: what concrete things can we do in 2012 to tackle our big picture goals around web makers? I’ve pulled together board slides plus a summary of our emerging plans in this slidecast:
These slides (PDF / WebM video) represent a first cut at a Mozilla Foundation plan for 2012. Over the coming weeks, we’ll be hashing out more details and asking for ideas from people who want to get involved.
If you don’t have time for the full 30 minute slidecast, here is a summary of essential points:
- What started out as Mozilla Drumbeat has evolved into a series of ‘learning labs’ for web makers: a mix of learning programs and software tools for people who create things on the web.
- In 2012, we plan to grow the community and reach of the most successful of these learning labs: Popcorn (video); MoJo (journalism); and Hive (teens).
- We also plan to strengthen our best software and learning offerings, such as PopcornMaker, Hackasaurus and School of Webcraft. We’ll integrate these into all of our learning labs.
- A new effort for 2012 will be developing Mozilla web literacy badges: a way to get recognized for developing skills and contributing to a community within a learning lab.
- For all of this to succeed, Mozilla will need to get better at making software for web makers need and also build up strength in the learning arena. We’ve got great people in both areas, but we’ll need more.
These plans are a direct result of a Mozilla Foundation program leads meeting this summer (‘the hedgehog summit’) as well as the feedback a series of blog postings I did earlier this fall (‘creating a web literate planet‘).
While this conversation has been going on for many months now, these are still early stage plans. They are very much designed to evolve as we dig into the details and start work over coming weeks and months.
If you have ideas and want to get involved, the best channel is our weekly web makers community call on Tuesday (formerly the Drumbeat call). Also, feel free to post comments here.
October 18, 2011 § 7 Comments
I’m proud to announce that Mozilla is taking over stewardship of a project called Hive NYC: a network of over 30 organizations using digital technology and web culture to fuel learning.
A part of MacArthur Foundation‘s broader digital media and learning effort, Hive Learning Network NYC pulls together organizations in New York City that run out-of-school learning programs. Some are about science. Some are about art. Some are about poetry. Some are about tech itself. What brings all these organizations together is a commitment to mixing the hands on, maker culture of the web into how they teach.
When I first met with the members of Hive NYC, I was blown away by the energy and common vision. It was a room filled with talented youth educators from orgs as diverse as MoMA, the American Museum of Natural History, Dreamyard, the New York Public Library, MOUSE and Eyebeam. All of them are out there every day running programs that feel like the kind of learning Mozilla should be doing more of: leveraging web tools (and promoting web literacy) to help kids learn about whatever they are passionate about.
Sitting in that room in New York, I realized Mozilla has a ton to learn from these people — and also that these people are a key missing link for the learning programs Mozilla needs to develop. When I look at Hive NYC, I see a mashup of:
- A community of orgs leveraging and building digital skills into they way they teach art, science, poetry, whatever …
- … rolled up inside a distributed lab that is creating new curriculum and new technology …
- … which, by the way, is a school that teaches web literacy.
A concrete example of these pieces coming together is Hackasaurus, which was developed by Hive NYC members working with Mozilla (lab). At it’s core, Hackasaurus teaches web literacy (school) but is also great way to teach about things like film making on the web (platform).
IMHO, this Hive Learning Network model can be rocket fuel not just for learners and network members, but also for Mozilla and the web. It pushes technology into the background, focusing instead on whatever kids want to learn about. The result: a much bigger population of learners getting web literacy and digital skills.
It’s this kind of interest based learning — combined with a platform that lets dozens (or thousands?) of people and orgs embed web skills into their own teaching — that Mozilla really needs to crack. Which is why I am so excited about bringing Hive NYC into Mozilla. It’s a chance to both learn a ton and to help a whole pile of other orgs who want to teach how we want to teach.
Hive NYC is a part of a broader Hive Learning Network, which includes Hive Chicago (not directly affiliated with Mozilla) and will soon add a number of other cities. In New York City, Hive will operate as a Mozilla project, just like Hackasaurus, or Popcorn or Browser ID. Core Hive NYC staff like Chris Lawrence and Lainie DeCoursy are employed by Mozilla and are integrated into our broader learning team. Welcome!
PS. Chris Lawrence has also blogged here about Hive NYC and Mozilla coming together.
October 10, 2011 § 2 Comments
The Mozilla Festival is a way to prototype and demo our thinking about Mozilla and learning. I mention this because, from the outside, it may simply look like a celebration of innovative web media. Which it is. But it is also very much about teaching and building things with the people I call the web makers: people making films, news, games, courses and art on the web.
As I’ve said elsewhere, the emerging Mozilla learning model is a mash up of P2P pedagogy with a lab where people invent new web tech and apps. A tag line I’m playing with is:
All about the web.
The Mozilla Festival is all of this packed into 72 hours in London. If you want to understand what Mozilla is building on the learning front, you should come.
The lab piece is at the largest part of the Mozilla Festival. We have over a dozen design challenges lined up, where people will spend between half a day and two days hacking on a specific problem set. What does the UX of a ‘story’ look like when each news event is a mash up of tweets, videos, live blogs and traditional copy? What tools will radio DJs of the future need? How do we extend Popcorn.js so it’s more useful for filmmakers? While these hackfests are clearly about making and inventing, they are also quite necessarily about sharing and improving skills.
The hackfests we did at last year’s Mozilla Festival demonstrated this in spades. For example, we did a two day session with web developers, designers and librarians were we asked: how could we get young people excited about learning HTML? Everyone learned a great deal as they had to grapple with the question from each other’s perspective, and then build something. There was just no choice but to learn. It was built in to the process. Bonus points: the thing they built — now called Hackasurus — is at the core of countless more efforts to use this lab like approach to teaching, especially as a part of the work we’re doing with New Youth Learning Network.
The ‘school’ — or mentoring — piece is also a central part of Mozilla Festival this year. We have build in almost 20 learning labs as part of the London event, ranging from how to use Open Badges to responsive design in HTML5 to a masterclass in web filmmaking. Our partners at New Youth City are also running a ‘pop up learning lab’ where 100 local young people will get to use tech to learn. So, if you have something to teach or have something you want to learn, we’ve carved out a big chunk of the Mozilla Festival for you.
Layered onto all is a Science Fair on the first night of the Mozilla Festival: a show and tell with cool things for web makers. The first ‘made for the browser’ feature length documentary film. Emerging technology that will make HTML5 games easier to create. Tools that make crowdsourcing content easier for working journalists. Plus (literally) 27 more topics. Beyond demoing, the Science Fair is also designed as a jumping off point for learning, helping people find collaborators and mentors from the very first moment of the Festival.
I’m calling all of this out partly to show how it connects into the larger narrative of what I think we should be focusing on next with Drumbeat. But I’m also putting this out as an invitation: if you have something to add to the way Mozilla is thinking about learning, then we want you to get involved. London is a place where we’re prototyping an important aspect of the future of Mozilla. We will need lots of help.
October 5, 2011 § 28 Comments
I want to us create a web literate planet. One where almost everyone — filmmakers, teachers, scientists, artists, bankers — understands what’s going under the hood on the web. Can take things apart. Remix them. Express what they want the web to be. Since starting Mozilla Drumbeat 18 months ago, I have seen that there is a thirst for this.
This thirst shows up partly in ideas: people calling out for web literacy, and in particular for a world where everyone knows at least a little code. Douglas Rushkoff is an example:
When we gained literacy, we learned not just how to read but to write. And as we now moved into an increasingly digital reality, we must learn not just how to use programs but how to make them.
I experience this thirst even more viscerally when I look at the web makers, including my 11 year old son. He posts video game commentaries online everyday. He craves creating things on the web. Yet, increasingly, he bumps up against the black box of YouTube, unable to take it apart, understand it or reconfigure how it works. He is not fully web literate.
As outlined in a number of posts recently, I believe Mozilla can play a leading role in creating a web literate planet. Concretely, I think Mozilla can — and should — build out a major P2P learning initiative that teaches web skills and web literacy to coders and non-coders alike. We should also take an active role building up the whole ecosystem of orgs emerging around web literacy and innovative, web-like learning.
With the aim of focusing (and firing up) a conversation on these ideas, I’ve written a summary of all my posts so far here. My major points have been:
Post #1: Our biggest achievement in the first 18 months of Drumbeat has been carving out a new way for Mozilla to work: teaching and building things with people I call ‘web makers’. The next thing we should do is build on this particular aspect of Drumbeat.
Post #2: The people I am calling web makers are teachers, filmmakers, journalists, artists, scientists, game makers and curious kids who a) want to be part of what Mozilla is doing and b) are making things using the open building blocks that are the web.
Post #3: We need to teach the world to code. Or, more specifically, we need to mentor web makers on a massive scale, giving them new skills to make their corners of the web more creative, participatory and open-ended. We need a big community of mentors to do this.
Post #4: We’ve noticed something: impressive learning happens when people get to make something new and innovative. If we want to drive learning, we also need to build a lab where people are invited to tinker, make and invent future pieces of the web.
Post #5: At the foundation of all this, we need a P2P pedagogy built around friendship and passion for a particular topic or interest (e.g. hip hop). Our mantra might be: people learn at Mozilla by building exciting things on the web with their friends.
Post #6: To make this concrete: we need a clear simple Mozilla learning program that anyone can dive into, no matter their age or skill level. This starts with the best bits of Drumbeat: Hackasaurus, School of Webcraft, MoJo, etc.. And is wrapped in a system of Mozilla badges that recognize the most skilled and generous community members.
What I am proposing is building a global P2P learning institution, tinkering lab and web skills certification system into the core of Mozilla’s work. Which raises the question, doesn’t this already exist? Partly yes, but mostly no.
Lots of people teach about computers. Few people teach about the web. For school age kids, the bulk of the focus remains on basic office apps and watching out for cyberbullies. And, for adults, the most popular out of school tech programs still continue to be things like the MCSE and Cisco Academy. Technical, but not very webbish, and certainly not at all helpful to the web makers.
Similarly, many people talk about educational innovation on the web. Few are trying build web-like learning experiences where making, tinkering and collaboration are at the core. You can see this in the myriad of e-learning and open educational resource sites that simply present videotaped classroom lectures. They aren’t even aiming a P2P pedagogy that works like the web.
Luckily, there are pioneers who are pushing forward on both web literacy and p2p pedagogy. Projects like Code Academy, Young Rewired State and CodeNow are teaching people great web coding skills. And people like Howard Rheingold, Cathy Davidson, Philipp Schmidt, Katie Salen, Dave Humphrey and everyone in MacArthur’s broader digital media and learning community are building learning experiences that work like the web. These are Mozilla’s allies, people we can both learn from and support as we build out a broader ecosystem around all of these ideas.
For now, we have a question: should Mozilla go big in learning? And how? The role we can play in teaching web skills and web literacy at a massive scale is clear, at least to me. And there is huge potential to contribute more broadly to learning innovation with things like Open Badges. But, as we deliberate on where to go next with Drumbeat, are these the right places to focus our energy?
PS. If you want to read more detail, I’ve posted all of my posts on this topic on a single page here.
September 30, 2011 § 12 Comments
I’ve talked about Mozilla going big in learning quite a bit recently. Specifically, I’ve talked about making Mozilla the biggest, most innovative technology learning organization on the planet. I’ve also talked about the importance of doing this in a Mozilla-like way, with P2P pedagogy and strong focus on making. The question now is: how?
The first step is fairly easy, or at least obvious: roll the best bits of Drumbeat into a single, coherent program designed to teach web culture and web skills at a global scale. This includes the clearly educational bits like Hackasaurus and School of Webcraft. But it also includes media and innovation programs like Web Made Movies and MoJo that are already helping new kinds of people learn, tinker and make things on the web. And, of course, it includes Open Badges as a basis for offering recognition and credit for what people have learned.
My personal opinion is that it’s time for us to focus in this way. What we’re hearing from you is that we need to relentlessly focus on the small number of things we can be best in the world at. This is what separates all great organizations from merely good ones.
The harder part is defining what a ‘Mozilla goes big in learning’ program would look not as a loose set of programs, but rather as a cohesive whole. Based on dozens of discussions and comments on my blog, I’ve put together a high level straw man outline. It looks like this:
Mozilla wants to spread web culture and skills at a massive scale
by being the biggest, most innovative tech learning org on the planet.
We’ll drive this through:
- top quality Mozilla web literacy and web skills content for all ages
- a community-run lab where learners and inventors make things together
- a global community of webmakers who learn and mentor with each other
- Mozilla Badges that recognize skills, achievement and contribution
- P2P learning and making, building on Mozilla’s collaborative way of working
These last two bits point to something critical: if we want to create a vibrant community of learners and mentors, we need to build a recognition system that rewards the best and most generous people in this community. When I think of the social scaffolding for this community — and for the learning programs I describe above — I imagine something like this:
The idea: give people a clear way to advance through Mozilla learning programs and labs, and then recognize their achievements and contributions through badges. This not only provides a way to incent learning and mentoring, it will also help us build the next generation of Mozilla community leaders.
The good news: we already have a head start. The best bits of Drumbeat give us a set of learning programs, software and community from which to build. Once we strengthen and systematize these things, we can snap them into a bigger learning offering like the one I am describing. We can then build up more content, a mentor network and Mozilla web skills badges system on top of these foundations that we’ve built through Drumbeat.
Of course, we haven’t yet decided if this is what we want to do. There is huge opportunity in learning: Mozilla could help millions of people gain the literacy and skills they need to shape how the web works in their own lives and careers. However, dedicating ourselves to learning at this scale would be a big bet. It would take significant time, resources and patience.
I want to start a broader conversation over the next few weeks to help deliberate and iterate on these ideas. It starts with the simple questions: Should Mozilla go big in learning? and What would that look like? I’ll do a summary post early next week as a way to focus this conversation. However, I’d be happy to hear people’s thoughts a comments on this post in the meantime.
September 27, 2011 § 7 Comments
Friendship is a powerful force for learning. Especially friendship built around a shared interest or passion. Space travel. Cooking. Technology. Gardening. Whatever. We tend to gather, explore, make, play — and learn — with friends who also share our passions. As people like Mimi Ito have shown with research: friendship and interests drive learning.
Mozilla’s learning programs should to be designed around this combination of friendship and passion. Our mantra might be: people learn at Mozilla by building exciting things on the web with their friends. Notionally, all of our learning programs need to be built around a P2P pedagogy with a big emphasis on making things and expressing your passion. Or, as our friends at MacArthur often say to me, we need to be doing ‘connected learning’.
Funnily enough, the importance of friendship came up in the debate about ‘Mozilla as teacher’ vs. ‘Mozilla as mentor’ in response to one of my recent posts. Ken Saunders said:
I suppose that mentor seems like (and may be) a friendlier, perhaps even more modest word. I’ve had many mentors who were also my friends, but few teachers that were.
Ken’s pointing to something critical here, even if indirectly: what makes the existing Mozilla community tick is a sense of common cause, collegiality, helping each other out, inventing and building things together. Friendship.
We need to keep this idea of friendship at the core of what Mozilla in learning. The good news is that a collegial P2P learning spirit is already built into what we’ve been doing with programs like School of Webcraft and Hackasaurus. What we need to do now is figure out how to be more systematic, how to do this with some scale.
Mentorship is likely one of the keys: encouraging senior community members to befriend and help others learn. The idea is to use friendship and shared interest to connect people with different experience levels. We’ve talked about building this kind of mentorship program like this with Hackasaurus and other youth-oriented programs. It’ll probably be one of the first new things we push on in 2012, alongside a badges program for web skills.
Interest and passion are the other side of this learning coin. Given our goal is to teach people web skills and web culture, we need to tap into their other interests: e.g., use their interest in gardening to teach them about the web. This may sound crazy or hard, this recent video about our work with the Bay Area Video Coalition reminded me we’re already doing it:
We’re also working with the New Youth City Learning Network (more on this soon) to connect kids who are interested in science, art, poetry, hip hop, etc. with web technology that lets them express themselves. This is interest-based learning.
Through Drumbeat we’ve already started to connected with interest-based communities: teachers; journalists; filmmakers; artists; etc. These people want Mozilla to help them learn how to apply the culture and skills of the web to their own domain. Many of them have also said they want to help Mozilla in return. These are the sort of new community leaders and mentors we’ll need if Mozilla wants to go big in learning.
One question still looms: what does Mozilla going big in learning look like? I’m going to take shot at that in my next post. In the mean time, I’m interested to hear from people whether what I’ve written hear addresses some of the concerns people raised around my ‘Mozilla as teacher’ post.
September 22, 2011 § 1 Comment
Making is learning. Learning happens when we make. At least, this is the pattern we see when we look around Drumbeat. Projects explicitly about learning have put making things at their core. And, projects that started with making have added a big piece on learning.
One thing I’ve noticed: particularly impressive learning happens when people get to make — or help make — something new and innovative. Something other people will use. Something that will have impact.
By putting Dave’s (physical) classroom inside Brett’s (virtual) lab, the Seneca students had a learning opportunity like no other. Certainly, they had to learn fast and on their feet. At first, this is harder than learning from a textbook or making toy software. But, in exchange for hard work, students get help from the Mozilla community plus a chance to blaze a very real trail on the web. Based on the conversations I’ve had with Dave’s students, I’d argue this leads to deeper learning and, certainly, deep pride.
Surprisingly (at least to me), MoJo has become another example of how we can connect learning and innovation. From the start, the project was about innovation, with aim of putting fellows into newsrooms to build a new kind of webapps. But learning has become an increasingly important goal for MoJo: we’ve realized we could help thousands of people learn how to use the web to reshape newsrooms, not just the 15 fellows we select.
Admittedly, we don’t know how to do this at scale yet. The recent MoJo learning lab reached only 60 people, and was too closely tied to whether one became a fellow or not. But we did catch a glimpse of what might be possible through MoJo events and discussions that happened trough the challenge cycle. The idea of inventing new web things for the newsroom galvanized people, got them sharing ideas. It had people teaching and mentoring each other even if they didn’t know it.
I say inventing here quite on purpose. There is pride and motivation in ‘making a thing’. Even more so a thing that seems new, novel or innovative. This sort of informal, fast, iterative invention is quite common and natural across Mozilla. It’s a good way to create valuable new tools for the web. Based on the little we’ve observed, this sort of ‘inventing’ is also a magnetic motivator for learning.
This observation has influenced how I think. Mozilla-style, tinkerish invention should be a central part of the learning programs we develop next. We also need to focus strongly on basic web literacy. And to encourage people to use code to make things that are simply fun and fanciful. But the idea of ‘Mozillians as inventors’ should certainly be in the mix.
Which leads me to this: if we want to create the biggest, most interesting technology learning organization on the planet (I think we should!), Mozilla needs not only to be a school but also a lab. Not a school and a lab in any traditional sense: whatever we do must be open, distributed, global and peer-to-peer, just like an open source project. But certainly, we will need to build out spaces that are both about learning and inventing.
I have a practical picture in my mind of how this might work: how we might build Mozilla programs that mix school and lab, teacher and inventor. I will post on this next week. I’ll also post soon on the question on the ‘Mozilla as teacher vs. mentor’ topic. I agree with much of what people have said about ‘mentor’, but want to explore.
In the meantime, I wonder: what do you think about this idea of Mozillians as inventors? Is it important to how we construct learning programs, or a distraction?