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.





5 responses on “Scaling Up and Onboarding in Mozilla Learning Networks”


  • chadsansing

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