Category: Mozilla (page 1 of 9)

Where I’ll be at MozFest 2016

This weekend it’s the Mozilla Festival, an event that brings together everyone interested in the open web. It’s an event I attended as a volunteer before I joined Mozilla, something I was involved with during my time as a paid contributor, and now I’m back as a community member.

My We Are Open co-op comrades and I are running three sessions over the weekend. Unfortunately, Laura can’t make it, but either Bryan, John, and I will be taking the lead on the following. The idea is that they work in their own right, but we’ve also worked with the organisers to ensure they form a kind of ‘arc’ for those who want to attend all three sessions!


The Thinkasprint: the art of thinking sideways

Saturday, 11:15am-12:45pm
Open Badges, Floor 8 – 801

In this session participants will be taken through a modified version of We Are Open Co-op’s ‘thinkathon’ approach, to help people think about knotty problems in an open, inclusive, and participatory way. The process involves as much drawing as it does thinking and writing, and is solution-oriented.

We use the wealth of experience that participants and facilitators have to take apart a problem and look at it from a different angle. We will go off at tangents and down rabbit holes, but that’s all part of the process!

Our starting point will be whatever issues participants bring to the table after our icebreaker activity, but we have a few ideas up our sleeves, such as Open Badges for employability, digital skills, and ‘passion projects’.


Digital Champions: scaffolding adult digital and web literacies with badges

Saturday, 3:15pm-4:00pm
Open Badges, Floor 1 – 101

This session will help attendees understand the concept of ‘flexible frameworks’, using examples from London Connected Learning Centre and Sussex Downs College. This draws on doteveryone’s Basic Digital Skills Framework and Mozilla’s Web Literacy Map. It will be a conversation-led session with visual thoughts captured by Bryan Mathers.


THE BIG BADGE THROW-DOWN

Sunday, 11:00am-11:45am
Open Badges, Floor 8 – 801

Using the starting points of doteveryone’s Basic Digital Skills, Workplace Skills, and Digital Leadership Skills programmes, NCVO’s Skills Lab work, and London CLC’s Digital Champions Curriculum, this workshop will find commonalities, overlaps, and ways forward for badges-based flexible frameworks.

We’ll provide examples of existing programmes, badges and pathways and then work to flesh out, fill gaps and imagine new links and partnerships between established players as well as welcoming new entrants to the digital skills space. This will be a hands-on, practical session.


If you’re coming to MozFest, I hope you’ll join us for at least one session. If not (there’s so much going on!) then please do find us and say hello — I’m @dajbelshaw on Twitter and will also keep an eye out on the @WeAreOpenCoop account.

Photo by Mozilla in Europe

3 things I learned during my time at Mozilla

Introduction

On my to-do list for the last year has been ‘write up what I learned at Mozilla’. I didn’t want this anniversary week to go by without writing something, so despite this being nowhere near as comprehensive as what I’d like to write, it at least shifts that item from my to-do list!

The following are three (plus one bonus) personal learning points that I felt were some of my main takeaways from the three years I spent working for the Mozilla Foundation. After being a volunteer from 2011, I became a member of staff from 2012-15, working first as Badges & Skills Lead, and then transitioning to Web Literacy Lead.

1. Working openly by default is awesome

Mozilla is radically open. Most meetings are available via public URLs, notes and projects are open for public scrutiny, and work is shared by default on the open web.

There are many unexpected benefits through doing this, including it being a lot easier to find out what your colleagues are working on. It’s therefore easy to co-ordinate efforts between teams, and to bring people into projects.

In fact, I think that working openly is such an advantage, that I’ve been advocating it to every client I’ve worked with since setting up Dynamic Skillset. Thankfully, there’s now a fantastic book to help with that evangelism entitled The Open Organization by the CEO of Red Hat, a $2bn Open Source tech firm.

2. The mission is more important than individuals

This feels like an odd point to include and could, in fact, be seen as somewhat negative. However, for me, it was a positive, and one of the main reasons I decided to spend my time volunteering for Mozilla in the first place. When the mission and manifesto of an organisation are explicit and publicly-available, it’s immediately obvious whether what you’re working on is worthwhile in the eyes of your colleagues.

No organisation is without its politics, but working for Mozilla was the first time I’d experienced the peculiar politics of Open Source. Instead of the institutional politics of educational institutions, these were politics about the best way to further the mission of the organisation. Sometimes this led to people leaving the organisation. Sometimes it led to heated debates. But the great thing was that these discussions were all ultimately focused on achieving the same end goals.

3. Working remotely is hard

I do like working remotely, but it’s difficult — and for reasons you might not immediately expect. The upsides of remote working are pretty obvious: no commute, live wherever you like, and structure your day more flexibly than you could do if you were based in an office.

What I learned pretty quickly is that there can be a fairly large downside to every interaction with colleagues being somewhat transactional. What I mean by that is there’s no corridor conversations, no wandering over to someone else’s desk to see how they are, no watercooler conversations.

There are huge efficiency gains to be had by having remote workers all around the globe — the sun never sets on your workforce — but it’s imperative that they come together from time to time. Thankfully, Mozilla were pretty good at flying us out to San Francisco, Toronto, and other places (like Portland, Oregon) to work together and have high-bandwidth conversations.

Perhaps the hardest thing about working remotely is that lack of bandwidth. Yes, I had frequent video conversations with colleagues, but a lot of interaction was text-based. When there’s no way to read the intention of a potentially-ambiguous sentence, dwelling on these interactions in the solitude of remote working can be anxiety-inducing.

Since leaving Mozilla I’ve read some studies that suggest that successful long-term remote working is best done based in teams. I can see the logic in that. The blend I’ve got now with some work being done face-to-face with clients, and some from home, seems to suit me better.

(4. Technical skills are underrated)

This is a bonus point, but one that I thought I should include. As you’d expect, Mozilla was an environment with the most technology-savvy people I’ve ever had the pleasure to work with. There were some drawbacks to this, including an element of what Evgeny Morozov would call ‘technological solutionism’, but on the whole it was extremely positive.

There were three specific ways in which having tech-savvy colleagues was helpful. First, it meant that you could assume a baseline. Mozilla can use tools with its staff and volunteers that may be uncomfortable or confusing for the average office worker. There is a high cognitive load, for example, when participating in a meeting via etherpad, chat, and voice call simultaneously. But being able to use exactly the right tool for the job rather than just a generic tool catering to the lowest common denominator has its advantages.

Second, tech-savvy colleagues means that things you discuss in meetings and at work weeks get prototyped quickly. I can still remember how shocked I was when Atul Varma created a version of the WebLitMapper a few days after I’d mentioned that such a thing would be useful!

The third point is somewhat related to the first. When you have a majority of people with a high level of technical skills, the default is towards upskilling, rather than dumbing down. There were numerous spontaneous ways in which this type of skillsharing occurred, especially when Mozilla started using GitHub for everything — including planning!

Conclusion

Although I’m genuinely happier than I’ve ever been in my current position as a self-employed, independent consultant, I wouldn’t trade my experience working for Mozilla for anything. It was a privilege to work alongside such talented colleagues and do work that was truly making the web a better place.

One of the reasons for writing this post was that I’ve found that I tend to introduce myself as someone who “used to work for Mozilla”. This week, one year on, marks a time at which I reflect happily on the time I had there, but ensure that my eyes are on the future.

Like so many former members of staff, I’ve found it difficult to disentangle my own identity from that of Mozilla. I purposely took this past year as time completely away from any Mozilla projects so I could gain some critical distance — and so that people realised I’d actually moved on!

So who am I? I’m Dr. Doug Belshaw, an independent consultant focusing on the intersection of education, technology, and productivity. But I remain a Mozillian. You can find me at mozillans.org here.

Image CC BY Paul Clarke (bonus points if you can spot me!)

Today is my last day at Mozilla

TL;DR: I’m leaving Mozilla as a paid contributor because, as of next week, I’ll be a full-time consultant! I’ll write about that in a separate blog post.


Around four years ago, I stumbled across a project that the Mozilla Foundation was running with P2PU. It was called ‘Open Badges’ and it really piqued my interest. I was working in Higher Education at the time and finishing off my doctoral thesis. The prospect of being able to change education by offering a different approach to credentialing really intrigued me.

I started investigating further, blogging about it, and started getting more people interested in the Open Badges project. A few months later, the people behind MacArthur’s Digital Media and Learning (DML) programme asked me to be a judge for the badges-focused DML Competition. While I was in San Francisco for the judging process I met Erin Knight, then Director of Learning at Mozilla, in person. She asked if I was interested in working on her team. I jumped at the chance!

During my time at Mozilla I’ve worked on Open Badges, speaking and running keynotes at almost as many events as there are weeks in the year. I’ve helped bring a Web Literacy Map (originally ‘Standard’) into existence, and I’ve worked on various projects and with people who have changed my outlook on life. I’ve never come across a community with such a can-do attitude.

This June would have marked three years as a paid contributor to the Mozilla project. It was time to move on so as not to let the grass grow under my feet. Happily, because Mozilla is a global non-profit with a strong community that works openly, I’ll still be a volunteer contributor. And because of the wonders of the internet, I’ll still have a strong connection to the network I built up over the last few years.

I plan to write more about the things I learned and the things I did at Mozilla over the coming weeks. For now, I just want to thank all of the people I worked with over the past few years, and wish them all the best for the future. As of next week I’ll be a full-time consultant. More about that in an upcoming post!

A visual history of the first two years of Mozilla’s Web Literacy Map

“If you want to go fast, go alone. If you want to go far, go together.” (African proverb)

Jamie Allen reminded me that February 7th marked the two year anniversary of the Web Literacy community at Mozilla. We’ve achieved a fair bit in that time. Here’s a visual history of how we’ve got (nearly) to version 1.5  inspired, in part by contributor Greg McVerry. There’s a list of all of the contributors so far at the end of this post and here.

2012

Mozilla’s web literacy work was actually kicked off by Michelle Levesque before I joined Mozilla. I helped with some suggestions and iterations as you can see from her blog. To begin with, it was just a list of skills that I suggested she might want to put into graphical form. So she did: v0.1 (alpha) - Michelle Levesque There was a few months of overlap between me joining Mozilla as ‘Badges & Skills Lead’ and Michelle leaving. I took over development of the web literacy work and wrote a whitepaper.

2013

Erin Knight, Director of Learning at Mozilla at the time, suggested we might work towards a ‘Web Literacy Standard’. We hosted a kick-off call in February 2013 which was well-attended. This is when the community work started, iterating towards a v1.0. The first draft (April 2013) looked like this: First draft of Web Literacy Standard The ‘release candidate’ in July actually had some design love (from Chris Appleton) rather than me messing about in Keynote. This was the ‘Request For Comments’ version from July 2013: v1.0 RFC (July 2013) We’d decided to lock things down for September so that we could launch a version 1.0 at the Mozilla Festival the following month. We were still hoping for it to be a formal ‘standard’ so we called it a specification: v1.0 (specification) As you can see, it’s very similar to v1.1 and the upcoming v1.5 – as you’d expect.

2014

I’d moved teams in late 2013 to become ‘Web Literacy Lead’ at Mozilla. This meant that the Web Literacy Map was one of my main responsibilities. As a community we decided to transition away from ‘Standard’ as the term carries so much negative baggage in North America. After some discussion and debate, we settled on ‘Map’  and took the opportunity to update it to v1.1. Cassie McDaniel provided the visual refresh: WebLiteracy Map v1.1 In April 2014 this was then used to underpin the Webmaker Resources section: Webmaker Resources section Clicking on one of the competencies takes you to a page listing the skills underpinning that particular competency. It was contains resources for teaching that particular area of the Web Literacy Map. This was curated by Kat Braybrooke. Webmaker Resources - Remix In addition, nine of the ten points of the Mozilla manifesto link through to appropriate parts of the Web Literacy Map when you click on them for more information. For example under the ‘learn more’ section of Principle 2 it says Explore how to help keep the Web open. This links through to the Open Practices section of Webmaker resources. Mozilla manifesto - 2

2015

Towards the end of 2014 we began work as a community on scoping out what we originally called ‘version 2.0‘. There was a series of interviews, a community survey, and a small number of community calls in the run-up to Christmas deciding on what we should focus on in 2015. Ultimately, we decided to re-scope to version 1.5 with the potential to go for a v2.0 later in the year. In the community calls we’ve held this year, we’ve already decided to combine ‘Web Mechanics’ and ‘Infrastructure’ to create a new, re-scoped Web Mechanics competency. At the same time, we’re separating out the two parts of ‘Design & Accessibility’ to create Designing for the Web and Accessibility. Changes in competencies from v1.1 to v1.5 We should have v1.5 ready by the end of March 2015. 🙂

Conclusion

This is a visual history, but behind the simplicity we’ve aimed for is so much debate, discussion and complexity. I’ve been in awe at times at the nuanced thinking of contributors to this project. Some have showed up since the beginning of the project, others have given their precious time for just a couple of sessions. But either way, we couldn’t have come this far without them. If you want to get involved in this work, you’re very welcome! Here’s where to point your attention:

Community

Here’s the community, in alphabetical order by first name. They’re all rockstars:

  • Alina Mierlus
  • Andrew Sliwinski
  • An-Me Chung
  • Ani Martinez
  • Alvar Maciel
  • Ankit Gadgil
  • An-Me Chung
  • Atul Varma
  • Audrey Watters
  • Beth Ayer
  • Bex Lewis
  • Bobby Richter
  • Bon Stewart
  • Brendan Murphy
  • Carla Casilli
  • Cassie McDaniel
  • Catherine Cronin
  • Chad Sansing
  • Chloe Varelidi
  • Chris Appleton
  • Chris Mills
  • Chris Wilde
  • Christian Briggs
  • Christina Cantrill
  • Clint Talbert
  • Cynthia Lieberman
  • Darren Alexander
  • Dave Cormier
  • Dave Crusoe
  • Dave Steer
  • David Ascher
  • Diana Graber
  • Doug Belshaw
  • Dumitru Gherman
  • Elizabeth E Charles
  • Emil Ahangarzadeh
  • Emily Goligoski
  • Erica Sackin
  • Erin Knight
  • George Station
  • Grant Russell
  • Greg McVerry
  • Gus Andrews
  • Hannah Kane
  • Honor Moorman
  • Howard Rheingold
  • Ian Cooper
  • Ian O’Byrne
  • Ibrahima Sarr
  • James Buckingham
  • Jamie Allen
  • Jane Bozarth
  • Janet Laane Effron
  • Jen Moore
  • Jess Klein
  • Joerg Lohrer
  • John Bevan
  • John Martin
  • Josie Fraser
  • Joyce Seitzinger
  • Justin Crawford
  • Karen Smith
  • Kat Braybrooke
  • Kathryn Meisner
  • Kevin Turner
  • Kim Wilkens
  • Larissa Shapiro
  • Laura Hilliger
  • Leah Gilliam
  • Liesl Scheepers
  • Lucy Harris
  • Majda Nafissa Rahal
  • Marc Lesser
  • Marcius Herbert
  • Marco Perez
  • Mari Huertas
  • Mark Power
  • Matt Hannigan
  • Matthew Willse
  • Michael Greene
  • Michelle Levesque
  • Michelle Thorne
  • Mikko Kontto
  • Oliver Quinlan
  • Paul Allison
  • Paul Oh
  • Pekka Ollikainen
  • Roz Hussin
  • Sara Carter
  • Sarah Horrocks
  • Shreyas Narayanan
  • Simon Grant
  • Srikar Ananthula
  • Stephen Downes
  • Stephen Judd
  • Sunny Lee
  • Terry Hodgson
  • Thomas Farrow
  • Tom Salmon
  • Vicky Teinaki
  • Will Barkis
  • William Duyck

Have I missed your name? Apologies! Let me know. Finally, there’s a few people I want to single out for their extraordinary help. I can’t overstate how important Carla Casilli was as a thought leader to the community from 2012 to 2014. Ian O’Byrne has stepped up time and time again and has led when I’ve been away. Greg McVerry has been a tireless champion of the Web Literacy Map. Laura Hilliger has been inspirational, knowledgeable and enthusiastic. Marc Lesser has been the voice of reason and wisdom. Gus Andrews has been thoughtful and questioning. Alvar Maciel has opened our eyes beyond the English-speaking world and been a indefatigable translator. It’s been such an enjoyable couple of years. I can’t wait to get v1.5 ready and then move on to version 2.0!

Join me this Thursday for a Connected Learning webinar: An Introduction to ‘Teaching the Web’ and ‘Web Literacy’

This Thursday (15th January 2014) at 5pm UTC* I’m leading a webinar on behalf of Mozilla’s #TeachTheWeb team. The title is An Introduction to ‘Teaching the Web’ and ‘Web Literacy’.  Click through to sign up for event reminders.

The webinar is the first in a series of three our team is running under the banner of Empowering Lifelong Learners by ‘Teaching the Web’.

An Introduction to ‘Teaching the Web’ and ‘Web Literacy’

What is “web literacy” and why should we teach it? How does creating/remixing the web help strengthen learning?

How the Webmaker Community Is Helping Youth Be Creative and Curious

What are “web literacy clubs,” and how are they helping youth develop lifelong learning mindsets?

 Ongoing Learning Opportunities with Mozilla Webmaker

What are some of the easiest ways to get involved in the Webmaker community? Where do you start?


During my webinar I’ll be going through introductory stuff around Webmaker, the Web Literacy Map, and the Webmaker whitepaper. I’m also interested in any questions you’ve got, so please do ask them as comments below! I’ll try and answer as many as possible during the webinar.


* That’s 9am PT / 12pm ET / 5pm GMT / 6pm CET / 10.30 IST / 4am AET

What I’m doing at #MozFest 2014

It’s the Mozilla Festival this weekend. If you’re going and it’s your first time, then you might find my 10 survival tips for MozFest useful.

I’m co-leading three sessions this year. I’ll update this post when I know when and where they all are! (Done!) Here’s an overview of what to expect in each session.

Prototypes and Pathways for Web Literacy

Saturday, 2-3pm, Track: Build and Teach the Web

Learning pathways are either prescriptive or descriptive sequences of learning experiences. These often have a particular goal in mind.

This session will involve the creation of a privacy badge pathway. We will draw on the Web Literacy Map, Open Badges, Webmaker personas, and a document created by a Badge Alliance working group. By the end of the session we should have completed pathways to share, built to work in a particular context.

Co-facilitator:

What we’ll be doing:

  • Sharing our experiences of high-quality learning pathways
  • Thinking through privacy from the point of view of one of eight Webmaker personas
  • Exploring the badges created by the Badge Alliance working group on Digital & Web Literacies
  • Creating a learning pathway based on the above contexts and badges

I’m looking forward to seeing what people come up with in this session. Preparing for it has involved much cutting out of colourful hexagons… 😉


Learning Analytics for good in the age of Big Data

Saturday, 3-4pm, Track: Science and the Web

According to the current Wikipedia definition, “Learning analytics is the measurement, collection and reporting of data about learners and their contexts, for purposes of understanding and optimising learning and the environments in which it occurs.” In other words, using data to improve learning outcomes. At the moment, this is often done without the consent of users, so we want to build a better, more open, way to do it.

Co-facilitators:

What we’ll be doing:

  • Identifying the challenges and opportunities in this space
  • Making connections between one another
  • Building a shared list of questions

It’s early days for this, but there’s potential to form a working group as an output of this session.


Toward v2 of Mozilla’s Web Literacy Map

Sunday, 12.30-1.30pm, Track: Build and Teach the Web

At the end of August we started the ball rolling for v2.0 of the Web Literacy Map. It’s not that there’s lots wrong with v1.1, it’s just that there’s ways we could improve it. Plus, we’ve committed to update it as the web evolves.

We began by interviewing stakeholders. This informed a community survey (still active – and now available in more languages). We’ve also just begun a series of community calls that will end in December. This session will give us extra data to help inform development the Web Literacy Map.

Co-facilitators:

What we’ll be doing:

  • Answering any questions people may already have
  • Spotting any gaps in v1.1 of the Web Literacy Map
  • Grouping competencies (existing and new) in various ways
  • Discussing what should be in/out of scope for v2.0

This will be an interesting session to lead, so I’m glad I’ve got such experienced co-facilitators. There’s likely to be both people well-versed in the Web Literacy Map as well as those coming to it for the first time.


Are you coming to MozFest? Please do come and say hello – or even better, come to one of the above sessions!

Towards an architecture of participation for episodic volunteering

Recently I heard a talk by someone looking for more volunteers for a thing. The context isn’t particularly important – I don’t want to get hung up on that. The point is that the talk had the desired effect: I wanted to volunteer. I wanted to help both in terms of giving money and lending time.

A couple of weeks later, I’ve done neither. Why? I’d suggest it’s because the group involved has a weak ‘architecture of participation’.

This week there’s been a discussion on the Mozilla Community Building Team list about ‘episodic volunteering’. It quoted this document (PDF) from the National Volunteer and Philanthropy Centre in Singapore:

Another recent trend has been a shift away from regular, long-term volunteering to more episodic or one-time service. While this has created significant challenges for many organizations that depend on consistently available volunteers (think mentoring, health services, etc.), the reality is that more and more volunteers are looking for ways to get engaged in a short-term capacity. This is especially true given that episodic volunteering may not always be about time availability but rather time of year – for example, lots of people seek to volunteer during the holiday season of November and December.

This got me thinking about Tim O’Reilly’s post The Architecture of Participation from 10 years ago:

I’ve come to use the term “the architecture of participation” to describe the nature of systems that are designed for user contribution. Larry Lessig’s book, Code and Other Laws of Cyberspace, which he characterizes as an extended meditation on Mitch Kapor’s maxim, “architecture is politics”, made the case that we need to pay attention to the architecture of systems if we want to understand their effects.

Any time you’re asking someone else to chip in who doesn’t have an obligation to help you, then you need an architecture of participation. You need easy onboarding, a way from them going from donating zero percent of their time to many hours a week. You also need a way for them to drop their number of hours – potentially back down to zero – if their life circumstances dictate. The closest analogy I can think of are easy in / easy out terms advertised for office space.

You also need to create a modular system to have an architecture of participation. There needs to be ways for people to work on one part of the whole project and not on others. As Tim puts it in the context of building software, “Anyone can create a participating, first-class component.”

This requires leadership. I’ve never seen a strong architecture of participation without strong leadership. Sometimes this can look like a benign dictatorship, especially when the number of people involved is small. But to get to any kind of scale, this leadership needs to be distributed.

Creating distributed leadership requires a clear mission. The mission – which should be written down as early as possible in the form of a manifesto or terms of reference is the reason the group of people is collaborating. This prevents scope-creep and helps realign the group should a subset try and hijack it for a tangential purpose.

The easiest way to create a strong architecture of participation is to work openly. This may be constrained by considerations around safeguarding, but information should not be hard to come by for those already part of the group. At the very least, calendars and contact details should be shared. There should be a default, canonical place to go/ask to find out an authoritative answer.

You’ll need to meet regularly in ways that don’t always involving working on the thing you’re all meeting to make better in the world. Sometimes that’s called a social. But it might just mean that one of the weekly meetings you have every month is devoted to ‘lighter’ or other issues. Mix things up a bit so it doesn’t become ‘samey’.

Finally, it’s entirely reasonable that there should be a shift towards episodic volunteering. If we create architectures of participation that allow ‘newbies’ to slot in quickly to existing projects, then they may stick around long-term. Some would call that a ‘contribution funnel’. It’s unreasonable for us to expect them to make that commitment immediately. In fact, we should thank them regularly for their contribution. We’re often good at being excited about new contributors when we should be equally thankful for the ‘old-timers’.

What have I missed? Add a comment below!

Web Literacy: More than just coding; an enabling education for our times [EdTech Digest]

Web Literacy | edtechdigest.com 2014-09-08 14-03-43

Last week, my colleague Lainie Decoursy got in touch wondering if I could write a piece about web literacy. It was a pretty tight turnaround, but given pretty much all I think about during my working hours is web literacy, it wasn’t too much of a big ask!

The result is a piece in EdTech Digest entitled Web Literacy: More than just coding; an enabling education for our times. It’s an overview of Mozilla’s work around Webmaker and, although most of the words are mine, I have to credit my colleagues for some useful edits.

Click here to read the post

I’ve closed comments here to encourage you to add your thoughts on the original post.

On ‘Kit Builder’

Kit Builder

Note: this is one of those blog posts where I use one thing as a convenient hypocrisy to talk about another thing. Kind of like Jeremy Clarkson’s car reviews, I guess. If you just want to get to the meat, check out my very talented colleague William ‘FuzzyFox‘ Duyck’s new pre-alpha Webmaker prototype: Kit Builder. The rest is tangential, to say the least.


I’m increasingly convinced that there’s a gaping hole that someone will soon fill when it comes to organisational effectiveness. Before I describe that, I need to talk about some of the basic technology-related things that organisations need in this day and age in order to be effective.

OK, so I’m simplifying massively for rhetorical effect, but here’s three things I think you can’t do without – no matter what size of organisation you’ve got. These may be more formal or less formal, but you need them unless you plan to descend into chaos.

1. Issue tracker

I wrote about this in a bit more detail in a recent post, but basically what I mean is that you need some way for people to raise ‘bugs’, ‘issues’, ‘tickets’ or whatever you want to call them, and get the whatever the problem is fixed.

Examples: Trello, BugZilla, GitHub

2. Resource tracker

Much as I hate the term ‘human resources’, I’m going to use it here because it’s useful. Other people in your organisation should know where things and people are. Or, if that’s not possible for whatever reason, they should at least know you (or a room’s) free/busy status. It’s all about co-ordination, really.

Example: Google Calendar, Basecamp

3. Knowledge base

The best organisations I’ve worked in have had wikis. It’s all very well knowledge residing ‘in networks’ but that does build new knowledge. That only comes when a community (not a network) of people come together to intentionally build something. That’s where the magic happens. You don’t have to use a wiki, of course, but that’s what I’ve seen work best, time after time.

Examples: PBworks, Mediwiki


So, coming back to the ‘gaping hole’ I mentioned earlier, what do you do when one organisation has all of this in place, and another one doesn’t? Or… even if both organisations have adequate systems, but those systems don’t ‘talk’ to one another. At the moment, that’s where the friction comes, and that’s why there’s well-paid people all over the world who are friendly ‘go-to’ people and help paper over the cracks of relationships between organisations potentially fraught with misunderstandings.

You’ll not hear me say this often, but what we need is a technical (but simple) solution to this mess. A way in which organisations can work together for unspecified periods of time without causing problems, resentment or internal issues for their own setup. I guess it’s a kind of souped-up version of what Jon Udell was trying to achieve with the Elm City project.

What we don’t want are de facto standards like “let’s just all go 1:1 with iPads!”. Or, why don’t we all use Microsoft Office! Or even, “everyone should use Google Apps!”. We tried that, folks. It fails.


But what on earth has this got to do with Kit Builder, a pre-alpha prototype for educators who want to make teaching kits? Well, I’m getting to that. Let me just make a quick point about ‘means of production’ first.

As Marx didn’t write, but someone on Wikipedia helpfully did:

The means of production can be simply described as follows: in an agrarian society the soil and the shovel are the means of production; in an industrial society, mines and the factories; and in a knowledge economy, offices and computers. When used in the broad sense, the “means of production” includes the “means of distribution” such as stores, the internet and railroads.

I’m butchering Marx’s work here, but the point I’m trying to make about Kit Builder is that it’s not just another capitalist company offering you a proprietary silo. Even in pre-alpha, it’s a pretty straightforward way to create high-quality resources. You’re in control of everything. You can copy and paste the HTML into Notepad, for goodness’ sake.

Once you’ve created a resource using Kit Builder (or Webmaker in general), you get all of these benefits:

  • Hosted on the web (accessible everywhere)
  • Remixable (by anyone)
  • Open format (can be used on any system)

I wasn’t sure how to put this as a bullet point, but you also don’t get the crazy situation where Sue has one program which spits out files that are incompatible with Bob’s program. And, because there’s no downloading/uploading of files, we don’t end up with filenames like:

Billy's presentation FINAL (use this one!) NO THiS ONE (final version) v2.ppt.docx.pdf

At the moment the text boxes in Kit Builder require you to use Markdown to format your text. I’d suggest we keep this as a feature. Markdown is a human-centric way to enter text that is then rendered as a web page. It’s easier to understand if you realise that HTML stands for ‘HyperText Markup Language’ and is machine-readable code for rendering web pages. Markdown on the other hand, is much more human readable, and allows you to include arbitrary HTML if necessary.

I’d very much encourage you to explore Kit Builder. If there’s one thing I’ve learned from my 18 years on the web so far is that open wins the long game. Shiny, pretty closed things come and go, but if you’re in it for any period of time, bet on open. And if you need to level-up your skills, don’t just sit on your hands, join in with Webmaker Training.


And finally, if you’ve got a way to build something that talks to lots of different systems and provides a human-readable layer, please do it. Do it now.

 

Mozilla Webmaker training starts Monday 12th May!

Excitingly, Mozilla’s Webmaker training starts on Monday. Join us (free!) to learn creative ways to teach web literacy, digital skills and open practices with fellow educators, technologists and mentors around the world.

Sign up here: http://training.webmakerprototypes.org

Each of the four weeks is a separate topic, but if you decide to do all of them, they build upon one another:

Webmaker Training  Teach the Web

The brains behind the operation is Laura Hilliger, our Training & Curriculum Lead. Several of us from the Webmaker Community team are going to be helping out with running sessions.

Laura’s put together a really nice ‘how to participate’ Thimble resource that’s worth checking out:

How to participate

Week 1: Exploring

Week beginning 12th May. Learn about the theoretical frameworks and pedagogies (teaching methods) behind Webmaker. This module helps you understand the web as an ecosystem and why an open web is so important.

Week 2: Building

Week beginning 19th May. Develop open educational resources that embed web literacy and making with other topics that you might already be teaching. Using open practices, you’ll make learning materials that are designed for others to use and remix.

Week 3: Facilitating

Week beginning 26th May. Put theory into practice. In this module, you’ll learn how to use open and participatory learning techniques to teach digital and web literacy skills in your classroom, during workshops or at events.

Week 4: Connecting

Week beginning 2nd June. Amplify your work by making connections in your local community as well as within Webmaker’s global community. In this module, you’ll learn how building relationships can help you achieve greater impact.

Getting involved

There’ll be three main places to pay attention to:

  1. The Webmaker Training site: this has links to the content and will have a calendar of all the live events. It’s easiest to think of this as the ‘hub’. Suggestion: bookmark this link.
  2. The discussion area: using great new forum 2.0 software called Discourse we’ll be discussing and debating the theory and practice of teaching web literacy.
  3. Social media: we’ll be using the #TeachTheWeb hashtag on both Twitter (mainly) and Google+.

If you’ve always wanted to improve your web skills so that you can teach the web to others, this is your perfect opportunity – so sign up!

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