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I am excited to cross the pond and join so many people who want to help build a better web. As the Internet as matured traditional power strucutres have arisen and networks have been closed off. I was selected as a Participation leader to help ensure that new doors open for the next billion to come online. Our goal is to increase the contributions people make across Mozilla. My specific focus as a participation leader is to think about leadership, learning and advocacy.
Learning is leadership and we lead best when we teach well. Mozilla, given a revitalized charge charge of fueling the next wave of open, need to think deeply about the relationship between leading, learning, and advocacy. This will take a collaborative effort between those who tinker on the web and those who teach the web. Those who do both will lead.
Thus leadership and advocacy require a global classroom. Someone asked, it was in some slide deck I think, “Do we want to turn teachers into Mozillians or Mozillians into teachers?” The answer is clearly both.
I want to bring things skillsets together. To open new doors. Mozilla is a philanthropic entrepreneurial activism engine, and we need to fuel the Open web through leadership and advocacy. We need people to level up their technical abilities while they sharing the lessons they have gleaned about learning. Meanwhile developers and self-taught programmers can share cool tools and tricks while learning to teach. Data from the #teachtheweb campaign, clearly indicated people turn to Mozilla for professional development. We can learn together in the open.
By creating a distributed learning network we create incidental moments of learning that cut across time and spaces. When you #teachtheweb you empower others to learn for themselves. You design opportunities for community members to level up as self-programmable learners. I have never taken a web design class but I can mark up my way into new problems all the time. I can’t code but I have taken apps from paper prototype to the production server. I have done this because I turned to Mozilla to #teachtheweb.
We need to offer programs on designing these spaces. There are enough case studies of successful open classrooms for us to design content. We can support professional development across Mozilla. Teams can create and run programs on basic instructional design. ..so we can learn to hack them in fun and interesting ways. For example let’s take principles of multimedia learning and turn it into a puppet show. In other words lets remix the lessons we have learned about how to #teachtheweb and share with the next billion coming online.
Sometimes the hardest part of joining the open web is finding something to say. We need to run programs that lets the art of the web flourish. We want to push the boundaries of how we express ourselves, our learning, and our values on the web. Mozilla builds must offer creative pathways in their spaces of learning. The data from the recent webmaker study in Chicago illustrates this point clearly. The majority of the mobile generation sees themselves as digital artists not as coders.
In order to be a global classroom Mozilla needs to create a federated learning space that would be distributed across the web. We need to connect advocates for Open Education Resources with Developers of the Open Web. Mozilla is the natural synapse. In fact Mozilla just announced a million dollar initiative to support the development of open source and free software. The global classroom needs Mozilla to support efforts to stop the deprecating of RSS.
RSS powers the best learning spaces on the web as it allows learners to be empowered to own their domain. In fact the best open courses on the Web run on RSS and it feels as if content silos are deprecating a basic and fundamental feature of the web. I fear a future where teachers can not pull content into a class hub and learners can push it out into the world. We need someone to build an RSS reader with learning as the essential design feature.
Mozilla’s open source tools also needs to focus on Digital Media. The loss of Popcorn, while understandably necessary, was devastating. Just when the Webmaker program was scaling up it was rebranded and favorite tools disappeared. Mozilla felt like any other edtech content silo.
The pain of losing Popcorn was also because of open wounds. A few months earlier the developers of Zeega were bought out by Buzzfeed and the tool was shut down. We found ourselves lost creatively. No tools to remix audio and video. The recent webmaker data from Chicago and New York illustrate that video matters. First time web users want virality not code. I hope some money flows to someone trying to solve this problem.
Mozilla needs to help build tools for learning and creativity. I hope to offer some perspectives on this issue. People find agency through artistry.
My Plans As a Participant Leader in 2016
I want to create a course module that can be hosted on Thimble and Github. Much of this already exists and a design effort was launched by MLN. We need to continue this work and bring it across Mozilla.
I want to build a global learning experience focused on judging the credibility of web resources. I have piloted and tested a program of credibility with the Mozilla Web Club I facilitate, the Elm City Webmakers. I want to scale this up and run as a distributed networked class.
I want to run a global Pechaflickr challenge. I would love to have some fun, and discuss the similarities between open learning and improv, by having the crowd choose a key term for a random set of Pecha Kucha slides using Alan Levine’s pechaflickr tool.
I’d also like to sit around with a group of people and hack together a Mozilla Web Club kit on Thimble. This could be a template website that clubs could remix on Thimble and then export to their own site if their skills and members level up.
I want to think about the types of professional development opportunities Mozilla should offer. Here we should simply reach out to those surveyed and ask, “What kind of professional development do you want?” Then we should take those answers, embed lessons in web literacy, and design programs built on the values of Mozilla.
Finally I want to continue working with Chad Sansig, Robert Friedman and hopefully a robust MLN mentor community to keep cranking out curriculum.
Inquiry never works better alone. Whether you bury yourself in a book or attend a #hackjam you seek answers with others. As a teacher I find how I participate on the Web influences my personal growth more than what I contribute to my networks.
Check out this recent conversation started by David Quinn. He asked if I and a few friends had advice to students who were nervous about blogging. Dave noted that there were concerns around privacy and employment.
— Greg McVerry (@jgmac1106) September 15, 2015
— Greg McVerry (@jgmac1106) September 15, 2015
— William Ian O’Byrne (@wiobyrne) September 15, 2015
As a community we explore tips and practices for teaching in open spaces. We discuss and share great teaching activities. Most importantly we collaborate on problems that matter.
I believe teacher preparation programs (all fields really) have a responsibility to help candidates shape their online presence. The benefits of learning in the open go beyond skills and knowledge acquisition. If schools use job placement as a key metric of success than helping teachers build up a distributed and networked Web presence is central to our mission.
Its simple really.
You have two otherwise equal prospective employees. Candidate one can read, write, and participate on the web. She has a website, demonstrates reflective growth through blogging, and engages in relevant and current educational topics.
When you Google candidate two you only find private social media silos.
Who would you choose?
Never been a fan of 21st century skills. I must admit, I even added to the hype; publishing a set of skills using the latest trope of alliterative “C buzzwords” in a white paper and then a special issue on 21st Century Learning. More so, Ian and I have taken a stab at “measuring” these “soft” skills through research into self-report instruments.
We need to think of 21st Century Skills as practices of pedagogy rather than of performance. Instead of focusing on the learner we need to intentionally design the learning space to cultivate these practices.
The term “21st” century skills is dated. The Internet has seen more birthday candles than the students who walk the halls of our schools. The web outdates many of the teachers as well. We need to prepare students for the future not catch up to the past.
Instead of 21st century skills I think about our networked society. Castells and Cardosa discussed the need for self-programmable learners. So instead of the consonance of constant change, I tried to think about what the “soft skills” (stop calling them soft) people would need to be a self-programmable learner in a networked society.
— Kris Shaffer (@krisshaffer) April 23, 2015
I settled on: create, communicate, think, lead. I then wanted to start thinking about a map. Actually the thinking about the map started first. It lead me to the four practices found in participatory learning environments.
I was reading an article by Paul Deane on “Rethinking K-12 Writing Assignment” when he discussed competency models as a “detailed map of the skills that should be assessed.”
The infographic is great. So many layers of meaning in so few words. It also “mapped” writing in a way that I had never really seen before.
I was also, of course thinking about the Web Literacy Map and the working group efforts to release a second version of the Map. If you have been following the developments a series of focus group interviews is being conducted. Reading the questions being asked it seemed many people are trying to answer what are “21st Century Skills” we are trying to teach.
I am beginning to wonder if that is the right question. Maybe we should be asking, “What practices should our learning spaces require and reinforce?”
I settled on these four practices because they are essential to self-programmable learning. I dropped collaborate because learning never occurs alone. We are social animals and I believe in many ways our humanity begins when behavior must conflict with instinct. When we run simulations in our mind, delay gratifications, weigh consequences, and consider others we become human.
I then placed a series of practices in concentric circles. I was intentional in my design hoping the practices grew in scope and impact on society.
I then looked around for the types of choices and practices I would want to see in participatory learning environments.
I lifted the entire Create category from an etherpad published by the Web Literacy Working Group. It is cool stuff. Gets at the whole design thinking thing plus puts a focus on making.
The Communicate practices are a mix from the Dean article and writings about rhetoric, reading, and writing.
The Lead category is something new to me. Garnder Campbell sparked my thinking around leadership and learning. The recent focus on leadership in the Mozilla Learning Networks has also honed my though.
In the Think category I dropped critical. Maybe its my natural aversion to totally useless and unnecessary modifiers. I find them redundant and repetitive.
Part of it is just plain confusion. If I can think critically when do I think uncritically? When do I use my dumb thinking skills? Instead critical thinking usually refers to a specific subset of processes and practices. Yet these subset of competencies changes if we are talking Spache’s critical reading or the camp that grew from the Frankfurt school and Friere’s Pedagogy of the Oppressed.
I went with Think. You can Think Different, but just think.
Levels of Engagement
I then played with the idea that each circle represents some level or characteristic of learning. I tried using two dollar words like enculturation. I attempted to sound like the cool kids by using in words like affinity spaces.
Nothing work. So I tried to settle on simple:
Not sure if this works though. Still I would rather us invest time into ensuring are learning spaces afford the agency for these practices to be built rather than spending time and treasure chasing variance in scores.
We went from the courts to the code. It was hot. Real hot. Melt the soles of your kicks hot. So many of the Youth from the Gear Up New Haven Summer Academy retreated indoors during their self-selected learning time.
I decided to take advantage of the over crowded activities (and the superior air condition of the computer lab) and throw an impromptu Maker Party.
I rounded up the volunteers. I was a little saddened when they were all boys. The most talented coder in the class chose to stay and read her novel. Equity does need work it. We do not need to simply open up opportunities for females but make our environments welcoming. I needed to be more intentional in the set up of my Maker Party to make it more inclusive.
I stole an idea from @soapdog and first had my students discuss how the used the web and what they wanted to do with the web.
Overall the participants all wanted to do more with the web than simply watch videos. There was a strong call to learn more about video production.
We focused on basic HTML and CSS by completing make-a-meme and the comic strip creator remixes.
The first activity was Make-a-Meme. The students got right to work. Especially when they realized they could use the memes to “tease” each other. The students were quickly Googling deadpan insults, making memes about sports teams, or cheesy pick-up lines.
This get back to the need to make learning spacing more inclusive. I wanted to to push them into interest and away from insults so we left the meme-maker behind. After I left them with this:
We then played with the Comic Maker
The participants started to dig deeper into their own likes and began to customize their makes based on peer culture.
All of the participants who came to #MakerParty were excited to design something for the web. They could not contain the excitement of knowing they had published to the Web without using Facebook. This was their code. Their makes.
Ideas are hard. We lost a lot of time as folks had to “think” of a meme or comic strip idea. Paper based storyboarding is essential. Having them sit down with an idea would have allowed me to focus on the code and not the content.
Overall it was a successful Maker Party. I am hoping the participants take their new skills back to their school and help me launch local clubs in their hood.
No project or space designed to #teachtheweb could ever exist in stasis. Change is the only constants on the Web. Well, actually change isn’t the only constant. There is also the mission of Mozilla—the other fixed variable– as old as browsing itself.
This philosophy of the web– as an open and public space that empowers us to read, write and participate has drawn many like me to the Mozilla Learning Networks..
I recently came across this infographic from an article entitled Toward a Grammar of Collaboration by Yrjö Engeström, Anu Kajamaa, Päivikki Lahtinen, & Annalisa Sannino. The picture was taken from a Bennet & Sederberg, 2012 piece. When looking at the overall picture I saw a decent metaphor of the over-arching goal of shifting Mozilla Foundation’s teaching efforts into a more brokered network.
To be honest I haven’t read either paper yet but the image immediately reminded me of a few things:
So I wanted to use the infographic as a lens to reflect on the evolution of how the webmaker spirit we knew evolved into, and blended the tools, toys, and teaching of the future.
Mozilla Learning Networks
I first encountered The Mozilla Learning Networks through an affiliate. Andrea Zellner had thrown together a Hackjam at a National Conference of Teacher’s of English annual meeting. We walked around until we found free wi-fi to try out X-Ray Goggles.
I didn’t do much with the interaction until the coming summer when I organized a #hackjam as an after hours activity for a conference Ian and I used to run. This over time turned into Ian and I throwing together our first Maker Party events and evangelizing webmaker tools everywhere.
Things were more hacky then. Webmaker and Hackasaurus were pitched as, “Here are really cool tools: X-ray Goggles, Thimble, Appmaker, and Popcorn, use this cool stuff and see what you can do.” We did and do some amazing stuff with the Webmaker tools.
Now some things are changing. Appmaker and Popcorn will be deprecated. Thimble is getting an amazing and much needed make over (I am really excited about what I have seen so far). But it isn’t the tools that matter.
It is the network.
As Ani Martinez noted purpose, people, programs, and presence will make the difference. That brings us to the more updated graphic that in my mind demonstrates the evolution of the Mozilla Learning Networks in the last year.
In today’s vision of Mozilla Learning Networks I see the Webmaker App on-boarding folks into self-organizing efforts. Maker Party serves as an organizational bridge between networks that are actively supported beyond the product side.
I see Mozilla Clubs as being a network The Mozilla Foundation helps to enable. Through curriculum, tools, and assessment we provide the kits. Through leadership and cultivated social media spaces the Mozilla Learning Networks provide more structured activities, spaces and support with club captains and regional coordinators.
Then there is the bridge that moves to the brokered network that in fact encapsulates the smaller networks. What is this bridge? Not sure, Matt Thompson has recently started a conversation about this level of on-boarding.
It was not the goal of webmaker that shifted, but it was the scope and speed to which results were to be achieved. The battle cry, flying chainsaws and all, has grown exponentially. This has lead to much larger global effort.
Ben Mozkowitz, Matt Thompson, Michelle Thorne, Mark Surman, and Laura De Renyal have all written or spoken about the mission of serving the next billion to come online. Basically we can not reach this level of impact with self organizing or enabled networks. They would have to brokered networks. The hackjams affiliates used worked in the past but a new scale is needed. One of massive growth.
I do fear there is a fourth box on the left of the picture, a box not as pretty—“directed networks.” We can not strip all degrees of freedom away from learners, mentors, clubs. We have to make sure we do not raise too many barriers to participate. It is hard to square radical participation with only centralized decision making. Stakeholders need to be decision makers and not worker bees.
Up to this point in the history of the Mozilla Learning Networks the community was relied on very heavily for not just being boots on the ground but forming much of the thinking and planning. Over the last few months, due mainly to growth in scale and staff changes, much of the planning had to be top down.
We will need both horizontal and vertical leadership. Overall it has been such a learning experience being a volunteer contributor within the Mozilla Learning Networks these past few years. I am excited to see what the next few years bring.
Moving to collective action is the only way to help build and protect an open web.
I love all the tools I can choose from when I sink into my deskchair and open up my laptop. The possibilities swirl in my mind as I edit videos and images. Yet for most of the world they will turn to the mobile web and mobile apps to spawn their creativity.
That got me thinking about the apps I use as a webmaker on Android. I wanted to share because more and more of learners I work with across the globe use Android as their only computing operating system. Actually in parts of the world over 91% of users have a phone powered by Android.
Then when I played in #rhizo15 and #clmooc I noticed a large proportion of Android users. We all wanted to create an effort to document how we hack and make using our Android devices.
This is a great animation app for Android. I made a basic video for #clmooc.
I will work on tutorials for all of these later but you get a full range of movements and can quickly make a cartoon. My six year old son put one together in no time. You basically add frame by frame and can move your characters. You can also select multiple backgrounds.
Dogtrax is our resident Super artist. Super allows you to quickly do a “madlib” like prompt and add text your images. You can then share it out onto Twitter.
These are other apps I will add to the collection later. I use them all as an Android Maker. The include: Video to Gif, Superphoto, Webmaker, Smart Voice Recorder, and We Video
Yesterday Mozilla dropped Webmaker into the Google Play store. I have played with past versions but the nightlies had to be sideloaded. Today I got to download from the the Play Store and begin my make.
Webmaker, in its current state is basically another slideshow app, but one I believe is very intuitive. That’s the main point. The old webmaker suite of tools (now included in the Mozilla Learning Networks) focused on learning communities.
Webmaker’s new goal is to take nonusers to users. The team at Mozilla designed Webmaker for villages in Banglesdesh and Kenya where smartphones do not have the latest specs. Ben Moskowitz in a recent post discussed the ladder of users.
The webmaker app focuses on the large segment of non-users to beginning users. This represents significant shift from The Mozilla Foundation’s efforts to #TeachTheWeb. The past suite of webmaker tools focused on learning communities. Webmaker Beta hones in on connecting the classroom of one.
This new segment exists around the globe as the next billion users will come onlin emainly through mobile device. So webmaker beta is easy to use on low powered devices. In fact I gave it to my six year and my four year old on their Moto G and they quickly created a project. Webmaker beta is not feature rich but it is intuitive enough for a toddler.
How Does it Work?
The tool is so easy to use you really do not need instruction. Webmaker Beta is based on tiles of pages. You add a page by clicking the plus sign. You can then edit the page by adding a picture, text, or a link to another page. Once you add a picture you can choose your camera gallery or your photo.
If you want to check out my project first you need to download the app from Google Play. Sharing of projects outside of the app is not yet possible (feature coming soon). Once you install the app you can click on my project.
I created a brief description of Connected Learning. I enjoyed the navigational choices of arranging the pages. I first searched for creative commons images. Not an easy feat on mobile. Flickr’s mobile app does not allow you to sort by license. So I used the creative commons search engine and linked back to Flickr.
I then tried to color coordinate the diferrent values and and principles of connected learning.
Webmaker is very much still in Beta. Many features are sure to come. Some things I quickly missed:
- Adding an image by url: Downloading images was no problem for me as I had wifi and do not have to worry about data. In emerging enconomies data is a premium. Being able to add images by url may help cut down data costs.
- Landscape Pages: Webmaker has followed in the footsteps of recent apps that use a portrait aspect ratio. This makes little sense to me. All of the images I found on Flickr were shot with an incompatible ratio. I like to fill pages with images I could not.
- GIF support: Enough said (though this may have to do with low powered phones in Android One).
- Layering: If we are to get creative with our projects we will need to be able to make some images full screen, resize others, and layer pics.
- Move Pages: I wanted to move my pages around to rearrange my navigation.
- Link to URL: Currently you can only link to other pages in a project. I wanted to link back to my source material and my photos credit pages. Basically I did not properly attribute every picture I used. This would have required typing the license for each picture. This is cumbersome for mobile. What I do is favorite images I use in Flickr and then link back to that folder.
I can not wait to see this project grow. Right now Webmaker Beta is another slide deck, but it is a slide deck with a mission. The design team as created a user experience that requires no real instruction and that can be easily adapted to any language.