Webmakers, Educators Gather at #MozFest to Forge the Future of the Web—and Learning

Education and technology innovators from Pittsburgh joined international colleagues at the Mozilla Festival for “less yack, more hack.”

[dropcap]G[/dropcap]et a bunch of makers, hackers, designers, and educators into a room, and what do you think might happen? That is precisely the question that Mozilla Foundation Executive Director Mark Surman and the team behind the Mozilla Festival sought to answer last month.

The annual festival, which operates under the motto “less yack, more hack,” provided the chance for passionate thinkers and inventors from around the world to meet and collaborate to “forge the future of the web.”

“The Mozilla Festival is where many of Mozilla’s best and most innovative ideas spring to life,” explained Surman on the festival’s website. “It’s where passionate thinkers and inventors come together to learn from one another and engage in a conversation about how the web can do more, and do better.”

The festival is a part of Mozilla’s mission to ensure that the web remains an open resource. #MozFest “strengthens the global braintrust” of those dedicated to the concept of a “user-built web,” said Surman

Photo/Mozilla in Europe

“The festival is filled with fiercely unconventional technologists and creators, eager to share their skills,” said Surman. “We’re replacing darkened lecture halls with hands-on sessions and interactive workshops and there’ll be time to hack the ideas that emerge when hundreds of bright minds gather together in one space.”

MozFest activities were all related to several themes, such as “Connect Your City,” and “Build and Teach the Web.” Organizers behind the project also set out to achieve the following goals:

  • Make things with the tools Mozilla and others are creating.
  • Learn who is building what, how we can share and help each other.
  • Imagine making in 100 years: what future are we building?
  • Design the things we want to build next, especially for mobile.
  • Fuel leaders who want to invent, teach and organize.

The three-day event transformed the nine floors of the wired media and design campus Ravensbourne in East London into maker labs and classrooms, and encouraged the attendees, or “webmakers,” to bring their metaphorical “thinking caps.”

“Bring an idea and we’ll connect you with kindred spirits who will help nurture your ideas through hands-on sessions and interactive workshops,” said Surman. “Find your community at MozFest, hone your skills and amplify your voice around our common mission: ensuring the web is an innovation open to all.”

A few programmers from Hive Pittsburgh answered this clarion call, including Sprout Fund executive and deputy directors Cathy Lewis Long and Matt Hannigan, and Dustin Stiver, the organization’s program officer for engagement and collaboration. (Hannigan spoke with two fellow Hive Learning Network directors about the experience here.)

What’s just as exciting is that mentors from the Andy Warhol Museum and Hive Pittsburgh also teamed up to host a session on “collecting youth culture” during the Mozilla Maker Party that was held on Saturday. Heather White from Power Up Homewood and Adil Mansoor, an Artist-Educator from the Warhol Museum led the session that brought webmakers and teens together to explore art, culture, and global affairs. The activities combined both digital and hands-on interaction, and invited participants to share their thoughts on abstract concepts like love, fame, and art. They even had a mobile silkscreen station available to create one-of-a-kind bandanas. How cool!

While MozFest almost sounds like an unfathomable dream for techies and inventors, it also signifies the areas where excitement for education and technology overlap. Not only were web designers and hackers present, but educators and programming directors looking for new technologies to improve learning were there as well. What can educators learn from the DIY spirit of technologists in the open source movement? Turns out a lot.

Photo/Mozilla in Europe

Mozilla, for example, has been a leader in the Open Badges movement—which aims to use technology to recognize learning that happens outside of a traditional classroom through badges that are recognized across the web.

That’s not all. Through collaborations with educators, Mozilla’s new Webmaker tools “help people everywhere make, learn and play using the open building blocks of the web.” These tools include authoring tools and software like Popcorn, Thimble, and Hackasaurus. And they’ve been a key piece in the Hive Learning Networks. At the festival on Saturday, Mozilla announced a number of updates including the Web Literacy Standard, “a map of competencies and skills that Mozilla and our community of stakeholders believe are important to pay attention to when getting better at reading, writing and participating on the web.”

Educational innovators believe that experiments like these can help empower students to take charge of their own learning whether online or off, inside the classroom or out.

It’s hard to imagine that amount of dedication and creativity flowing under one roof, but we’re sure the innovations that result from this collaboration will emerge in the months to come.

Read more from those who attended the conference here, here, and here.

Published November 04, 2013