Scaling Up and Onboarding in Mozilla Learning Networks

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.

Internet Open

flickr photo shared by balleyne under a Creative Commons ( BY ) license

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.

The Impact

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.





Making on Android for #CLMOOC

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.

Drawing Cartoons

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.

Flip A Clip

This is a great app for making quick gifs. I used it to create a #CLMOOS gif. You basically draw with your finger and then can add frames and trace over what you drew. You then share your files as a gif.


Font Studio

This is a great app for layering images with texts. You get many options. You can use a mask or put words on an image. It is easy to use and very powerful.



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.

Other Apps

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

Playing with @Webmaker Beta.

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.

Webmkaer Beta

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.

Mozilla at MWC 2014

flickr photo shared by mozillaeu under a Creative Commons ( BY ) license

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.


CC BY Ben Moskowitz.


How Does it Work?

Screenshot_2015-06-17-07-54-14 Screenshot_2015-06-17-07-54-31 Screenshot_2015-06-17-07-54-58 Screenshot_2015-06-17-07-54-50 Screenshot_2015-06-17-07-54-37

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.

My Project

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.

Finding Our Voices in Lost Voices

New-Orleans post Katrina Sept 2005: house busted by Katrina's wrecking ball

flickr photo shared by Gilbert Mercier under a Creative Commons ( BY-NC-ND ) license

We want every student to leave Gear Up knowing they have a voice. They are “active players and not spectators in life” as Walter Dean Meyers., the author of Handbook for Boys wrote (our shared reading this summer). To this end we had students explore what it means to be a lost voice through poetry.

As many of our readers know I am also interested in exploring how the pedagogy of poetry can be enhanced with the use of digital texts and tools. Over the last six years, my colleagues Sue Ringler-Pet and Ian O’Byrne have been exploring the intersection of poetry and technology. We present a project at NCTE celebrating a poet laureate through technology.

This year we chose Natasha Trethewey and her work with documentary poetry. Trethewey says she attempts to find lost voices in historical events. This seemed like a perfect project for the 100 students attending our Summer Academy.

The lesson plan we used appears below:

Step 1: Read “The Elegy of the Native Gaurd” and “Beyond Katrina”

Step 2: Then discuss the following prompt in the Google+ Community: Trethewey in explaining why she writes said her purpose is, “giving voice to the groups and individuals blotted out of public memory.” In these two poems what groups and individuals were brought to the light? What words, phrases, or stanzas capture the emotion or plight of these voices?

Step 3: Annotate the text using the PDFZen. Identify key events, characters, and emotions

Step 4: Record and upload your poem (written in Language Arts) to SoundCloud
-Set up a Soundcloud Account
-Post your Account Name to Google+
-Follow everyone in the class
-Record your Poem
-Upload Your Recording to Soundcloud

In order to make the projects manageable the students coule pick from the following historical events: Slavery, Civil War, WWII, 9/11, and Katrina. They then had to create a narrator for their poem, draft, and record the poem

Here are a few examples:

My Thoughts

Overall the project went very well. Yet it is not over. These poems will be used as models, and a few as mentor texts, for middle school students in Hartford who will complete the same project this Fall. We will share these voices in Boston at NCTE.

The lesson also demonstrates how good analytical reading does not need to favor informational, narrative texts, or poetry. In fact the best lessons will result in some type of performance piece (the poem) that required students to question and annotate a variety of sources for a variety of reasons.

9/11, with Katrina as a close second, seemed to be the most popular theme among students. I wonder if this is a due to proximity to New York (almost all know of a life touched by the tragedy). The boys (shocking) seemed to gravitate to lost voices in wars.

The poems are a good, but many have an overarching sense of prose, rather than poetry to the stories. Now I cringe at giving students rules when teaching poetry (in fact I asked teachers not to require stanzas at all let alone a minimum number) yet in the next iteration I want students to try to find more poetry in their voices. I may ask students to write their lost voice as a narrative first and then convert this prose into poetry. This had worked in the past as well.

Our Summer Academy is about building bridges to the future in the hope that the entire New Haven class of 2018 is college bound. I hope by exploring lost voices, we helped students find their own so they lear not to be “spectators in life.”