Mozilla maybe missing a step?

Another busy week in Mozilla-land. Mark Surman continued his recent spurt of blog posting with his discussion of ‘Mozilla as Teacher‘ which spurred a few people to respond and also announced the launch of Mozilla Open Badges which led to some spirited responses on Twitter and beyond.

I do like the sound of alot of what Mark was writing about in his ‘Teacher’ post and it chimes in with alot of what Emma Mulqueeny has been pushing for in the UK and the recent announcement by the UK Government of a project to try out giving kids the opportunity to be taught to write their own software programs at GCSE as part of a major overhaul of the UK schools’ IT curriculum. .

That said I don’t really like the phrase ‘Mozilla as Teacher’ it just doesn’t seem to work. I also think that in the rush to create ‘webmakers’ we are all missing a step. While I agree the more people who can code the better I am also aware that my own skills are limited to just a little bit of HTML and CSS but I support that with a wider understanding of the workings and the possibilities of the web. I like the phrase ’empowered user’ that I read somewhere and I think Mozilla should be looking to increase these numbers at least as much as the ‘webmakers’. I always come back to the ‘What is a browser?‘ video Google released a few years ago and think that as more and more people use the web it falls upon organisations like Mozilla to prepare users to get the best out of what is out there, and to do it with confidence and feeling secure.

Laura and Pippa both make this point better than I have managed and Pippa also puts across the term ‘Mozilla as Educator‘ as a replacement for ‘Mozilla as Teacher’ which I like (‘Mozilla as Mentor‘ has also been mentioned but apart from some nice alliteration that didn’t really work for me.) Pippa spent alot of time while working on School of Webcraft (and before) thinking about how to get the terminology right and I think she has a good grasp of these things.

I also think her ‘Transform Users into Participants’ idea perfectly sums up what I was trying to say above, especially this line;

The initial challenge as I see it is not in teaching people how to code, but helping them know enough about the web itself.

Laura also makes many good points and particularly raises the issue that it isn’t all about the kids – we have to better prepare & empower the adults already using the web but who don’t really know what they are doing and are intimidated by the challenges of finding out more.

Laura points to an earlier post from Mark talking about ‘Internet Literacy‘ and like her I wonder where this experiment got to as I think this is exactly where I think we should be heading.

I haven’t got much to say about the ‘Open Badges’ announcement. It still isn’t something I am particularly keen on and I think part of that is my general distrust of anything that has a hit of ‘gamification’ (which I hate!). I feel a little disloyal as I am generally a pretty strong supporter of everything that has come out of Drumbeat but on this occasion I think this post by Alex Reid about sums up my feelings (though it does get a little ranty towards the end!)

Still it really feels like there is a buzz around this corner of Mozilla at the moment – Drumbeat seems poised to evolve into something a little different and it seems to be coming to a head just in time for the Festival – couldn’t ask for better timing🙂

One thought on “Mozilla maybe missing a step?

  1. The internet literacy step totally needs to be in there. As I said in my response to Laura, we’re trying to work this out now in Hackasaurus (still nascent), knowing it leads to something bigger. In fact, it’s likely bigger than ‘learning to code’ in some ways.

    I’m imagining something like a ladder: basic literacy and tinkering at the base (e.g. hackasaurus) moving eventually to mastering code and inventing things at the top (e.g. a master class program we haven’t create yet). I’m going to blog about these ‘steps’🙂 soon, but want to lay out some of the base thinking first.

    On the Book of the Web question you asked, you can find what we did here:

    http://www.booki.cc/an-open-web/

    Personally, I think we did an okay job at identifying some of the things people need to know (e.g. how to read a URL) but totally failed to come up w/ compelling ways to deliver as social marketing. IMHO, hands on stuff like Hackasaurus is going to be more successful in the short term than social marketing.

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