Planet Webmaker

Hit refresh on high school civics

Ben Moskowitz

Mon Jan 23 2017 16:53:32 GMT+0000 (UTC)

I wrote a piece for Quartz Ideas on the need to overhaul high school civics:

To holistically prepare this new generation for life in an open society, what’s needed is a new model for high-school civics; one that integrates American history and government, critical thinking, media literacy, and digital literacy. The goal of such education should not be merely to instill understanding of our online civic landscape, but how to navigate and participate in it in constructive and meaningful ways: Not what to think, but how to think.

Check it out here.

Mozilla Awards $241,000 to Explore the Intersection of Gigabit Technology and Civics, Robotics, Farming, and More

Webmaker Blog

Mon Jan 23 2017 11:00:38 GMT+0000 (UTC)

Mozilla Gigabit Community Fund will support 19 grantees across Austin, Chattanooga and Kansas City

Mozilla is pleased to announce the nineteen grant award recipients in Austin, Kansas City and Chattanooga that will receive support from the Gigabit Community Fund. Grantees across the three cities will receive a total of $241,000 for a 16-week pilot period beginning January 30. The Gigabit Community Fund, a collaboration with National Science Foundation and US Ignite, is investing in projects that utilize gigabit technology to impact learning.

Grantees will utilize the awarded funds to build, pilot, and scale gigabit-enabled applications and associated curricula that have immediate, measurable effect on classrooms and informal learning organizations. Through these projects, Austin, Chattanooga and Kansas City will continue to study how these next-generation networks can impact education and workforce development.

Cultivating Local Networks of Gigabit Innovators

Grantees of the Gigabit Community Fund this round include technologists, educators, advocates, and even farmers! Each brings a new perspective to shape the future of gigabit technology and of Mozilla’s global network of leaders working together to advance a healthy internet. To share and learn from these different points of view, the local grantee cohort will participate in regular meetups to share their planning, progress, lessons learned, and best practices.

Grantees include:

Cross-city (Austin + Kansas City)

The Gigabots Cross City Connected Robotics — Big Bang
The Gigabots bring real-time internet connectivity to educational robotics platforms between schools in Kansas City and Austin, TX.


Accelerate, Augmented Reality for Workforce Training — Austin Free-Net
Accelerate, Augmented Reality for Workforce Training will leverage gigabit connectivity to design an augmented reality tool that supports entry-level IT learning for adults.
Digital Mock City Council — Austin Monitor
An online, open-source, digital budget debate platform and curriculum designed for middle and high school students to explore civic challenges and priorities.
Gigabit Girls – Austin Public Housing — Latinitas
This VR introductory course will be taught to girls engaged with Latinitas programming and living in Austin Public Housing. The project will also include recruitment of VR professionals to support the program and bridge the century long divide between Austin’s downtown business district and East Austin’s housing projects.
Gigabit VR: MBK Coding WebVR Scenes — Changing Expectations
To foster an inclusive computing culture, Changing Expectations will add WebVR coding projects to the My Brother’s Keeper Coding Makerspace to prepare boys of color for the VR workforce. The MBK students will learn to code WebVR scenes based on their ethnically diverse interests and perspectives and share through mini-workshops with younger youth and their parents visiting the Carver Museum.
Virtual Reality STEM Lessons — University of Texas UTeach Outreach
UTeach will design robust, validated, lessons for gigabit-connected middle school classrooms that support Google Expeditions and Unity game design software to create virtual reality experiences that increase students’ interest in computer science and engineering fields.
World Explorer Virtual Exchange — PenPal Schools
PenPal Schools connects students worldwide through online courses to learn about global challenges while practicing essential technology skills. PenPal Schools will extend their digital content with 360 4K video in a pilot cultural exchange experience linking PenPals in Austin with international locations.


Eduity — Eduity, LLC
The Community Technology Leadership Program takes the technology leadership program model from the corporate setting to help small and medium-sized businesses (SMBs) make greater use of ultra-fast networks and build the technology workforce.
Giving Garden Technology Lab Project — Catoosa County Public School System
The Giving Garden Tech Lab project allows students to experience Life Science in a new, interactive way utilizing innovative technology, like virtual reality and 4K streaming.
Global Kids Chattanooga Haunts — Global Kids
Haunts is a STEM program for youth ages 14-18 that supports historical-based community exploration through geo-locative game development.
Input Genies — Studio MindStride
Input Genies teaches youth how to code or build tools for other youth, who cannot easily use a keyboard or mouse.
LOLA in the Classroom — The Enterprise Center
Hamilton County Department of Education, the Enterprise Center and the Public Education Foundation are using LOw LAtency technology to expand access to arts education across the city of Chattanooga, and beyond.
Next Generation Professional Learning — Hamilton County Department of Education
This project creates a collaborative lab for teacher professional learning by harnessing the gigabit network, utilizing multiple telepresence robots and leveraging the experience across Hamilton County Department of Education schools (and eventually beyond Chattanooga).
ViatoR VR — ViatoR, LLC
ViatoR utilizes VR to submerge users in an immersive environment for an interactive, engaging language learning experience.

Kansas City

CERN+KC Gigabit Challenge — ElevateEDU
A project that leverages citizen science, volunteer computing, and gigabit connectivity to create project based learning opportunities for students to participate in research taking place at CERN’s Large Hadron Collider.
Housing Smart Cities — University of Kansas, School of Architecture, Design & Planning
Students and professors at the University of Kansas are leading a project looking to deploy Population Health strategies in smart cities through the design of smart, sustainable, and affordable prefabricated housing.
Immersive VR for Local and Remote Medical and Anatomical Education — Trinity Animation
Trinity Animation will use high realism medical VR for anatomical education, both local on HTC VIVE and remote via gigabit monitoring.
Urban Farming Guys Smart Greenhouse — The Urban Farming Guys
Urban Farming Guys IoT Smart Greenhouse and aquaponics will benefit the local community via food production and education through an open source community.
Virtual Realities in Culture: Explorations of the African Diaspora — V Form Alliance
V Form Alliance will work with students to create virtual field trips to landmarks in KS and MO that are important to black history.

How to get involved:

– Join the Mozilla Leadership Network, coming soon
– Attend the US Ignite Smart Cities Summit in Austin, TX June 26-28 to see demonstrations of several of these applications
– Attend our 2017 Education Innovation Showcase co-hosted with EdTech Austin to learn how you can collaborate or submit to our next round of funding

Carrying momentum across locally-partnered events

Webmaker Blog

Tue Jan 17 2017 18:44:20 GMT+0000 (UTC)

About a year ago, the phrase “Internet of Things” kept coming up in conversations I had at Mozilla. The Internet of Things (IoT) is a network of physical objects and services that sense the environment around them and exchange data over the internet. At Mozilla’s Hive Chattanooga, we thought it would be fun to find ways of combining IoT with the high-speed internet we have in town along with education, which is our passion. Once the idea was born, we approached an incredible local partner, The Company Lab (CoLab), about collaborating with them on a local event, and suddenly the 48Hour Launch IoT Edition was born!

48Hour Launch (48HL) is a weekend-long competition that challenges teams of entrepreneurs and specialists to transform a startup concept into a viable business model, prototype, policy proposal, or piece of curriculum. We asked folks across Mozilla if they would mentor these local teams and share their skills with our neighbors in Chattanooga. I had the unique position of representing Mozilla’s work in Chattanooga with our mentor cohort as well as representing Mozilla to our local partner. The Company Lab planned, organized and hosted the event itself while I worked with our Mozilla convenings team to develop our mentor cohort journey.

This was the first time this event had mentors outside of Chattanooga come to join teams and likewise, this was the first time we had developed a mentor journey like this for such a localized event. We wanted to make the most of each mentor’s time and skillsets as well infuse the Mozilla flavor into a local event, so leading up to the weekend, we did things like:

  • Met one on one with each mentor to hear about their vision for joining the cohort.
  • Led a call for group introductions and discussions before the weekend with the cohort.
  • Wrote blogs leading up to the event, sharing Mozilla’s interest and participation in 48HL.
  • Had weekly planning meetings with Co.Lab leading up to the event to keep clear communication between both partners.

We learned a ton in the months leading up to the 48Hour Launch, as well as throughout the weekend itself. Our mentors’ contributions to one another and to the local event were incredible! They came ready to give and dive into the work being done throughout the weekend.

Additionally, balancing so many details on both sides – with the mentors and with Co.Lab, there could have been misfires but they culminated into an incredible collaboration within and outside Mozilla for a fantastic local event.

Here are three of our biggest take-aways for planning events with local partners:

  • Collaboration between partners should be a natural fit between each organization’s mission and vision
  • There should be clearly defined expectations of duties between both partners
  • Partnered events  can amplify and spread local work across a global network of likeminded people working to protect internet health and users’ rights.

Looking ahead, we didn’t want to lose momentum with what we’ve learned as well as what opportunities this new cohort (and others) could add to local events. To that end, we’ve begun co-planning another local event built on the Chattanooga 48HL model. This January, we’ll be sending Mozilla mentors to the SPARK youth hackathon hosted by St. Anne’s-Belfield School (STAB) in Charlottesville, VA.

I’ve teamed up with Chad Sansing, a curriculum developer at Mozilla, and Kim Wilkens, a local school computer science coordinator and SPARK organizer, to pass along the lessons I learned from our 48HL event.  We want to build off what went well and avoid repeating what didn’t go so well.

For example, we’ll continue working with our mentors to make sure the experience is valuable for them and we’ll continue to send mentors from a wide variety of backgrounds to support local hackathon participants in areas like coding, design, and project management. However, we’ll also work with STAB to make SPARK a collaborative event; as we believe that not every hackathon should be a competition or winner-takes-all affair.

As Chad and I anticipate the SPARK weekend, we’re excited to be refining the mentorship and cross-team collaboration process within Mozilla. Later this spring, we hope to iterate on it again at another local IoT event. Let us know if you’re interested in learning more and tell us how you think we might improve the work!

Learning the Web in 9 New Languages with Offline Icebreakers

Webmaker Blog

Fri Jan 06 2017 22:30:50 GMT+0000 (UTC)

Providing resources to help teach the web in local communities across the world is an important part of our mission. To further our commitment, we launched a campaign in November to rally volunteers from our communities to help localize the “Offline Icebreakers”  teaching activities.

The response from our communities to this campaign was fantastic. In the first week, we had 11 community members sign-up. The pool of volunteers was quite diverse, and included teachers, club members, localizers, and others, all eager to help us in this campaign. It was inspiring to witness them collaborate and work together to localize curriculum in their languages.


With that said, possibly the most significant learning from this exercise was that this diverse set of community members is not only enthusiastic about helping Mozilla strengthen its commitment to web literacy, but is keen on getting involved in the process. Their feedback in this campaign has been incredibly valuable to us and is helping us further refine and improve future localization efforts.

While we have plans to integrate the contributions from this campaign into the Activities section of our Learning website, we do want to first showcase their amazing work here. Below you can find a list of the localized activities.

If you enjoyed contributing to this campaign or are interested in contributing to making curriculum globally relevant and accessible, stay tuned for more information about how to get involved in localization projects in the future.

Hard Reset

Erin Kissane

Wed Jan 04 2017 20:59:03 GMT+0000 (UTC)

Buffy has a bad day in the cafeteria

Buffy vs. Twitter

Our pop culture mostly presents telepathy as a curse: The power arrives, the cascade of thoughts overwhelms the telepath, temple-grabbing and visual effects ensue. In our narratives, only a few characters usually possess or gain the strength to wield their skills successfully; most dissolve under the flood. In many of these stories, telepathy is an apt metaphor for the hormonal coup of adolescence, when new biochemistry opens up overwhelming new social and individual complexities. The fledgling telepath is likewise flooded with too-personal information from everyone around them.

Anyway, some of the baby nerds raised on genre media grew up and made a computer network that gradually turned into a giant real-life telepathy machine for all of us to plug into. That’s been fun.

Most of my internet sanity-retention tactics over the last couple years have been rooted in the assumption that the online roar of anxiety would lessen a bit, especially after the 2016 election. I did a few things to tune my experience, and they helped me stick it out. Then the worst thing happened, and now we’re facing down a new flock of existential threats, along with old ones and the usual systemic, ongoing wrongs. Terror blended with uncertainty is one of the mammal brain’s worst enemies, and the social internet—especially Twitter—is soaked in it. The life-ruining capacity of something like Gamergate was real, but looks tame in comparison to a neo-Nazi resurgence inspired by a malignant troll-in-chief. The camaraderie and sheer fun of hanging out with good people is increasingly hard to remember.

So back to fundamentals. My first duties are to my family and close friends, to my communities of work and care, and to myself, though that last has taken me a very long time to understand. The panicky rhythm of Twitter is no longer compatible with those duties, so I’m off it. I was genuinely sad about its decline for a couple of years, but I don’t have any sadness to spare anymore.

I’ll be here more now—maybe a lot more. I’ll be writing more tinyletters. If we know each other, you can probably find me on Instagram. (I have a Facebook profile for logging into local things, but I don’t really add people.) I’ll be keeping up with colleagues’ work via @source with a million filters on. And mostly I’ll be doing my best, in little groups and one-on-one, to help strengthen my communities and myself.

Oh, and by the way, it turns out that—like most people—I very cleverly hold my breath when I’m emailing (or on Slack), which can cause significant problems if you already have breathing trouble. I’ve surrendered my dignity and am using a small app that makes ocean wave sounds when I need to inhale and exhale. If you’re feeling tightly wound and/or need air to live, you might check that you’re actually breathing while in front of your screen.

Note: Telepathy is not an original metaphor for the ‘tubes, of course, and others have done much more interesting things with it.

Ben’s 2016

Ben Moskowitz

Sun Jan 01 2017 00:56:47 GMT+0000 (UTC)

Twenty sixteen: the year of Trump; the first swing of a wrecking ball that could demolish the liberal world order. It was also the year we discovered an Earth-like planet orbiting our nearest star. Might not be too early to start saving for the trip.

In January, I hosted a meeting on Video & the Commons, with the goals of 1) accelerating technical development on collaborative video editing systems and 2) creating more incentives for public media producers and universities to contribute open video to public interest projects like Wikipedia. You can read about it here.

In February, I headed to San Francisco to help articulate the foundational issues in Mozilla’s advocacy platform. Looking forward to seeing where the Internet Health Report goes from here.

From March through May, I departed for a teaching sabbatical at NYU Shanghai, the first American degree-granting university in China. Leaving personal electronics behind and brushing up on broken Mandarin, I had a fascinating experience seeing the 21st century through the eyes of my students—some international, some Chinese. My course was called “Unmanned Aerial Storytelling,” and covered the basics of consumer drone photography and producing short documentary films with drones.

While in China, I had the opportunity to travel to Shenzhen for the first time, where I chanced upon a half dozen DJI employees in an expat bar. DJI is the world’s leading consumer drone manufacturer, one of the first wave of innovative Chinese tech companies selling to an international market, and a major sponsor of the Drones & Aerial Robotics Conference I produced in 2013. The world is small. We discussed how DJI’s product development and marketing approach differs from some of its Western competitors, like 3DRobotics and Parrot.

It was clear then that DJI was eating 3DR’s lunch; to me there was something (microcosmic? ironic? symbolic?) in this. The most palpable sensation in today’s China is velocity. Here is a country that pulled a billion people out of poverty in a single generation. New hardware products can make their way from a whiteboard sketch to production to sidewalk seller in a matter of weeks. People of all ages are generally more optimistic than their counterparts in the West. Perhaps that’s because they have greater confidence that they and their children will be better off in their lifetimes. The rising populism in Western democracies suggests that many here feel the opposite. Either way, things like the Donald Trump “China” supercut were like catnip to my students.

Near the end of my short time in China, things got interesting for a foreigner in the NGO space. China passed an anti-foreign NGO law. On China’s first National Security Education Day, authorities distributed cute cartoons explaining that handsome foreigners might actually be spies. And the father of China’s Great Firewall was forced to use a VPN during a public lecture. Living in China at this time was a fascinating opportunity and offered some fresh perspective on how to think about global impact.

In May, some big and positive changes. Seeking a new challenge, I accepted a position at the International Rescue Committee as Director of Development for R&D and Innovation. IRC is an old and storied organization; founded at the request of none other than Einstein, it’s been responding to complex humanitarian crises for over 80 years. The cool thing about the modern IRC is how it thinks about innovation and the changing role of crisis response organizations. My mission at IRC is exactly where I want to be—at the intersection of fundraising and innovation—and it’s a serious privilege to contribute to refugees and forced migration at this moment. In a stroke of good timing, Camille was finally cleared for relocation and we moved to New York more permanently.

June was all about learning the ropes at IRC: a big culture change and transition. In July, I started writing grant proposals. My first niece was born to great fanfare in the Moskowitz clan. I built a home PC to experiment with VR and photogrammetry. I started to feel some dread about the prospect of a Trump presidency, playing witness to a dark and militant national convention, and—with a bunch of co-schemers—I began to germinate an idea for a next-gen media literacy program.

In August, we moved into a perfect new place at the intersection of Chinatown, Little Italy, and Soho. We took a short break to France to start clearing out our old place.

In September, I celebrated a birthday milestone, saw IRC in action for the first time in Seattle, and helped launch the Airbel Center at 92Y. I kicked off the first edition of my Hacking Political Rhetoric course at ITP, which put an open video spin on Neil Postman’s 1985 prophesies and facilitated the rebirth of Popcorn Maker.

In October, we closed the first major gift to support the Airbel Center, a $10m pledge to establish a five-year research and innovation partnership in NYC.

November was suddenly apocalyptic, with pantsuit nation obliterated at the Javits Center. The rest of the month was a genuine haze, with every waking morning a reminder that the unthinkable had come to pass. I retreated with loved ones into escapist back doors, binging on deep sea nature documentaries and utopian sci-fi. But the sun kept rising, and I took steps to restore sanity and a sense of agency. Subscribed to the print edition of the New York Times. Set up recurring auto-donations to ACLU. Tried to make out the way forward. I found unexpected solace in the story of Andy Grove, the late co-founder of Intel, a survivor of the Nazis and the Red Army, who was resettled in the United States by IRC in 1957. This man single-handedly shaped Silicon Valley, created vast prosperity, and laid the groundwork for all the benefits of the internet world—and he was a refugee. Somehow I feel we will be challenged to honor his legacy.

December, some semblance of resolve, through a hazy cloud of hot takes about fake news, post-truth politics, Russian election meddling, normalization, and the idea that Trump would hand the State Department to ExxonMobil, Labor to Carl’s Jr. and SBA to WWE. The real tragedy of this carnival-atop-the-swamp is that it was accompanied by more immediate signs of the apocalypse, like what was playing out in Aleppo.

I ended the year with family and loved ones, thankful again for our blessings and the privileged vantage from which we see the zeitgeist, and hoping for the best.

How to Search for Images and Use the Flickr CC Attribution Tool

Greg McVerry

Sat Dec 31 2016 12:25:41 GMT+0000 (UTC)

Many of us rely on the generosity of others as we search the web for all of the images  used on our blogs, keynotes, and slide decks. Passionate artists and makers often share their work using a Creative Commons license that allows us to openly use and remix the work of others. As committed people supporting the open web we must provide recognition to these folks if we want to defend the Commons.

A community of photographers have blossomed on Flickr who share our mission and now millions of photos, openly licensed for re-use, exist for us to search. Luckily Alan Levine created the flickr cc attribution tool. Using this powerful bookmarklet tool you can search Flickr for Creative Commons images and then get the proper code (mark up) to embed images on the web. You also get a text based attribution when using the images in slide decks or for when you give image credits at the bottom of a web page.

How to Install the flickr cc attribution tool

  1. Go to
  2. Choose the width of your desired images (I like using 640px for my blog and slides)
  3. Choose your variation. You can choose html, wordpress shortcode,or markdown (I keep a WordPress and an HTML bookmarkelt installed)
  4. Drag the bookmarklet into the Chrome of your browser.

How to Search flickr for Creative Commons Images

  1. Go to
  2. Enter in your search term
  3. Then in the drop down menu select creative commons images
  4. Choose your image

How to use the flickr cc Attribution Helper

  1. Once you have your image click on the bookmarklet
  2. Copy the code to embed on a webpage or
  3. Copy the attribution text and download the image.


a few thoughts on kindness, truth and tuk tuks.

Kat Braybrooke

Wed Dec 21 2016 14:50:31 GMT+0000 (UTC)

nick cave quotenick cave writing

In just a few days now, I’ll be disappearing into the backwaters of India for a few weeks with my spirit-mate, on an insane 3,000km adventure Rickshaw Run in a decaying tuk-tuk covered with cyber terriers, starting in the South of the subcontinent and ending – with a bit of luck – in its North.

While packing fairy lights, disco balls and “terrier space cowboy” bandanas today (only the essentials!), I found this beautiful little e-shred, from the glittering and wryly gorgeous pseudo-documentary 20,000 Days on Earth by Nick Cave, is perhaps one of the best descriptions of this year’s PhD process (and any other kind of intensive life exploration) that I’ve seen.

There are, indeed, complicated truths (and also non-truths) that lie beneath the words we read and understand, ane the experiences we have – myths within myths, ideas within ideas, memes within memes. After making a small request to my closest family and friends to donate to the Syrian White Helmets this Christmas instead of giving me presents, which caused a wonderful outflowing of support and thoughtful reflection from some very kind souls, and also a process of healthy debate and even more rabbit holes of truths, lies and all the grey, shimmering things in between, this has become especially apparent. Sometimes, the act of trying to grasp the inherent sense of any of the things we’re supposed to be understanding about the world can truly feel like attempting to catch one’s breath whilst drowning.

But there are also expansive, subtle joys inherent in this kind of process, this hunting of monsters, this seeking of truths, this experiencing of the unexplainable. In the case of doing my PhD, for example, there remains an abiding sense at the end of this year of the priviledge of it all. My colleagues and I have been handed a rare opportunity to sit, think and gather new knowledges – and then, if we’re extra lucky, share them with our worlds in ways that matter. Together yet alone, those lucky enough to go on adventures of mind and experience (whether they may be doctoral students, tuk tuk drivers or rockstars like Nick Cave) do so because they hope to forge new-yet-old pathways through socialities, experiences, cultures, theories and ways of being that change things for the better. And when then shared, these experiences can, in their own little orchestrations, reverberate for many years across the collective consciousnesses that define our humanity in ways we have yet to understand fully.

That’s where I think there remains real beauty to be found in our messy, confused world – in the small moments of understanding, exploration and realisation that each of us share throughout our lives, bringing in their wake small moments of light. As the ever-inspiring Dougald Hind, founder of Dark Mountain, puts it in his staggering analysis of the histories hidden within recently-apocalyptic political events that have beset the West:

“[Small individual acts are] also history, though [they don’t] get written down so much: the small joys and gentlenesses, the fragments of peace, time spent caring for our children, or our parents, or our neighbours. These tasks alone are not enough to hold off the darkness, but they are one of the places where we start, one of the models for what it means to take responsibility for the survival of things that matter deeply.”

Here’s to many more complex unearthings of monsters, imaginations, unexplainables and especially small kindnesses in 2017.