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My quick thoughts, back stage, and rants as I try to Teach kids about the Web while learning how to help others build a better Web.

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Greg McVerry

Planning the YouthZone for Feminist(Inter)vention Conference on Gender and Technology

3 min read


flickr photo shared by hackNY under a Creative Commons ( BY-SA ) license

The Good Fight

Fighting for diversity at Southern Connecticut State Univisity looks a little different than it does at other universities in New Haven.

While debating the use of words like "headmaster" or discussing the balance between free speech, safe spaces, and halloween costumes matters our diversity efforts focus more on the lived experience of those who have long felt the shackles of oppression. 

Our fight for diversity means ensuring the class schedule coincides with city bus routes. Our challenges lie in ensuring a smooth pathway from community colleges to four year insitutions. It means providing greater online classes and child care for single moms with two jobs.

We fight for diversity by working tirelessly with Gear Up students who also want to become first generation college students.

 I do not want to undercut the efforts of other universities nor their student bodies. Its just the fight for diversity looks different at schools of access rather than those of affluence.

I am a firm believer that words do matter. Every student should feel safe. Yet to truly overcome the issues around diversity, wealth, and society we must first focus on educational and economic stability.

Diversity and Technology

For those who follow the tech scene you know that we have a diversity problem. Yet this cannot be solved in Silicon Valley. It must be solved at places like Southern who work closely with New Haven Public Schools. It must be solved by Open Source projects such as Mozilla's efforts to .

It can not be solved in your board room or with the right hire. Equity comes from opportunity. Opportunity comes from education and economic stability.

Thus I am proud to serve on the committee for the 22nd annual Women's Studies Conference: (ter)vention: Women, Community and Technology. I am charged with creating the YouthZone.

Using lessons I borrow from the YouthZone I want to create a space that uses production based learning to empower young women through agency. Together we want to see how young women from Connecticut can change the world.

My original design sketch

GitHub Repo

I have created a github repo for anyone that would like to follow along with our progress. I will probably also mae a gDrive folder with the latest files so those who can't navigate the intracacies of GitHub are not excluded.

I will need the most help with the hackathon. I am a non-technical volunteer for many edtech projects. I can markup pages but I have never really coded. Please feel free to jump in.

Have an idea or question? File an issue. Want to get involved file a pull request or reach out to me on Twitter. I need your help.

The Closing Pitch

We are 100% a self-supported conference. We try to offset fees by finding local donations. If you would like to support our efforts feel free to reach out via email. We need swag, money, and volunteers. Any level of involvement will be greatly appreciated.

 

Greg McVerry

Talking #fedwiki to think about #digped and #indieweb unity

3 min read

I had a wonderful conversation today with Dave Bovill and Ward Cunningham about Federated Wiki today. For over an hour we hacked around with a tool designed to support the open Web.

Federated Wiki works as a space between wikis and blogs. Wikis seek a collective voice. Blogs represent  individual thinking. Fedwiki is about forkable thoughts. I was turned on to by Mike Caulfield and I have been playing since.

Basically users create pages that can be forked and added to their site. There are a series of pages within each "site." Groups of users can gather in neighborhoods. This allows you to fork any page and bring it back to your wiki.

Technically I was at a total loss when Dave and Ward talked about how easy plug-ins are to create since the system is built in json (I have no idea what json means). Yet it was great to talk to them about the possibilities of federated wikis.

Some of the use cases we covered:

  • Curriculum writing- I am in teacher education. We write many lessons plans. This usually involved students copyong and pasting ideas from the web into a lesson plan template. Why not celebrate this textual poaching (Jenkins, 1999)? Using federated wiki we could create a database of lessons.

  • Conferences-This was Dave's idea. He has created a for the Chaos Communication Conference. I was intriguied by this idea as my first use of was to present my session using the tool. Remote attendance of conferences is a matter of equity and access. Seeing what Dave built made me realize that maybe the best way to organize a conference program and materials.

  • Narrative Writing- Dave brought up that someone used to create a forkable storytelling experience. My guess it was probably Terry Elliot. I am totally going to do this in my children's literature class this fall.

There are a few issues:

  • Metaphors- Federated wikis use some metaphors that are not too accessible to norms. Forks that look like flags and flags that look like squares. The idea of "neighborhoods" or adding a "factory" to add content just don't seem like a concurrent fit. There seems to be a dissonance among the target and vehicle of the metaphor.

  • Documentation- The documentation supporting users is written by technical folks for the coding crowd. Norms would struggle to follow along. I will add that Mike Caufield has some great step by step videos on his YouTube channel. I know I will have to make some for my classes.

  • Difficulty- The two previous issues compound a difficult tool to use. The UX/UI will be a challenge for my students to overcome. Most have never peaked at the source code of a website.

 I am excited to play with federated wiki and explore its uses. 

Greg McVerry

Replied to a post on github.com :

At we were asked about our vision for Mozilla in 2020. After my first community call https://public.etherpad-mozilla.org/p/sciencelab-calls-nov19-2015 I got to thinking about Laura's efforts to lead a launch of a Research Lab.

In my 2020 vision I would see this Lab being the leading institute for design based research. Mainly because if Mozilla is going to succeed at fueling the next wave the Foundation will need to be the world biggest design based research project.

This capacity already exists all over the Mozilla Learning Networks. Especially in the Hive Cities. Match that capacity with skills Bobby and Laura et al bring and it could be powerful. Leverage the cool tools the Open Science Fellows will surface.

In fact in this 2020 I see a pivot for analytics. Let's focus not on conversions but on cognition. When we learn in the open I believe we can surface new ways of tracking participation, learning, advocacy and leadership. In many ways these are the only KPI's that matter. I do not fear the robo-graders or machine learning. In fact I am kind of excited.


We have a goal. Let's keep iterating on the journey

Greg McVerry

Reflections as a Participant Leader at #mozfest

8 min read

Amira opened up the Mozilla Foundation comparing the MozFest journey to a magical carpet ride. What a journey. So many of us took flight and explored a confernece built on making, hacking, and playing.


flickr photo shared by ChristosBacharakis under a Creative Commons ( BY-NC-SA ) license

Yet in almost all instances magic is an illusion.


flickr photo shared by Mozillafestival under a Creative Commons ( BY ) license

 

The woven threads wisping through the air of Ravensbourne College do not just stay afloat like some kind of strange indoor blimp.


flickr photo shared by Mozillafestival under a Creative Commons ( BY ) license

Instead the efforts of hundreds of contributors breathing life into MozFest lift us into the air. They hold up the values of the Manifesto and their voices will unleash the next wave of Open.


flickr photo shared by Mozillafestival under a Creative Commons ( BY ) license

Developers, designers, analytics folks, artists, activists, and even the misiter of fun made sure magic enveloped everyone at Mozfest.


flickr photo shared by Mozillafestival under a Creative Commons ( BY ) license

That's how I see our role as participation leaders. We spread the wizadry so the burdens and joys of a magic carpet ride on the  Open Web will not be an illusion. The Participation Leaders (read more on our Planet) are members of the newly formed Participation Team. Our goal is to increase community involvement across all of the channels of Mozilla.

As a Participant Leader I attended my first mozfest. So I wanted to take some time and reflect on what I thought we could do to help spread a little more magic. These reflections cut across MozFest and the Participation team.

Getting Remote Right

A huge hat tip to the team behind and the remote challenges. Fuzzy nailed the live stuff, Hannah and Natalie did awesome design work, and Andre worked hard on localization. I have attended the last Mozfest as a remote attendee. In terms of Participation remote is huge.

The challenges were awesome. Everyone did a great job on the design. What remote attendees don't want, however, is  to sit alone and hack at something. We do that every other day for Mozilla. Make us feel special as remote attendees.

We want to be there. Stream all plenary addresses. Encourage crowdsourced streaming. I periscoped and live blogged many sessions. I got personal thanks from many remote attendees. As remotees we want to see as much live as possible.

Have online and synchronous remote challenges. One idea, and I steal this from Maha Bali and the Virtually Connecting Crew, is to team up an on the ground participant and a remote participant. They can then host an open session that anyone around the world can join.

Pathways

We got pathways wrong. Having fifty pathways isn't choice it is a maze. Designing your own direction is at the heart of Teaching Like Mozilla... but if I need an atlas and a tour guide it is too difficult.

I should be able to count the pathways on one or two hands.

People also come to with their destination in mind. If you are into , or , or Mozilla Learning Networks you want to hang out there. Over the past year or two as a participant you have been getting help from, reading about, or building with the facilitators in that space. maybe the only time to work face to face.

I understand we do need to get people out of their spaces. I love having the hackspaces in each Space at mozfest. I would just suggest that if VPs, project managers, or community leaders are going to hack away at something you head to a different space.

Many of the spaces alternated from looking like lounges or board rooms. Neither are inviting if we want to increase participation

Maybe the answer is to fool around with the session types. You have your Mothership activities, like plenaries where everyone gathers, orbit sessions centered around spaces, and exploration sessions that get people out of their spaces and checking out other teams.

This can be done by changing up the session times. Have one hour, two hour, and four hour sessions. This will lead to a reduced number of sessions, but it seemed many people wanted to keep working long past the end. There would be a call to head to a hackspace but with coffee that good along the way few would make it.

If session time varied 1 hour sessions in a space would be limited and people would check out other places. In other words if a Space as three avilable rooms butif  rooms are doing two hour and four sessions then by default many participants will head to another space.

Participation Team Notes

  • Onboarding is vastly different across the Globe. In North America and in Western Europe most people come to Mozilla through an existing partner. Across the rest of the globe people come to Mozilla through Mozilla. We need to think about and plan for these pathways.
  • The Tech Speaker series is critically important. Many people on the Participation Team noted how the opportunity made them more confident and want to get involved in Mozilla. The tech speaker series was standing room only. We should double down on story telling in every modality.
  • Everyone is trying to figure out GitHub. I am seeing curriculum development occur both on the MoFo side and and the MoCo side. We want to lift the same carpet but may be blowing in different directions. This is my first time working on another team. The workflow is vastly different then what I was used to in old webmaker/Mozilla Learning Networks. Lets build the same system. The Participation Leaders can help be that bridge.

    Maybe the idea of simplifying git hub for community contribution is the wrong problem to solve. For many teachers and activist curriculum and lesson plans might be the first contribution they make. Some of the best lessons I have ever written were on the back of cocktail napkins. We need to have as many channels open for people to share curriculum.

    Our job as Participant Leaders should be to curate this material and recognize future contributors who might need a little cultivation (such as learning Git).

    I see having someone get to a point where they are actively contributing to Git as a key indicator of leadership growth. Anyone willing to fight their way through that pain in the ass process is pretty committed. If you can get Git simplifed awesome. Just make sure the curriculum writing process is the same across all of Mozilla

  • Maybe the Participation Space should be a distributed space. The Participation Leaders talked about this a lot. Many of us had teams we are already committed to. Some wanted to hang with the FirefoxOS teams, others were involved in Mozilla Reps, some like me wanted to hang with Mozilla Learning Networks.

    Many of our sessions overlapped or sounded very similar to sessions in other spaces. The goals of the Participation Team are the same for every team. We want greater contribution and leadership in each space

    What if Participation Leaders were embedded in their space? This would allow us to greater track the contributions and recognize future leaders. We could even offer similar sessions simultaneously across all the spaces. Then in the afternoon in the Participation space we could gather for training.

    We could even offer an exclusive "golden ticket" session for other people. So if we noticed in our embedded space that there was someone going the extra mile we can say, "Hey there is this super duper double top secret sessions to thank leaders in each space. You should go."

  • The Gear Store matters. Its hard, as a New Englander full of false bravado and  self-import it to admit, but the swag matters. I have never been one for branding. Like many of my "too cool for school New York city types" the labels did not matter to me. They matter for the rest of the world.

    I saw people trading all kinds of weird stuff for hard to get stickers or t-shirts. While it takes staff and commitment I think an effort should be made to beef up the Gear Store. I wonder though if it can't be community driven.

    What if there was a site where community artists could submit designs that could be added to stickers, t-shirts, and mugs? Mozilla just takes a 30% cutoff of gross proceeds.

  • The Museum Matters. We tried to build a Museum in the Participation space. There were some awesome older artifacts. These were cannibalized at the end of the conference. Recognizing how much people care about gear also means preserving this history. Build a traveling museum exhibit that can be easily shipped.

Greg McVerry

Replied to a post on werd.io :

@benwerd First thank you to and Erin for building a tool. You have contributed to what is a renaissance in open in education.

I just got back from . My session was on Open Source Tools for online learning. Everyone loved @withknown and other tools like Federated Wiki.

We need to keep you around. Known is part of the that is flowing into . Maybe we need a Patreon for developers. I pay $10 a month to have nobody use Discourse (forums are lame) and I subscribe to Convoy. I still do ThinkUp not so much for the tool but as a way of paying my .

I subscribe to Convoy not because I need it but because I want to pay you and Erin. I actually want to pay you more but there is no channel to do so. Maybe a Patreon for developers is something that needs to come out of . Give us a chance to pay you. It may not be much but it could be.

Do not underestimate the commitment educators have to supporting the open Web.

I have tried to work Known into grants, and will continue to do so. I just have struck out to date. Encourage this among the community. This way you can sell and develop and we can try to raise the funds.

I also tried to use Known as the backbone for the app I am launching in a couple days. You two spent hours drafting proposals and meeting with me only to have our team go in another direction. That is alot of hours chasing down leads that are not going to bring in revenue. Not sure freelance is the answer for you.

Create a tool that is open but not included in the full version. My thinking would be a classroom control panel, the rss reader (once comments have an rss feed..pretty please) or other stuff directed at your key markets. Make money on the APIs and specialized products.

Look to the students who are using the platform in class. Most of my students choose Known over wordpress or Tumblr. Try a campaign each December and May to convert them to their own domain. Reach out through email or on their Known sites. I have thought about having you and Erin join my class to speak (video) about benefits of owning your domain, but thought it might cross an ethical line. I wonder if an email campaign might convert some users.

Hope this helps. Just some random thoughts as I am stuck on a plane coming back from (by the way you give Mozilla too much credit. We are spread just as thin, but on a much larger scale).