A Mozilla Learning Network

About a month ago Mark Surman kicked off a conversation about the future of Learning at Mozilla by describing something like a “Mozilla Academy”. This was followed up by Phillip Schmidt suggesting the creation of an even more defined Mozilla Developer Institute. I am excited about where things are headed and concur with Phillip: “…we need to train a community of technology experts who understand the great influence of their design decisions, and who are excited by the opportunity to use technology to create a better world.”

The ethos of what Mozilla Learning could become, I think, strongly aligns with the ideas behind my work on the Saxifrage School: we must learn to make what is valuable and question the value of what is made. A reconciliation of theory and practice that doesn’t write off technology as “neutral”, but as powerful and requiring thoughtful implementation. We do need, increasingly, a strong generation of technologists who are both inventors and critics; who can build the future of the internet, but also ask hard questions about its influence on communities, on knowledge, and on freedom.

Phillip’s proposal to create best-in-class communities of practice is spot on, but I wanted to offer some additions that may be necessary in order to create a “Global Classroom and Lab”. This global classroom could be instantiated in local “institute” hubs like Phillip suggests, but it also needs to scale through replicability and shareable resources. For this, I suggest two complementary ideas: a Mozilla Institute Toolkit and a Mozilla knowledge map.

Mozilla Academy Toolkit

While Mozilla could seed a number of exemplary local academies, they will have to rely on their global network to multiply the model and create more communities of practice as part of the network. To support this, Mozilla could develop programs, materials, and curriculum within their primary academies, using their offices as home-bases. Once the programs mature, the framework and resources could be openly shared to support the founding of affiliated Mozilla Academies around the world. Imagine an open-source franchising model for learning communities.

While TEDx offers little more than a brand identity, Mozilla Academy could offer curriculum resources, organizational frameworks, leadership training, and an operational playbook for starting an academy. I would love to steal the academy’s source code and start one here in Pittsburgh!

Mozilla Knowledge Map

To truly have a global reach, these communities of practice need to be complemented by a wealth of curated and openly accessible learning resources. This knowledge map can support local communities of practice, but could also be used independently by learners everywhere. This work has been kicked off by the Web Literacy Map, but needs to continue. To really train people to build the future of the internet, the Mozilla Knowledge Map needs to expand to enable learners to follow an entire scope and sequence from learning foundational web literacy skills, all the way up to git rebasing. Gregory Szorc notes the long list of requirements one must pass in order to contribute to the Firefox project. Eliminating this “process debt” requires a serious knowledge base that can empower learner-contributors to continue learning and not stall out when they hit an obstacle.

Imagine an expansive map filled with learning resources curated (or created) by the Mozilla community. These resources begin with foundational Webmaker/Literacy skills, but continue on into the more advanced theory and practice of the web. To provide immediate application and context, these resources could align with knowledge necessary to contribute to current projects. Many great resources already exist on the web (e.g. Hack Design), but they are not well curated and, in most all cases, are focused on practice and lack a critical or theoretical approach. The Mozilla Knowledge Map could tread the line by offering resources that both teach how and question “why?”

The work to build this map could begin in the local Academies and, once a foundation is set, could be opened up to contributors around the globe.

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That’s all I have to offer for now:

  • Build exemplary communities of practices while creating shareable resources and documentation so they can be replicated.
  • Create a Knowledge Map that provides an expansive set of learning resources on both the theory and practice of web-making.