Ada Lovelace Day Curriculum Design Workshop at Libre Learn Lab

This blog post was co-authored by Zannah Marsh and Julia Vallera

Ada Lovelace Portrait, Public Domain Alfred Edward Chalon — Science & Society Picture Library

October 11 was Ada Lovelace Day, an annual celebration of the contributions of women to the fields of Science, Technology, Engineering, and Mathematics (also known as STEM). Born in 1815, Lovelace was given a rigorous education by her mathematician mother, and went on to devise a method for programming the Analytical Engine, a conceptual model for the first-ever general purpose computer. Lovelace (pictured here in full Victorian splendor) is known as the first computer programmer. This year, Ada Lovelace Day presented the perfect opportunity for Mozilla to engage community members in something cool and inspiring around the contributions (past and future) of women and girls in STEM. Zannah from the Mozilla Science Lab(MSL) and Julia from the Mozilla Clubs program decided to team up to run a women in STEM themed session at Libre Learn Lab, a two-day summit for people who create, use and implement freely licensed resources for K-12 education. We jumped at this chance to collaborate to make something fun and new that would be useful for both of our programs, and the broader Mozilla community.

At MSL and Mozilla Clubs, we’ve been experimenting with creating “train-the-trainer” materials, resources that are packed with all the info needed to run a workshop on a given topic (for example, this resource on Open Data for academic researchers). There are 200+ clubs around the world meeting, making, and learning together… and many are eager for new curriculum and activities. In both programs and across Mozilla, we’re committed to bringing learning around the open web and all the amazing work it enables (from mathematics to advocacy) to as wide an audience as possible, especially to populations that have traditionally been excluded, like women and girls. Mozilla Learning has been running online, hour-long curriculum workshops on a monthly basis, in which users discuss a topic and get to hack on curriculum together, and had planned a special Ada Lovelace Day edition. We resolved to make an Ada Lovelace Day in-person event that would link together our “train-the-trainer” model and online curriculum creation initiatives, and help meet the need for new material for Clubs… all while highlighting the issue of inclusion on the open web.

Developing the workshop

After kicking around a few ideas for our Libre Learn Lab session, we settled on an intensive collaborative curriculum development workshop to guide participants to create their own materials inspired by Ada Lovelace Day and the contributions of women and girls to STEM. We drafted the workshop plan, tested it by working through each step, and then used insights from prototyping to make tweaks. After incorporating suggestions from key stakeholders we arrived at the final product.

What we came up with is a workshop experience that gets participants from zero to a draft by prototyping curriculum in about one and a half hours. In this workshop, we made a particular effort to:

  • Encourage good, intentional collaboration by getting participants to brainstorm and agree on guidelines for working together
  • Get users to work creatively right away, and encourage them to work on a topic they find fascinating and exciting
  • Introduce the idea of design for a specific audience (AKA user-centered design) early on, and keep returning to that audience (their needs, motivations, challenges) throughout the design process
  • Create a well-structured process of idea generation, sharing, and refining (along with a matrix to organize content) to get participants past decision making on process that can often hinder creative collaboration

If you’d like to know more you can take a look at the workshop plan, carefully documented on GitHub in a way that should make it easily reusable and remixable by anyone.

Running the workshop

Prototype from Mozilla’s Ada Lovelace Curriculum Jam at Libre Learn Lab 2016 — photo by Mozilla

On October 8 we put our plans into action at Libre Learn Lab. The conference (only in its second year) had a small turnout of highly qualified participants with valuable experience in the field of education and open practices. Everyone who came to our workshop was connected to curriculum development in some way — teachers, program managers, and directors of educational organizations. After introducing the workshop theme and agenda with a short slide deck we brainstormed new ideas and worked in groups to refine or expand our ideas and prototype new curriculum. At the end of the session, we asked users to fill out a short survey on their experience.

The workshop development and implementation process so far has resulted in new lessons on understanding how climate effects living things and on women inventors throughout history. These are available in the GitHub repository for public use — and keep an eye on this, as we’ll be adding more lessons soon. Every workshop participant was eager to develop their materials further and use them with audiences ASAP. Thanks to Megan Black, Felix Alvarado, Victor Zuniga, and Don Davis for creating curriculum!

Wrap up and learnings

We got useful feedback from participants that will help make future evolutions of this workshop stronger. From our survey results we learned that participants loved the opportunity to collaborate, get hands-on experience and connect with Mozilla. They also liked having the matrix and sample cards as prompts. Suggested improvements included a desire for more curriculum examples, and the need for more time for prototyping. As facilitators, we’ll look for ways to encourage participants to move around the room and mix with other groups. We will look at improving our slides as an activity guide with clearer instructions. We’d like to find better ways for latecomers to jump in and find more ways to engage participants with different learning styles (for example more visual learners). We also learned that with ten or more participants it is best to have three or more facilitators in this type of intensive workshop.

We hope to find a time to run another session of the workshop in the Open Learning Circle in our Demystify the Web Space at this weekend’s Mozfest — keep an eye on the #mozfest hashtag on twitter for an announcement or reach out to us if you’d like to join.