An inflection point
We’re at an inflection point with learning and making. What was once simmering quietly in makerspaces and classrooms is now boiling. Makers and mentors, and all sorts of hackers and radical educators in between, are the key players.
The maker movement, iconized by MAKE: Magazine but is much deeper and broader than that, has hit mainstream. Hundreds of thousands of people show up at Maker Faires, and contributions to sites like Instructables and Youtube tutorial videos are innumerable. Toy stores sell kits, and anyone from a scout to a senior citizen can take a workshop at their skill level. Makers bootstrap, and they hack. These are people with a DIY ethic and an affinity to sharing what they made and how they made it.
There’s also another movement reaching critical mass: a learning movement. It’s teachers, educators, museum curators, after school coaches – in short, mentors who cop a DIY attitude towards learning. Similar to the maker movement, they care about tinkering and interest-driven projects. They care about making, not rote memorization or other staid pedagogies of the past. They blend online and offline experiences, they focus on peer learning, and they are challenging traditional educational institutions with new modes of assessment and accreditation.
These two groups, the makers and the mentors, are coming together. And they’re creating a smart grid for learning. If it all goes well, it will shake up education, it will shake up employment, and it will shake up the way we see and tinker with the world.
At Mozilla, we believe that people learn best with others and that mentoring is a powerful, distributed way to connect learners with instructors.
By social learning, we mean that learning happens effectively through social interaction among peers. It’s learning that has an impact beyond an individual and become part of the larger society or community, in response to interactions with the community.
By mentoring, we mean peer support and encouragement where someone helps another person learn or make something, and also to understand that effort in a larger context. Mentoring is social and open-ended, and it’s certainly not just a one-way transfer of knowledge. We think a focus on mentoring is important, as it provides ongoing relationships for learners and a way to foster not only “hard” web skills like learning code but also the social ones like collaboration or working in the open.
Mozilla is a community that practices learning by making. We’ve got an ethos of less yak, more hack, and of helping people hack on things they care about. We don’t believe in “one-size-fits-all” and instead encourage a playful approach to the web and the world. Peers are a critical part of the effort, and not only for Webmaker but across Mozilla in projects like Firefox and FirefoxOS. Merit and peer recognition mean more than titles.
We’re not doing this alone — it’s a huge, distributed collaboration across many organizations and individuals. A “big tent”, as we like to call it. From kitchen tables and small code clubs to edgy museums and international bodies, we see this as a group effort where many players have a role.
With experience in “big tent” models like the Hive Learning Networks (city labs where organizations cluster to share learning offerings and resources) and the Summer Code Party (a campaign to teach webmaking anywhere), we’re excited to take this ethos to the next level.
What we’re going to do
The mentoring team at Mozilla will megazord two existing teams and add some amazing new folks:
- Hive New York: Chris Lawrence, Lainie Decoursy and Leah Gilliam
- Curriculum Hacker: Laura Hilliger
- Events/Mozfest: Michelle Thorne
- Hive Toronto: Kathryn Meisner
- Reps Liaison: Sayak Sarkar
This group will operate like a skunkworks incubator for radical ideas about learning, webmaking and mentoring.
We’ll run webmaking campaigns, train the trainer workshops, and other activities that grow the mentor community. This includes launching an international campaign rallying around the theme “Making as learning”.
We’ll bring new Hive learning networks online. The goal is to mobilize local communities and network them globally.
These efforts will be powered by platforms and social protocols for people to gather and teach skills for a digital age. We aspire to build a Github for Learning Stuff, an open repository where mentors can rip, remix and repost materials.
We’re dedicated to documentation and on-boarding new mentors, so many processes will be easily replicable, remixable and teachable. We want to celebrate the community at Mozfest and set the stage for 2014.
These milestones come from conversations with community members (thank you!), and we tried to roll that input into an action plan and share it back with you.
Roadmap in Detail
Here are our 2013 goals:
- Grow a global community of mentors with a maker attitude
- Offer compelling on-ramps for mentors to participate in webmaking
- Merge Hive + Code Party to create a global mentor community w/ local roots
- Make it easier to find local mentors, events, and learning resources online
- Create more + better mentor resources: step by step guides for teaching that are hackable
- Surface localization opportunities. Tools and starter content should all eventually be translatable for different communities.
What success looks like:
- Webmaker.org/mentor is a destination for mentors. It includes community stories, remixable resources, events, and a marketplace for needs and offerings.
- Remixable hacktivity kits released. Mentors are regularly ripping, remixing, and reposting content to Webmaker.org. Early iterations already online.
- “Making as learning” narrative is widely known and has momentum. Some initial thinking by Mark Surman.
- Participation metrics for campaigns are hit. We had an amazing turnout last year.
- Hive Cookbook used to grow & on-ramp new learning networks. 3+ new cities at a Hive Learning Network stage. Check out our recipe for a Hive pop-up.
- An active webmaker mentoring program with ReMo. We’re running a “train the trainer” event in Athens in March to kick this off
- 30+ campaign events as feeder events to MozFest
- A kick-ass Mozfest that wraps with clear community leaders who own part of Webmaker and are set for 2014
- Join the Webmaker mailing list. Connect with others mentors, ask questions, and find out what other mentors are up to. Introduce yourself.
- Live chat. Pop into the #webmaker public chat room to say hello or ask questions.
- Share and build with us. Contribute back your own learning resources, remixes and more.
We warmly welcome your feedback on the Webmaking mailing list or in the comments to this post.
Can’t wait to kick off this work with you!
– The Mentor Community team: Laura, Lainie, Leah, Kathryn, Michelle, Sayak, Chris