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
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
There’ll be three main places to pay attention to:
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.
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.
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!
Next week is a short week: I’m taking a day in lieu as I worked Saturday this week, as well as a day’s holiday. That, in conjunction with the Easter weekend, means I’ll have a good chunk of time off before the Mozilla All-Hands in San Francisco.
Those keeping track will know that last year I moved teams within the Mozilla Foundation. I moved away from the Open Badges team to focus on (what is now) the Web Literacy Map. Despite this, I still have close ties to the Open Badges team. In fact, I’m currently helping design Webmaker and Web Literacy badges.
The big news at the start of 2014 on the Open Badges front is that there’s a new Badge Alliance to grow and develop the wider ecosystem. The Badge Alliance is a non-profit organisation to be led by Erin Knight, co-founder of the Open Badges Infrastructure (OBI). Over the next few months she’ll be joined at the Badge Alliance with a few members of the current Open Badges team. There’s more detail in Erin’s blog post.
Happily, Mozilla will continue to develop and nurture the open source technical stack behind the OBI. The next milestone is the release of BadgeKit in the next few months. This should remove any remaining friction from issuing Open Badges. For more on BadgeKit be sure to follow the blogs of Sunny Lee and Chris McAvoy. And, as ever, you should also follow Carla Casilli’s posts on badge system design.
If you want to keep up with what’s going on with Open Badges in general, the easiest thing to do is to keep tabs on the Open Badges blog. The weekly ‘Badger Beats’ in particular is a useful round-up of news from the world of badges. There’s also a good deal of conversation within the Open Badges discussion group. This is a friendly forum for those planning to dip their toes into the water for the first time.
Having joined Mozilla in 2012 to work both on the Open Badges project and (what’s grown into) the Web Literacy Map. I’m delighted that the former has been incubated with such success. I’m also pleased that the latter is to underpin both the next iteration of Webmaker and Mozilla’s aims to create a more web literate planet.
If you’d like to get involved with Mozilla’s work to create a better web then we’d love to have you onboard! The easiest way to get involved with the two projects I’ve mentioned is to join their respective weekly calls. The Open Badges community call is every Wednesday, and you can join us for the new #TeachTheWeb community call every Thursday.
Questions? I’ll do my best to respond to them in the comments below.
Last week I was in Toronto for a Webmaker workweek. It was a little different so I’m going to eschew the usual bullet points for a more image-based review.
After assembling on Saturday evening and Sunday morning, the #TeachTheWeb team came together to ensure we could get started as soon as possible. We discussed the semantics and nomenclature around Webmaker resources and Michelle walked us through a potential production cycle:
Next, we put up all the scrum tasks for the workweek:
…and then we played dodgeball on trampolines. Obviously.
As is often the case when you get people face-to-face, we spent a good chunk of the day ensuring that we were on the same page. This involved some wrangling around semantics, mental models and what’s in and out of scope for the team and #TeachTheWeb in general.
Happily, we moved many scrum tasks from ‘To Make’ to ‘Making’:
We were ready to hit the ground running and started off with a plan for the infrastructure that will support #TeachTheWeb courses. Laura gave the context of conversations she’s had with P2PU (who we may be employing to build this out).
We discussed this plan with Brett and the UX team, and agreed a way forward.
Kat and Karen did a great job of scoping out a teaching kit for remix:
The final part of the day was focused on scoping out the rest of the stuff we need to do this week. Things like assessment, badges and metrics/evaluation.
There was a bit of finishing off to do in the morning before the first demos at lunchtime. I did some preliminary thinking about badging, Kat and Karen continued their work on the teaching kit for ‘Remixing’, while Michelle and Laura interacted with other teams to make sure we’re all on the same page.
We got questions and feedback from everyone who took their turn to have explained to them the production cycle and ideas for teach.webmaker.org. Laura and Michelle made the necessary changes and then started planning out what the rest of 2014 will look like.
For a while we’ve been talking about some kind of bookmarklet that allows people to tag resources they find around the web. Just as you might bookmark something with Delicious or pin something to a Pinterest board, so webmakers could use the MakeAPI to surface resources related to specific parts of the Web Literacy Map. I was delighted when Atul stepped up to have a go at it, and so I created a ‘canonical’ list of tags to help with that.
Some people couldn’t stay for the entire week, so Chris brought forward the demo sessions from Friday morning to last thing on Thursday. It was great to see how much progress had been made on things that were just ideas earlier in the week. In particular, the UX team had some really interesting ideas about how a new ‘Explore’ tab could work. You can read more about that on Cassie McDaniels’ blog.
Bobby Richter and the rest of the AppMaker team have been doing some amazing work with making mobile webapp development a reality. Karen and I worked on getting towards finishing a first draft of a new Webmaker whitepaper.
Not everyone could stay until Friday because of other commitments, so the opening circle was noticeably smaller. We took the opportunity to have the kind of meetings face-to-face that are more difficult even over a video connection.
I headed to the airport around 3pm with Laura and Paula then managed to sleep for some of the overnight flight home. 🙂
Participating in the first #TeachTheWeb community call.
Feeling a bit run down and unproductive. Part of that’s probably to do with the uncertainty surrounding when we’re going to move. It’s out of our hands – which is one of the problems when there’s a chain involved!
Next week I’ll be at a Webmaker workweek in Toronto. I’m looking forward to it, but the weather (-12°C!) doesn’t sound much fun.
Tomorrow I’m heading off to the icy wastelands of Toronto for a Webmaker workweek. As with everything at Mozilla, we’ll be planning and working in the open. You can see what we’ll be up to on this wiki page.
I’m helping the multi-talented Kat Braybrooke wrangle the Web Literacy Content ‘scrum’, but here’s what I’m looking forward to more generally.
1. Being F2F with colleagues
Working remotely is great, but virtual interactions differ markedly from embodied ones. I feel this acutely when I meet offline those I’ve only ever known online; it’s like two pieces of a jigsaw puzzle with one explaining the other.
We’ve quite a few new shipmates, but one I’m looking forward to meeting in particular is fellow Englishman Adam Lofting, our new Metrics Lead. We’re going to try and figure out (if and) how we can measure users’ development of web literacy. I think it will tie in nicely with the upcoming OpenHTML research project we’re doing with Drexel University.
2. Creating the Web Literacy Map user experience (UX)
One thing I do think we need to do is to carefully consider the (visual and verbal) language we’re using. We’ve moved from Web Literacy ‘Standard’ to ‘Map’ and so we’ve got infinite scope for cartographic metaphors. 🙂
3. Thinking through the wider webmaker ecosystem
Webmaker (big ‘W’) is Mozilla’s offering in a wider webmaker (small ‘w’) ecosystem. Brett Gaylor‘s team has done a great job of creating innovative, open, stable tools; now we need to connect them more concretely to other people who are doing awesome stuff.
Happily, because Brett’s team has created a Make API this should be easier than it otherwise would have been. In practice, it means people can pull content out of Webmaker and we can pull in OERs and other openly-licensed content. Win.
My apologies, Kat. I take it back: Canada is not a frozen wasteland. 😉
TL;DR version: My ‘home’ at Mozilla is moving from the Open Badges team to the Mentor team. In reality it’s a kind of floating role that spans several different teams and focuses on using the Web Literacy Standard as ‘glue’.
I joined the Mozilla Foundation as Badges & Skills Lead 14 months ago. I’ve never really had a job description as such but, from the start, the plan was for me to work within (what was then) the Learning Team as an Open Badges evangelist/advocate in Europe. And, while I wasn’t doing that, I was working on a Web Literacies framework to underpin Mozilla’s Webmaker programme. I ended up writing this white paper.
With the help of a burgeoning community, we pivoted the Web Literacies framework I came up with into a Web Literacy Standard. Excitingly, it’s gaining some traction – and should gain even more when we launch v1.0 at the Mozilla Festival in October.
I’m delighted that Open Badges has become wildly successful; it seems not a day goes by without another big announcement with a big name backing it or an organisation aligning with it. I think that’s for all of the reasons that drew me to the project back in 2011 before I joined Mozilla.
The world doesn’t really need me out there all the time telling it how awesome badges are. There’s plenty of people doing that on Mozilla’s behalf. I’m not giving up my Open Badges evangelism completely* but I’ll be focusing more on the Web Literacy Standard. Given that we’re looking for people to align with the standard using Open Badges, there’s no escape in any case. 😉
We’ve got broadly three teams within the Mozilla Foundation:
Mentor team – work with educators to focus on teaching and learning the Web
Open Badges team – build, maintain and work with organisations integrating with the Open Badges Infrastructure
I’ll be floating across all three using the Web Literacy Standard as the glue to bind together the teams. I’d like to thank Carla Casilli who’s worked with me over the last few months on the Web Literacy Standard. I’ll be reporting to Chris Lawrence now instead of Erin Knight.
So to a great extent, it’s as you were. However, if I look at bit confused at any point when you meet me you’ll now know why: I’m getting to grips with a slightly different role that will shift my landscape and day-to-day interactions a bit. 🙂
Taking holiday on Monday and Friday. We spent the weekend at a family party and at Legoland (which was awesome), driving back on Monday. I took Friday off as I had a migraine on Wednesday and a day full of calls on Thursday.