I had such a great time this week at the Mozilla London Learning Jam. Day 1 (Wednesday) was dedicated to brainstorming and getting started with creating learning missions, Day 2 for tweaking and playtesting, and Day 3 for testing them out on children attending CoderDojo.
There’s lots of photos already available – with more to come, no doubt:
I’d been asked by Mozilla to invite some people to come along and help out with the London Learning Jam. A big thank you goes to Ian Usher, Ben O’Steen, Steve Bunce and Oliver Quinlan who answered the call! There were also the amazing people from the Mozilla Foundation’s learning team present. It was great to catch up with Mark Surman, Erin Knight, Jess Klein, Chloe Varelidi, Michelle Thorne and others!
The web app we were using is Mozilla’s new Thimble, currently in beta. It’s a fantastic tool that allows you to see the code on the left-hand side and the preview window on the right. Although such tools exist, the USP here is the learning missions and the guidance it gives you.
I’ve never really thought of myself as much of a coder, but actually through messing about with WordPress, etc. I do know some stuff. Indeed, it was enough that, with some help from Amy Solder (NESTA) I created my own called Readability. It was a very simple idea: you’re presented with a simple (but badly formatted) web page that you have to tidy up and make readable by tweaking the CSS. Some of the other ones were much more profound and kid-friendly!
Leon Cych interviewed Oliver Quinlan about the learning mission he built with Steve Bunce called ‘Wikedpedia’. You can listen to this at edutalk.cc. Afterwards we took the Thames Clipper to the Trafalgar pub where we had beer and food.
Thursday included more ‘hacking’ on the Mozilla Thimble app, but I was invited to a NESTA stakeholders event held in the same building (Ravensbourne College). This involved getting people together from a whole range of organisations and doing some brainstorming. It was great to see so many people I knew from disparate activities together under one roof, and also the enthusiasm for creating a generation of webmakers! There were presentations from Mozilla, Nominet Trust, Apps for Good, Young Rewired State and others. I suggested we should have mini Maker Faire-style TeachMeets.
After the stakeholder meeting people were invited to head upstairs and playtest the learning missions that had been created. Many did so, and there was a real buzz around the place. I particularly enjoyed the meme maker learning mission that Chloe Varelidi was demostrating.
What I’ve really learned from Mozilla over the last few events where I’ve seen the team (and especially ‘Gunner’) in action is the importance of circles, praise and applause. We had a big circle at the end of Day 2 where everyone reflected on their favourite part of the last couple of days, followed by a smaller circle of (mainly) just the Mozilla people. I was so impressed with the speed in which high-quality resources were designed, created, playtested and iterated!
Afterwards we headed for drinks at the Trafalgar again, and then just the Mozilla team and I headed to 16″ West, a brasserie in Greenwich for dinner. More on the conversations we had there later this week…
Saturday involved Mozilla teaming up with NESTA and CoderDojo to try out some of the Thimble-based learning missions with children. They were all there with parents or guardians and, although I didn’t count, there must have been about 15 there. I think we were expecting more, but it was unexpectedly very hot in London! Still, it was a great experience. I helped Alex, who must have been about 13/14 with his first steps in HTML and CSS. He progressed very quickly and was soon creating HTML pages from scratch.
You can see the results of all of the learning missions completed on the Mozilla MozPad.
Afterwards, I travelled by train home and was accompanied to York by Tim and Mark Riches and Rob, their intern. The carriage was virtually empty and sun was streaming through the windows as we talked and ate. It was a fantastic end to a hugely enjoyable few days.
Thursday to Saturday just goes to show how much innovation and progress is possible in a short period of time when you have enthusiastic, creative and talented people focused on learning design. I’m very much looking forward to working with Mozilla, NESTA and CoderDojo in the future!