Mozilla Festival (MozFest) is “a yearly festival with hundreds of passionate people exploring the Web, learning together, and making things that can change the world”.
I jumped at the chance to get a ticket to see what this was all about and what I could learn (I knew I had loads to learn!) about the Web and digital literacy. I am a Secondary School teacher with 26 years of teaching experience who is playing ‘catch-up’ with new technologies. I do not have a Facebook or Twitter account and have no intention of having either. However, I do use eTwinning (www.etwinning.net) to message, ‘chat’ with, and share ideas with teachers from around Europe, and to set up international links and projects. I am an eTwinning Ambassador and currently have a number of projects on the go! I am also a British Council Ambassador, which is how I got my ticket…
I decided to go to MozFest, held at Ravensbourne next to the O2 in London, on the Saturday of the 3-day festival. I joined more than 1,600 educators from more than 50 countries, community-builders, technologists and creators to participate in hands-on sessions exploring topics ranging from opportunities for the mobile web and digital literacy; to journalism; science; arts, culture and music on the web.
I very much enjoyed the keynote speaches by Mark Surman (Mozilla), Mary Moloney (CoderDojo) and the Festival Director, Michelle Thorne. The message was how technology is shaping our world, yet most people still only consume it. Most people use Facebook or Twitter, but an opportunity is being lost. To harness its true potential, users need to understand how it works and what is possible. For young people, there is a need to go beyond theoretical instruction. Young people can be empowered to gain new digital skills by making things they are passionate about – from web pages on cyber-bullying to robots. So the question was, how do we encourage a generation of young people to be digital makers, not just consumers?
There were a large number of hands-on sessions, over nine floors! Firstly, I visited EPIK. EPIK is a digital literacy initiative designed for young people ages 8-25 that started in Kent but is now taking their work global. The EPIK team setup and wrangled the first MozFest “Youth Zone” this year and it appeared to be a huge success. The Youth Zone was one big Maker Party for kids. They used a peer-to-peer, kid-to-kid teaching model; it was kids doing the mentoring to their new maker peers. Young mentors and facilitators used Mozilla’s Webmaker training to learn about the web literacy map and Minecraft based activities to engage new learners and makers.
Webmaker is all about teaching and learning the web. I spent a long time playing around with Webmaker. My college, Christ the King College on the Isle of Wight, has just began an Erasmus+ project (one of the British Council funded projects – see www.britishcouncil.org) with schools in France, Romania and Germany. One of our project outcomes will be a website and, although this website will be set up by our Year 13 Computing students, I feel it would be good if I knew a little about website design!
I particularly enjoyed the workshop on Community Building. We had a discussion on what is a community, what do we value in a community, and how we can create sustainable collaborations to maximise our impact. This ‘track’ explored how our local knowledge could fuel and inform a global movement. For instance, I met a man called Cliff, who is teaching the Web in Kenya, to reach beyond the two main cities of Nairobi and Mombasa.
Perhaps the most enjoyable part of my day was Mozilla Open Badges Lab. It’s free software and an open technical standard any organization can use to create, issue and verify digital badges. The idea being that you can take your badges anywhere and everywhere. Collect badges from multiple sources, online and off, into a single backpack. Then display your skills and achievements on social networking profiles, job sites, websites and more. Whether they’re issued by one organization or many, badges can build upon each other and be stacked to tell the full story of your skills and achievements. I had the chance to build a den out of cardboard boxes, build a teaching resource and build a robot which lights up (it is sitting next to me as I write) and then earn a badge for each of these!
MozFest, was busy, noisy and chaotic. For me, one day was enough – I slept the entire train journey back to the island! So much information, so many thoughts, such a steep learning curve! However, I am aware that I missed out by not attending the Friday and Sunday. There was a party on the Saturday night, and the festival ended on the Sunday evening with a closing demo party, showcasing what was made over the three days.
Wish you had been there? Visit: https://jess.makes.org/thimble/LTgzMjI4MTY=/mozfest-remotee-challenge to join in with some of the MozFest action.