The future of education according to Mozilla
The Mozilla Festival came to an end amid a showcase of the best ideas spawned from the multitude of conversations that took place throughout the weekend. There wasn’t a single person attempting to tell us what the conclusions of the conference were nor anyone would dare to say all that was accomplished here. The results will manifest themselves over the course of the next few months in the form of projects that become a reality because they managed to inspire the right mix of thinkers and doers. The mozillians are perhaps the best example of a community that is working to create the change they want to see on the web and this “make it happen” attitude will once again prove to be a powerful ingredient to elevate the web closer to its ideal.
But, if I had to venture a few educated guesses about how the web will change over the next year based solely on my experience at the Mozilla Festival these trends would be at the top:
- Education: imagine a network of learning opportunities, connected to each other through pathways that guide kids through the exploration of new concepts and skills in a way that feels nothing like school but promises to educate and prepare them better for the future. Between Hive, Badges and the constant exploration of the online language favoured by the youth, Mozilla is well positioned to assume a leadership role in this overhaul of the education system.
- Hands-on: there is no better way to teach than to be given free-time to explore new skills with the proper tools available to us. Now with a new generation of hardware devices custom-made to awaken the interest of kids in specific technologies such as 3D printing, and their ability to seamlessly integrate with the rest of the web through a variety of gateways, expect some of these technologies to find their way into the classroom to augment the learning experience. From dedicated devices to teach coding to the blurring of digital-to-physical boundaries via 3D printers, kids are about to be super empowered to reinvent the future.
- Video: for a generation that was born with a video-camara pointing at them every day, video is now the preferred communication medium. And the tools to make better use of that content are quickly evolving beyond the embedded video object. There is a lot of innovation around how to manipulate video and as devices get more and more powerful things are only going to get more interesting.
- Mobile-safe: if we could be given a guarantee that our kids will be safe online, would we unlock better and earlier opportunities for them to connect with the resources of the web? Some of the best work being done by Mozilla happens behind the scenes, making sure the web remains open a ridden of threats to its future. Understanding how our online persona is under constant watch is probably one of the best things we can all do to figure out better ways for our kids to develop safe practices to navigate the web on their own.
The Maker Party at the Mozilla Festival was another fantastic opportunity to share with others our approach to teaching digital literacy skills to the youth. Based on the feedback we’ve received so far we are excited about the possibility of extending the reach of Remix The City into the new year and to other cities!
Being at the Mozilla Festival has put us within arm’s reach of all the experts about the open web so we’ve been able to plan some of our next steps for this project:
- Create a Teaching Kit for the Remix The City workshop so others can run their own version within their own communities.
- Add support for Web Activities, so our HTML5 app can work across a greater variety of mobile devices.
- Explore other synergies between Mozilla popcorn and our very own api to find better, more open ways to enable simple tasks to make more people creators of the web.
- Explore the possibility of porting the “Mix” into a Thimble template that would allow more people to create stories using this fun medium.
The first day at the Mozilla Festival has been nothing short of amazing. Great people in an awesome venue making sure the web reaches its full, open potential. If you were around last night for the Science Fair most likely we got a chance to talk because I feel like a hundred people approached to ask about Remix The City.
I don’t know if it was the fact that I had lots of animated GIFs to showcase or the amazing stories that the youth has created as part of our workshops, like “travelling to space”, but the excitement around teaching important digital literacy skills is palpable and once again we’ve confirmed that there is very little out there to help the youth build a strong foundation that will guide them on how to become great netizens.
Oh, and our launch of GIFF, the gif international film festival, promises to bring our first phase of the Remix the City project to a grand finale that will allow people everywhere to help us pick the best Mixes.
So, if you are interested in helping us teach these important skills, we want to hear from you. Next in my agenda is the Maker Party, for the young ones at the festival. And tomorrow I devote all my attention to help others remix the web.
Our Magic Cubes got featured by TVO Parents this week. “How Origami Teaches Kids About Technology" is based on a series of interviews we did while taking our workshop to the community Peterborough, Ontario along with our colleagues from Hive Toronto. Enjoy all 4 video features:
A crowd of 4,000 people was no obstacle for the mighty Robot Cavalcade at the Maker Faire Toronto this past Sunday, also promoted as family day so all Makers would be prepared to showcase their best ideas to the little ones, avid to learn new tricks and play the games they can’t find anywhere else. How about chasing R2D2 or dancing with your own Robot armor made of cardboard?
This was the setting in which our team had the luck to bring our Remix the City workshop. Equipped with our little collection of tablets, we spent the first 15 minutes training our young digital journalists by teaching them some simple tricks to capture good video with a mobile device. “Steady, pan to the energy, keep it short, move around” were all brief tips that were quickly adopted by the kids, in most cases leading their parents through the tasks. We had barely enough time to master the art of creating compelling stories in just 3 seconds, now famously know as “Mixes”, thanks to our very own web application.
Everyone holding their tablets, positioned strategically around the stage, we were all in the first row to capture the Robot Cavalcade which was awesome and almost a signature event of the Maker Faire. Don’t believe us? Just check all the mixes that were created from the event.
Needless to say that after the Cavalcade we had plenty of videos that we could use to explore the world of remixing. Through the next 30 minutes we talked about how we create stories, how we make those stories “travel” better through the web and the important role of co-creation and sharing as we move into the brave new world of the Creative Commons.
Although the workshop was designed for kids 10 to 17, we found that most of our audience during the workshop were the whole families supporting the kids as they explore the world of digital video. We love to see how parents get involved in the process and we are proud of the service we provide by distilling the complex world of video production for the web into a few lessons that hopefully will create savvy future digital citizens.
If you were one of the many parents/teachers that approached us asking about the workshop, remember we still have some openings across the city. Go to the FabSpaces event page to book your free workshop.
We have a super special event planned for this Sunday September 22 at the Toronto Mini Maker Faire! The FabSpaces team will be on stage to bring the “Remix the City” experience to all the kids and youth exploring our urban adventure / digital literacy workshop. We’ll have spare tablets to make sure that everyone gets a chance to create their own “Mixes”. We couldn’t have found a better venue to host our workshop as the Wychwood Barns will be full of inspiration and amazing sights thanks to the many innovators, artists and hackers that will be participating.
Come and join us Sunday at 1:30p at the main stage. It would be great if you can RSVP just so we know who is coming. The workshop itself has no cost, but you will need to get your tickets to access the Faire.
Launching Remix the City has been a great adventure so far. The first two workshops have been a resounding success with the kids and we couldn’t be happier with the results. The “Mix” above, “a cool trip” is just one example of the creativity that kids are showing to tell their stories using our app.
There are a lot more workshops planned over the next 3 months so if you are in Toronto be sure to check our calendar and register your kids ages 10-17.
If you are wondering how come only Toronto gets to experience Remix the City, then I’m going to ask you to help us get to London, UK so we can share this experience with mentors from all over the world at the Mozilla Festival. If we do, we’ll make sure to pass on all the materials needed to run a workshop to as many people as we can so they can teach kids everywhere. Vote for our session at the Mozilla Festival.
FabSpaces is proud to announce its new workshop “Remix the City”. This new learning experience for the youth teaches the fundamental digital literacy skills that we all need to tell compelling stories using the moving image.
Remix the City is an urban experience that also invites the youth to become more involved in their city by using their creative and digital skills to tell the stories that matter to them using the language of the YouTube generation.
The workshop is an experience designed by the FabSpaces team as an evolution of the old-fashioned photo-walk, replacing the camera with a smartphone or tablet to create remix-able content. The workshop teaches the most important aspects of producing stories in the digital age, using our own HTML5 mobile application as a canvas to discuss important aspects such as Creative Commons, ephemeral content in the age of social media, optimizing content, remix culture, video encoding, etc. We are convinced that these are the tools that a new generation will grow up with to become a creative inspiration for the rest of us.
We are working with fantastic partners to bring this experience to hundreds of kids and teenagers around the Toronto area over the next few months. We are also fortunate to count with the support of visionary organizations that believe this content should reach many more people and through them we are being encouraged to share the contents of this workshop with the world so others can mirror this effort in their own cities. Soon, we’ll release the contents of this workshop and the code for the companion app via a Creative Commons license.
Get ready to Remix the City.
The FabSpaces team had a fantastic time working with future astronauts on solving complex optimization problems related to launching satellites to space. Our OrigamiSAT, a paper-version of the CubeSAT, gave our crew of very clever spacial engineers a though challenge, but in the end everyone found a way to deploy a satellite that would have made Arthur C. Clarke jealous. In particular, the superb folding techniques used by the FabSpaces crew were useful in finding a way to unfold a 10x10x10 cube (the actual size of our satellite) into an antenna almost half a meter long, theoretically increasing the ability of our satellite to communicate at higher bit-rates. We also had fun exploring the consequences of such unfolding maneuver on the critical instruments found within and created a magnetic solution to allow the cube to easily fold/unfold without disrupting the integrity of all the instruments. NASA: if you need more details, do not hesitate to call.
If this challenge seems too complex for the young minds of aspiring aero-spacial engineers, you’ll be glad to know that every single kid (ages 8-14) that participated was able to solve the challenge. This to show that when they are given a though problem and enough time to tinker, anything is possible. One observation I made while running the station is that those kids coming to the station on their own would typically perform the task much faster than others accompanied by their parents, as they were free of any pressure to perform in any particular way. On the other hand, kids working under parent supervision would tend to easily fall into the very well known displays of frustration. The biggest lesson for parents is simple: don’t be afraid or ashamed to let your kids fail as much as it is necessary. They will always find a way and that failure makes the win so much more sweeter.
Once again, Toronto families made it very clear that when great learning experiences become available they will support them with passion. The Toronto SpaceApps Challenge was a magnificent effort organized in conjunction with NASA with team participating across more than 80 countries. The purpose of the event was to give a community of eager hackers access to a very large data set of open data from NASA in order to inspire new ways to look at that data.