This past week Doug and I attended the European Children’s Universities Network‘s conference (co-hosted with SIS Catalyst) #Technucation. Children’s universities, museums, YMCAs and other youth focused groups and organizations make up the very Hivesque EUCU network.
This is a network of over a hundred different organizations all over the world. It’s called the European Children’s Universities Network, but I met educators from Colombia, the United States and Kenya as well. This network shares resources and playtests each other’s ideas. They share and collaborate and navigate the tricky waters of EU funding together. These people enhance children’s lives through engagement and experimentation. They run live events in organizations all over the place. In the serendipity and good fortune that lead the EUCU to the concept of Open Badges, they’ve now been introduced to a much broader concept that they would like to explore, the concept of Web Literacies (and by extension Webmaker).
Misconceptions run rampant in a community of educators that haven’t learned much about the web. I don’t mean that they haven’t learned about the importance of digital literacies in the education of their students. They know that ICT and the responsibilities surrounding its use form more than integral learning objectives for their classrooms. But what they didn’t know is that making the web isn’t as hard as they think it is (in fact, it’s easy). They weren’t entirely aware of the wider implications that surround the open source community. They didn’t know that writing the web is just as important as reading and thinking critically about the web’s content. They are struggling with a variety of questions that they don’t have to struggle with. We, the technologists and educators that make up the Mozilla community, can help them. They are eager and willing to learn. And we can learn from them as well, and we should. Webmaker is in a unique position to narrow the gap between the academic community and the tech community.
Doug and I ran a workshop on Sustainability of the EUCU through badges. And like any Mozilla workshop, we channeled Aspiration guru Gunner for a truly inspirational and participatory experience centered on the needs of the participants. We were so interested in helping the EUCU envision a badges ecosystem for their network, that we hacked our own agenda when we realized that we could help in outlining that ecosystem. We’d planned to introduce them to Webmaker in a more in-depth make session. Of course we introduced Webmaker, but we didn’t demo tools or even click through webmaker.org. We made badges, and I talked about the rest of Webmaker outside the workshop (incessantly over dinner and in combination with the Mozilla Mission, open web, why I love open source. Oh yeah, and how sexy Popcorn is.)
It was in those dinner conversations that I realized that even a seemingly traditional network of educators is looking for the collaborative support and expertise that a community like Mozilla has to offer. The only reason they aren’t busting down our doors is because they don’t know about us yet.
Half the people I talked to didn’t know the name “Mozilla” until I said “Firefox”. And even then, they understood Mozilla as a global tech company, not a non-profit fighting for the good of the web, not a global community of idealistic do-gooders, not people, real people working to spread web literacies and help educators level up their own tech skills.
But I didn’t have to convince anyone that Mozilla cares. I only had to tell the truth. I am Mozilla. We are Mozilla. You can be Mozilla too.
Here, have some Kool Aid.