Webmaker planning season

November 25, 2012 § 7 Comments

It’s November, which means it’s planning season. Last year at this time we developed a plan for our first year of Mozilla Webmaker. Our overarching goal for 2012 was:

Roll the best Drumbeat software and learning resources into a cohesive webmaker offering

As outlined in slides from our October board meeting, we met this goal — and we also learned a great deal about what we mean by Webmaker and how we need to evolve it as a product.

Building on this first year, our overarching ambition for 2013 is to:

Grow Mozilla Webmaker into a product that people love.

We’re in the early stages of developing a more specific set of goals and objectives for 2013. I outlined a first cut at these on last week’s Webmaker call:

External facing:
In 2013 we want Mozilla Webmaker to be:
1. A popular way to make and remix web content

2. That levels up your web skills as you make things
3. Powered by a global community of makers and mentors

Internal facing:
In order for this vision of Webmaker to succeed we need to:
4. Create a culture of excellence (process + outcomes)

5. Tee up solid long term funding and resource base
6. Establish a regular flow of new product ideas

We’ll be honing these over coming weeks. Expect posts with reflections and updates from myself and others on the Mozilla Webmaker team. In the meantime, I’d love to get reactions on this first cut at top level goals.

Webmaking, one year in

August 19, 2012 § 1 Comment

The Mozilla Webmaker idea has come a long way. This time last year, it was just that: an idea. The Mozilla Drumbeat team met late last July to discuss where to go next. While on vacation, I wrote up notes from that meeting and began a series of blog posts about what became Mozilla Webmaker.

During this year’s vacation, I took a look back at last year’s notes. Here is the summary section:

a. We set up Drumbeat to figure out how to extend our mission beyond Firefox (and beyond software).

b. What we found: Mozilla has an opportunity to build the next generation of web makers. This opportunity is huge.

c. At it’s core, this is about helping makers and creators understand, use and extend the building blocks that make up the web.

d. It’s also about creating a new kind of learning institution and new web tools that invite creativity, tinkering and invention.

e. We can — and should — do these things. They will help us keep the Mozilla spirit alive even as the web changes.

It felt good to look back at these notes. I’m proud of how we’ve focused and refined these ideas. We’ve really doubled down on this original thinking and brought it to life. In particular, I’m proud of where we’ve gone with the idea of ‘new web tools that invite creativity, tinkering and invention.’ Creativity apps for the web could become one of Mozilla’s biggest sweet spots over the coming years: Popcorn and Thimble have given us an early glimpse of this.

It does feel like we left one very important thing out of the bullets above: community and contribution. This really struck me as I re-read my notes. In our early work on the Mozilla Webmaker concept, we did good job of nailing the ‘why’ (create a web literate planet) and the ‘what’  (tools and learning programs the fuel creativity on the web), but we focused much less on the ‘how’ (by working with people around the world who share our vision).

Of course, a great community has sprung up around Mozilla Webmaker. Well over 1,000 of you helped shape our early thinking and ran events as part of our Summer Code Party. But this omission from our early framing does make me wonder: have we put enough emphasis on contribution and community?

My guess is ‘probably not': we could be doing a better job of finding, supporting and providing value to people around the world who want to help create a web literate planet. Personally, figuring out how to up our game in this area this is my number one priority this fall. I’m going to post more as I dig into this. In the meantime, I’m very much open to suggestions and feedback on this front.

Making 2012 plans: mozilla + web makers

November 22, 2011 § 24 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.

Creating a web literate planet (summary)

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.

Making Mozilla big in learning

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.

Friends, mentors and connected learning

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.

Mozillians as inventors

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.

Mozillians as inventors diagram

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.

The Popcorn.js video library is a good example. From the beginning, Popcorn was a partnership between a filmmaker (Brett) and a professor (Dave). Brett and Dave had an idea for a Javascript library that could spark a whole new kind of open source cinema. Dave’s students at Seneca College had the energy and enthusiasm to build out this idea, learning how to architect and evolve a Javascript library along the way.

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?

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