Connecting with the Hive Global community at MozFest

A couple of weeks ago, a coterie of Pittsburghers joined more than 1,600 people from around the world at the 2014 Mozilla Festival in London, UK.

MozFest’s tagline is ‘Arrive with an idea, leave with a community’ and that promise is only more real when you have the chance to exchange #HiveBuzz greetings with educators, community organizers, and youth workers from other Hives emerging throughout North America, Europe, central Africa, India and beyond.

MozFest 2014 had a whole track dedicated to Hive, which helped make the whole thing a bit more approachable to a first-timer like me. The festival can feel a bit like organized chaos, what with the constantly changing schedule and shifting floor plans, but really it’s all about taking the initiative. Claim your own space and set your own course and you’ll fit right in.

For Hive Pittsburgh, MozFest kicked off on Friday with the first ever Hive Global Meet Up. In addition to reconnecting with established Hive Learning Networks in New York, Chicago, and Toronto, it was great to meet face-to-face with the leaders of Hive Communities emerging in Chattanooga and India as well. The Meet Up was a real-life reminder that Hive Pittsburgh is connected to cities and communities around the world (and close to home).

The best surprise of all was to catch up with former Pittsburgher and current Kiwi Jess Weichler. After relocating to New Zealand earlier this year, the former Pittsburgh Filmmakers educator and Hive Pittsburgh member is now running a MakerBox in Wellington and exploring the opportunity of establishing a Hive Community in New Zealand.

Photo courtesy Hive NYC

Photo source: Hive NYC

On Saturday, I caught up with the Hive Action Lab, a collaborative workshop where Hive leaders from around the world worked together to identify common challenges—everything from nitty-gritty program issues like online privacy and transportation to more strategic considerations like partnerships and fundraising—and then develop novel approaches to solving (or at least moving the needle) on these issues.

I spent my time moving between a few groups discussing how to build institutional partnerships, strategies for mobilizing participation by new people, and raising funds.

In my travels, I caught up with Umesh Agarwal of Hive India educators working on an idea to lower the financial barriers to creating a Connected Learning space by creating a minimum-viable kit of tools called Hive House that could be easily packaged, transported, and deployed wherever and whenever an outbreak of Hive learning occurred. as well as a few Mozillians from Uganda who has led a few informal webmaking learning parties and is now on the cusp of organizing Hive Events. The Action Lab was an eye-opening reminder that Hive really is going global. It was thrilling to be a part of these next-step conversations

Of course, no gathering of Hives would be complete without a Maker Party, and on Saturday afternoon that’s just what we pulled off. Welcoming about 300 kids from greater London stopped by to sample Hive projects from around the world.

Hive Pittsburgh was well represented at the Maker Party by The Labs @CLP, Hear Me, and the Remake Learning Digital Corps.

Jessica Kaminsky of Hear Me introduced kids to digital recording and captured some stories of personal reflection from the youth in attendance. Take a listen!

Corey Wittig of The Labs set up a green screen photo studio and led kids through the process of using editing software to transform real-life images into otherworldly scenes.

At the Digital Corps table, we set up stations where kids could hack their favorite webpages, program their own beats, and create videogame controllers out of Play-Doh using Makey Makey kits. Despite our best intentions, it quickly became clear that smashing Play-Doh was the thing kids (and adults) wanted to do the most.

Photo courtesy Mozilla in Europe

Photo source: Mozilla in Europe

It was great to work with kids from the UK and see how the Digital Corps works across the pond and to share ideas with people doing similar work to expand access to creative digital literacy learning opportunities.

Marc Grossman introduced me to Code Club UK, which shares a similar model to the Digital Corps. There’s obviously a lot to learn from and ways to collaborate to help even more people learn and #teachtheweb.

On Sunday I worked a shift during Hive Office Hours, meeting with people interested in bringing Hive to their communities. During my shift I spoke with folks from the UK interested in starting up their own Hive.

The momentum picked back up Sunday afternoon with a rush of activity as everyone got busy putting the finishing touches on their ‘makes’— ideas and prototypes for solving some of the challenges that were identified throughout the weekend.

Most of all, MozFest was a chance to meet a lot of my most frequent digital contacts and collaborators face-to-face—and most of them for the first time.

One thing was agreed for sure: we need to do these Hive Global Meet Ups more often!

We’ll throw our hat in the ring to bring global #HiveBuzz to Pittsburgh!

Published November 07, 2014