Planet Webmaker

Piloting 21C Skills and other Badges

Webmaker Blog

Wed Oct 26 2016 13:43:07 GMT+0000 (UTC)


Making All Learning Count: Competency-based Education

In the 21st century (21C), learning can take place anytime, anywhere, at any pace, and with the learner at the center. This is something we at Mozilla know well. One of our goals is to provide people with open access to skills, tools, and resources needed to use the web to improve their lives, careers, and organizations.

Competency-based learning has emerged as one way to make anytime anywhere learning “count.” While learners’ traditional progression towards mastery has been measured by credit hours or “seat-time” in traditional educational settings, competency-based learning empowers learners to demonstrate mastery regardless of how and when the learning occurs. It also identifies learning targets at a more granular level than the course-level grading system. This enables afterschool providers and other community partners who already provide valuable learning experiences to both continue their work and recognize learning so that it counts toward learning pathways.

In collaboration with the Afterschool Alliance, Mozilla Foundation has worked with three statewide afterschool networks in Maryland, Oregon, and Michigan in a project funded by the C.S. Mott Foundation. These three networks are piloting 21C skills and other badges in afterschool programs to gain a deeper understanding of what is needed to help informal learning become formally recognized for college and career-readiness. The lessons learned from this pilot will be shared and taken to scale with other statewide afterschool networks and afterschool initiatives.

This blog post provides a spotlight on pilot progress in Maryland, Michigan, and Oregon, all of whom participated along with other state networks at the Competency-Based Education & Digital Credential Design Meeting.

Michigan After School Partnership (MASP)


One of 30+ states to legislate policies in support of competency-based learning pathways, Michigan has eliminated seat-time requirements to move away from traditional transcript models of education. Instead, Michigan has built out a statewide badging program that draws on both in-school and out-of-school providers for rigorous and relevant content. Badges, aligned with high quality after school enrichment opportunities, are helping high school students demonstrate proficiency in Michigan’s college and career readiness standards.

Michigan After School Partnership (MASP), in partnership with the Michigan Department of Education, Office of Education Innovation & Improvement and Career and College Ready initiatives, has focused on piloting STEM competencies for high students in a Renewable Energy Summer Camp and in the Eastern Michigan University’s 21st Century Community Learning Center’s Bright Futures middle school program. They also used badges as a STEM endorsement of the Michigan School Age Youth Development Credential for professional development credentialing for youth development workers. Michigan is now working to collect more data to inform badging policies and to refine the state’s badge system rating rubric as a way to ensure quality assessment.

According to Mary Sutton, executive director of MASP, statewide success in Michigan depended on cultivating strong relationships with several key offices within the Michigan Department of Education. Partnerships with the office of improvement and innovation and the education technology/data coordination and curriculum /instruction units were crucial to making things happen and opening additional doors for including afterschool as a valid component in competency-based learning conversations.

Maryland Out of School Time Network (MOST)


Maryland Out of School Time Network (MOST) worked first with Wide Angle Youth Media (WAYM) and then with Digital Harbor Foundation (DHF) to develop digital badges that recognize both technical and workforce skills in Baltimore. MOST convened an advisory committee which included key stakeholders from the Baltimore City Public Schools, the University of Baltimore, and the Maryland State Department of Education, as well as representatives from ed tech companies familiar with badging and student information systems.

“We know may young people are acquiring both technical and 21st Century skills in their classrooms and from informal learning experiences,” says Ellie Mitchell, Director of the Maryland Out of School Time (MOST) Network, “however, employers who provide internships and summer employment programs often are unaware that students have these skills. Digital badges help translate the potential of students to future employers and raise the bar on the kinds of experiences that are offered.”

Working with Baltimore City Public Schools, WAYM identified three skills badges that reflected workforce-oriented and technical skills that were already being measured through a proven and tested rubric that the organization had previously used. Together, both organizations aligned criteria and evidence in the badges with National Media Arts Standards and Common Core State Standards.

In addition, Digital Harbor Foundation developed an additional four STEM-focused technical skill badges. Together with DHF, MOST has launched its 21C skill badges and have offered them to anyone in Maryland who wants to try to earn them. They are also working with Digital Harbor Foundation on badges that will lead to college credit with colleges in Baltimore County.



OregonASK partnered with the Technology Association of Oregon Foundation, Concentric Sky (a tech start-up based in Eugene OR), Business Education Compact, Umatilla School District, Equal Access to Education, and the Northwest Council for Computer Education to build a badge system to identify pipeline for STEM workforce in Oregon. OregonASK works with hundreds of programs throughout the state, and Mozilla Clubs are an opportunity to engage youth with critical content and create meaningful ways of building program efficacy and student engagement.

In the Umatilla School District, OregonASK helped to develop middle school web clubs to prepare students to participate in a tech-based innovation economy and while earning badges for skills learned. OregonASK has worked to create digital literacy pathways that connect afterschool and traditional school opportunities, particularly those that address learning in informal science programs.

In all three of these pilots, it’s clear that partnerships and persistence are critical in making afterschool count towards competency-based education. The use of micro-credentials to measure afterschool learning are part of growing number of badging efforts across the country. Look for a compendium of these promising practices to be released shortly.

Ada Lovelace Day Curriculum Design Workshop at Libre Learn Lab

Julia Vallera

Mon Oct 24 2016 18:46:48 GMT+0000 (UTC)

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

ada_lovelace_portraitOctober 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


On October 8 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.

Curriculum Workshop: Ada Lovelace Day

Webmaker Blog

Thu Oct 20 2016 10:16:15 GMT+0000 (UTC)

On our Ada Lovelace Day episode of the Mozilla Curriculum Workshop, guests Liza D. Platae, Danielle Robinson, Zannah Marsh, and June Ahn joined us to discuss the accomplishments, innovations, and challenges faced by women leaders (past and present) in STEM-related fields.

  • Liza D. Platae is a Mozilla Club Captain in Mexico who works to create technology education pathways for women in corporations and non-government organizations (NGOs).
  • Danielle Robinson is a cell biologist and Neuroscience PhD candidate at Oregon Health and Science University, and a community organizer.
  • Zannah Marsh is a Learning Strategist for Mozilla, working with the Science Lab program, who designs and develops instructional materials and experiences.
  • June Ahn is an Associate Professor of Learning Sciences/Educational Technology at New York University, Steinhardt School of Culture, Education, and Human Development, who researches how technology and information can enhance the way we learn.

You can watch the entire episode here:

After naming our women role-models in STEM (including Ada Lovelace, Grace Hopper, and Carol Shaw, et al.) and talking about entry points and pathways for women and girls in science and leadership, we prototyped two different activities for connecting science with everyday life.

We brainstormed ideas for a collecting and sorting project using kids’ own collections as data sets. We also thought of conversational prompts for parents and children to use during family activities (like a trip to the zoo or game night) that encouraged them to make observations and predictions and to draw conclusions about the world around them.

We also talked about iterating on maker events to make STEM learning opportunities tangible and visible to girls interested in the field.

You can revisit our notes here:

Who are your favorite women leaders in STEM-related fields? How would you improve our prototypes and develop them further?

Unable to tune in at our normal broadcast time? Is audio better for you than video? Then listen to our March, April, May, June, July, September, and October episodes as podcasts! Follow the links for .mp3 versions of each Mozilla Curriculum Workshop.

Connecting Inspirational Leaders for Ada Lovelace Day

Webmaker Blog

Tue Oct 18 2016 13:14:09 GMT+0000 (UTC)

This month, Mozilla Learning and the Mozilla Science Lab joined community calls to explore current opportunities and supports for women in STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering, Mathematics) around the world in celebration of Ada Lovelace Day. Lovelace lived in the mid-1800’s and was an English mathematician and writer, considered today to be the first computer programmer. A lot has changed since Ada’s time, but we continue her legacy as we rally and connect leaders who want to advance the promise of the Internet for learning in a networked world. Here is a snapshot of the leaders that we brought together to share their inspiring work:

  • Kirstie Whitaker, Mozilla Science Lab 2016 Fellow, is the lead on the STEMM Role Models project. Currently, women and other underrepresented groups are less likely to be invited to speak at conferences. The goal of this project is to ensure that conference organisers are able to access a diverse and representative group of the most exciting researchers in their field from around the world.
  • Zannah Marsh, Curriculum Strategist with the Mozilla Science Lab, hosted an Ada Lovelace Day curriculum design workshop with Libre Learn Lab. The goal of the workshop was to work collaboratively to quickly conceptualize and design engaging, varied, user-centered learning experiences for an inclusive audience of learners.
  • Srushtika Neelakantam, Mozilla Club Captain in Bangalore, India, teaches the web to her community in Bangalore, India by focusing on web literacy, an open web, and digital equity to make the web a better place for all, but especially for women.
  • Meghan Murphy, American Association for the Advanced of Science (AAAS) Science & Technology Policy Fellow at National Science Foundation, works to support national initiatives such as:
    • CSforAll, a collaborative project to ensure Computer Science education is available to all students across the U.S.
    • Smart Cities, an effort to improve U.S. city and community functioning and quality of life within through innovations in computing, engineering, information and physical sciences, social and learning sciences.
    • Cristol Kapp, School Librarian, provides students with access to resources for making, tinkering and experimenting while giving them the freedom to choose what they wish to explore. Specifically, she has founded I/O, a program to provide multi-handicap classes with access to these makerspace tools and resources.

Watch the recording of the call below to dive in deeper. What resources, inspiring leaders and inspiration would you add to the discussion? Do so on the call’s etherpad.

Continuing the conversation, the Mozilla Science Lab is kicking off the first session of its new book club! To kick off the open discussion, co-hosts @MozLearn and @MozillaScience will be using the book Women in Science: 50 Fearless Pioneers Who Changed the World as a jumping off point to encourage, motivate and discuss women in science and technology to make an impact on the digital world. Join the hour-long conversation by following #TTWchat on October 19 at 9am PT/12pm ET/4pm UTC.

Women in Science by Rachel Ignotofsky

Mozilla Curriculum Workshop: Copyright for Youth Creators

Webmaker Blog

Wed Oct 12 2016 17:57:37 GMT+0000 (UTC)

Did you know that geoblocking due to copyright restrictions limits video streaming in many countries? Did you know in some parts of the EU, teachers aren’t legally allowed to screen films or share teaching materials in the classroom? In our September episode of the Mozilla Curriculum Workshop, we learned from guest speakers and participants from around the world about how copyright issues are at play in education and how they connect to – or might impact – your local community. Watch the full episode below:

Special guests included:

  • Christie Bahlai, an insect ecologist who works on combining big data with open science to build sustainable agriculture systems at the University of Michigan in East Lansing, Michigan, US
  • Mark Shilltoe, Director of Digital Learning & Media at Gems World Academy in Switzerland
  • Philip Harney, Technical & Educational Content Lead at Coder Dojo in Ireland

After discussing copyright laws, issues, and challenges in various countries as it pertains to education, participants and guest speakers landed on an idea for a useful, working prototype and the framework for a guide was born: “Setting up sharable, remixable projects that abide by copyright law”  (a.k.a. ”Hey! Do you want to share this?”). Guests and audience members posed ideas like:

  • How to begin with openness and ownership in mind.
  • Important questions to ask before starting a project.
  • Incorporating social media into your work (and sharing it).
  • Steps to follow for successfully sharing work online.
  • Open publishing best practices.
  • Available resources for more assistance.

Mark Shillitoe grounded the group’s conversation in students’ rights of ownership over the work they create. As Philip Harney said, “Just because you love it doesn’t mean you own it.” That’s not always clear to people creating content on the web. Caring educators have an important role to play in helping youth understand and navigate copyright and licensing so they can keep ownership of the content they’re proud to create and respect others’ rights to help ensure their own.

Indeed as Christie Bahlai noted, “Teaching copyright is a way to understand your place in the community.” By becoming more conversant with the copyright rules where they live, educators can help themselves and their students understand their places as creators and consumers locally, globally, and around the web.

We’d love your help to build out the guide and make it a resource to share with others. Add your ideas and feedback here and email Mozilla curriculum designer Chad Sansing if you’d like to contribute outside the etherpad. You can also learn more about Mozilla’s work to reform copyright and how you can get involved, here.

If you’d like to learn more about Maker Party and the copyright issues at play in the EU, check out our events page and these resources you can adapt to teach about copyright wherever you’re local in the world.

Unable to tune in at our normal broadcast time? Is audio better for you than video? Then listen to our March, April, May, June, July and September episodes as podcasts! Follow the links for .mp3 versions of each Mozilla Curriculum Workshop.

5 steps to creating a sustainable digital literacies curriculum

Doug Belshaw

Wed Oct 12 2016 11:13:17 GMT+0000 (UTC)

Steps by Jake Hills via Unsplash

The following is based on my doctoral thesis, my experience as Web Literacy Lead at the Mozilla Foundation, and the work that I’ve done as an independent consultant, identifying, developing, and credentialing digital skills and literacies.

To go into more depth on this topic, check out my book, The Essential Elements of Digital Literacies.

 1. Take people on the journey with you

The quotation below, illustrated by Bryan Mathers, is an African proverb that I’ve learned to be true.

African proverb

The easiest thing to do, especially if you’re short of time, is to take a definition - or even a whole curriculum / scheme of work - and use it off-the-shelf. This rarely works, for a couple of reasons.

First, every context is different. Everything can look great, but the devil really is in the details of translating even very practical resources into your particular situation.

Second, because the people within your organisation or programme haven’t been part of the definition, they’re not invested in it. Why should they do something that’s been imposed upon them?

 2. Focus on identity

I’m a fan of Helen Beetham’s work. The diagram below is from a collaboration with Rhona Sharpe, which illustrates an important point: any digital literacies curriculum should scaffold towards digital identity.

Beetham & Sharpe (2009)

These days, we assume access (perhaps incorrectly?) and focus on skills and practices. What we need from any digital literacies curriculum is a way to develop learners’ identities.

There are obvious ways to do this - for example encourage students to create their own, independent, presence on the web. However, it’s also important to note that identities are multi-faceted, and so any digital literacies curriculum should encourage learners to develop identities in multiple places on the web. Interacting in various online communities involves different methods of expression.

 3. Cast the net wide

We all have pressures and skillsets we need to develop immediately. Nevertheless, equally important when developing digital literacies are the mindsets behind these skillsets.

In my doctoral thesis and subsequent book I outlined eight ‘essential elements’ of digital literacies from the literature.


Whether you’re creating a course within a formal educational institution, attempting to improve the digital literacies of your colleagues in a corporate setting, or putting together a after-school programme for youth, the above skillsets and mindsets are equally applicable.

It’s all too-easy to focus on surface level skillsets without addressing underlying mindsets. Any curriculum should develop both, hand-in-hand. As for what the above elements mean, why not co-create the definitions with (representatives of) your target audience?

 4. Focus on creation, not compliance

The stimulus for a new digital literacies curriculum can often be the recognition of an existing lack of skills. This often leads to a deficit model when it comes to developing the learning activities involved in the curriculum. In other words, the course undertaken by learners becomes just about them reaching a pre-defined standard, rather than developing their digital identity.

Oliver Sacks quotation

As Amy Burvall points out through the quotation in her image above, to create is to perceive the world in a different way.

If you’re developing a digital literacies curriculum and have the 'big stick’ of compliance hanging over you, then there’s ways in which you can have your carrot (and eat it, too!) By encouraging learners to create artefacts and connections as part of the learning activities, not only do you have something to demonstrate to show the success of your programme, but you are helping them become self-directed learners.

When individuals can point to something that they have created that resides online, then they move from 'elegant consumption’ to digital creation. This can be tremendously empowering.

 5. Ensure meaningful credentialing

Until recently, the most learners could expect from having completed a course on a particular subject was flimsy paper certificate, or perhaps a PDF of questionable value and validity.

Meta badge

All that has changed thanks to the power of the web, and Open Badges in particular. As you can discover in the Open Badges 101 course I put together with Bryan Mathers, there are many and varied ways in which you can scaffold learning.

Whether through complex game mechanics or more simple pathways, badges and microcredentialing work all the way from recognising that someone signed up for a course, through to completing it. In fact, some courses never finish, which means a never-ending way to show progression!

 Final word (and a bonus step!)

The value of any digital literacies curriculum depends both on the depth it goes into regarding skillsets and mindsets, but also its currency. The zeitgeist is fast-paced and ever-changing online. As a result, learning activities are likely to need to be updated regularly.


Good practice when creating a curriculum for digital literacies, therefore, is to version your work. Ensure that people know when it was created, and the number of the latest iteration. This also makes it easier when creating digital credentials that align with it.

If you take nothing else away from this post, learn this: experiment. Be as inclusive as possible, bringing people along with you. Ask people what they thing. Try new things and jettison what doesn’t work. Ensure that what you do has 'exchange value’ for your learners. Celebrate developments in their mindsets as well as their skillsets!

Questions? Comments? I’m @dajbelshaw on Twitter, or you can email me:

Web Literacy badges in GitHub

Doug Belshaw

Thu Oct 06 2016 12:25:21 GMT+0000 (UTC)

I’m delighted to see that Mozilla have worked with Digitalme to create new Open Badges based on their Web Literacy Map. Not only that, but the badges themselves are platform-agnostic, with a GitHub repository containing the details that can be used under an open license.

Web Literacy Badges

As Matt Rogers from Digitalme documents in A journey into the open, there’s several levels to working open:

In a recent collaboration with the Mozilla Learning team – I got to understand how I can take our work to the next level of openness. Creating publicly available badge projects is one thing, but it’s another when they’re confined to one platform – even if that is your own. What truly makes a badge project open is its ability to be taken, maybe remixed, and utilised anywhere across the web. Be that on a different badging platform, or via a completely different delivery means entirely.

This is exactly the right path for the Web Literacy work and Open Badges work at Mozilla. It’s along the same lines as something I tried to achieve during my time as Web Literacy Lead there. Now, however, it seems like they’ve got the funding and capacity to get on with it. A big hats-off to Digitalme for wrangling this, and taking the hard, but extremely beneficial and enlightening steps towards working (even) more openly.

If you’re interested in working more openly, why not get in touch with the co-operative I’m part of, We Are Open?

Comments? Questions? I’m @dajbelshaw on Twitter, or you can email me:

Community Spotlight: Danielle Robinson

Webmaker Blog

Mon Oct 03 2016 19:42:02 GMT+0000 (UTC)

Many women become empowered in STEM thanks to dedicated people who teach, support and encourage digital inclusion, web literacy and digital equity around the world. As we celebrate Ada Lovelace Day this month, we want to raise up more influential women in STEM across the globe who are passionate about what they do.

Danielle Robinson inspires us to work hard, work open, and teach the web and we’re thrilled to feature her as our community spotlight this month! Danielle is a 2016 Mozilla Fellows for Science, a cell biologist and Neuroscience PhD candidate at Oregon Health and Science University passionate about improving reproducibility and digital literacy in the sciences. She also co-organizes Science Hack Day Portland, and  Open Insight PDX.

Danielle Robinson

Here’s what she had to share:

How did you become involved in science? 

I came to science in a roundabout way. I didn’t consider myself “good” at science as a young person, so I studied painting and spent my early 20s doing all kinds of jobs (mural artist, woodshop teacher, personal assistant, fancy coffee barista, baker’s assistant). Then I had a mid-twenties crisis about my career and went back to school at community college but I couldn’t get into the nutrition class I wanted, so I took Human Anatomy and Physiology instead. It was the hardest class I’ve ever taken and totally changed the direction of my life. I became fascinated with neuroscience and cell biology and thus began my journey. I then went on to work as a research technician at the University of Vermont, and again at Weil Cornell Medical College. I eventually decided to pursue my PhD training in Neuroscience in 2011 at Oregon Health and Science University.

We’re celebrating Ada Lovelace Day this month.  What advice would you share with young girls interested in pursuing scientific fields?

Being a scientist can be the most amazing job in the world – it’s an incredible mix of creativity, problem solving, reading, and communication. My advice is this: Learn to advocate for yourself. Form a network of support outside your lab, because you will need the perspective of others. Develop good mentors when you find them, even/especially mentors in other scientific fields. You can’t usually get all the the professional mentorship you need from one person. So, when you meet someone that you connect with, don’t be shy about asking them to have a coffee and talk about their career. Most people love to talk about themselves, and you might find an additional mentor. Start or join a supportive interest group at your institution or online (@STEMWomen, @BLACKandSTEM, @DiversifyEEB). Stay focused on your scientific and professional goals. Allow those goals to evolve. Take care of yourself through hobbies, relationships, exercise, and mental health care.

Is there a particular inspirational female scientist role-model you look up to?

When I was a technician, I worked for two years in a lab where the PI’s motto was “Let’s get a lot done and have a lot of fun” (said in a southern accent, because even after 30 years in NYC she never lost her Tennessee roots). She was a successful scientist and she knew how to run a lab. She knew how to motivate different types of people, how to encourage group cohesion, and how to deal with conflict. She had run her lab for 30 years and had great stories of how she dealt with the blatant sexism of early days. Usually these stories involved people asking her to do extra work for other people, and her hanging up the phone on them or just saying “I don’t have time for that” and walking away. I will always be inspired by her curiosity, and admire her management skills and ruthless practicality. Cultural norms still need to be changed to make science more inclusive, and it’s the job of our generation of researchers to do it.

What’s your most noteworthy accomplishment related to science and the web? 

In the last year, I have worked hard to bring basic coding literacy to basic science “small data” researchers. I partnered with librarians and other students to develop a series of workshops called Open Insight. So, this is less of a thing that lives on the web, and more of a series designed to help early career researchers manage their data and develop the confidence make a web app. In the next year I’d like to build on this series and work on developing aspects of it that can be disseminated online.

How do you work “open” and what challenges has that presented, if any?

In my field, this is difficult right now. Most working in the cell biology end of neuroscience do not share data until it’s published. Incentives are structured so that scientists don’t want to work openly and share data because of the perception that it will impact their job security. I don’t agree, but I try to be sensitive to this perspective and focus on discussing data management, skill building using open tools, and other neutral entry points with senior researchers. Junior people are generally more receptive to the idea of working open, however our apprenticeship-style training model tends to indoctrinate trainees with their mentor’s views and doesn’t prioritize the adoption of new tools. I try to design educational programs that will reach out to students/post-docs with skill-building opportunities and concrete examples of how working openly can help them succeed scientifically and build transferable skills. I think it’s important that the open community remain connected to our colleagues who aren’t on board, even as we are enticing their students to come talk about the future of publishing with free food.

I do share my general-audience talks, code, and educational projects on GitHub, – but I like my boss and I respect his perspective – so I can’t share our research data or unpublished results.

Tell us more about the Science Hack Day you co-organize. How do you incorporate web literacy and hands-on making?

My goal at Science Hack Day PDX is to get scientists working in interdisciplinary teams and expose them to open source community and resources for sharing information. Scientists have a lot to learn form the open source movement, both philosophically and practically.  Some teams will make something. Everyone will be encouraged to share their project openly.

How can others get involved or connected with your work?

I’d love to connect with other cell biologists and “small data” scientists to talk about what works for them (or doesn’t) to get their research online, share their data, submit to preprint servers, or anything else! Check out Science Hack Day PDX, Open Insight, and follow me on twitter @wispdx and @daniellecrobins

Inspired by this community spotlight? Read about other inspiring stories here.

Baseball is UX

Ricardo Vazquez

Mon Oct 03 2016 12:06:03 GMT+0000 (UTC)

Autumn days are magical. Crisp air, beautiful sunsets, and morning fog so heavy you swear it could carry you away. Autumn days sure are…

Things I’m thinking about

David Ascher

Thu Sep 29 2016 16:58:50 GMT+0000 (UTC)

I realized that I forgot to cross-post here when I posted on Medium, so in case you didn’t know, I’ve left Mozilla and am exploring possible future scenarios.

Thinking it’s probably a good idea to verbalize as I go, as I’m finding conversations to be the best part of my job, and this might provoke some.

Raw Ingredients

  • Lightweight infrastructures, from AWS Lambda and the like to the remarkably fun startup projects emerging on that space, esp.’s Now , Polybit’s Stdlib, Auth0’s Webtask (and what’s coming but still missing)
  • The rapidly evolving Javascript landscape, and other languages from Elm to Eve (and old favorites like Metapost)
  • Learning about the role that software systems are playing in environment-impacting technologies, from smart grids and energy storage to transportation (and avoiding transportation)
  • Reading and hearing about more humane organizational models than traditional VC-funded C-corps, from B-corps to cooperatives.


  • Anything that might help bend the temperature curve
  • Projects that heal or help create healthy communities
  • Projects that combine entrepreneurial approaches, modern technology, and public benefit, whether that’s via research, better government, or just useful products.
  • Problems that are tough because they’re multidisciplinary


Celebrating Ada Lovelace Day & Women in STEM

Webmaker Blog

Tue Sep 27 2016 13:45:32 GMT+0000 (UTC)

We’re celebrating Ada Lovelace Day throughout the month of October and hope you’ll join us in celebrating women in science, technology, engineering and math (STEM).

Augusta Ada King-Noel, Countess of Lovelace, also known as Ada Lovelace, lived in the mid-1800’s and was an English mathematician and writer. She is considered the first computer programmer, as her notes on the Analytical Engine (a mechanical general-purpose computer created by Charles Babbage) are considered to be the first algorithm intended to be carried out by a machine. From Wikipedia, “She also developed a vision of the capability of computers to go beyond mere calculating or number-crunching, while many others, including Babbage himself, focused only on those capabilities. Her mind-set of “poetical science” led her to ask questions about the Analytical Engine (as shown in her notes) examining how individuals and society relate to technology as a collaborative tool.” Read more.

Join us in honoring her legacy by marking your calendars for these upcoming Ada Lovelace Day events!

Mozilla Curriculum Workshop: Tuesday, October 11 6am PT/9am ET/ 1pm UTC

In our webcast this month, we’ll be recognizing the challenges, accomplishments and contributions of women leaders from the Mozilla Leadership Network around the globe. Join to help us build teaching and learning resources promoting women and the web.

Mozilla Learning/Mozilla Science Community Call: Thursday, October 13 8am PT/ 11am ET/ 3pm UTC

The presence and participation of women in STEM is on the rise thanks to the efforts of many across the globe, but there are still obstacles and barriers to overcome. This month, Mozilla Learning and the Mozilla Science Lab are joining forces to explore current opportunities and supports for women in STEM around the world.

Guest speakers include:

You’ll also hear from each of the new Mozilla Fellows for Science to learn more about their work and how they’ve been inspired by women in science. Join our community call on the 13th!

#TTWchat: Wednesday, October 19 9am PT/12pm ET/4pm UTC

Join @MozLearn and @MozillaScience to discuss and celebrate women in STEM during a one-hour tweet chat.

Questions we’ll discuss include:

  • What advice would you share with young girls interested in pursuing scientific fields?
  • What inspirational female scientist role model do you look up to and why?
  • What book/biography changed your perspective on women in STEM and why?

You can also sign up for our monthly newsletter, which includes information about upcoming events, featured teach the web activities, announcements, and more at

Connecting Youth Civic Engagement with 21st Century Skills

Webmaker Blog

Mon Sep 26 2016 16:20:20 GMT+0000 (UTC)

During the the Mozilla Learning community call this month, we had the opportunity to chat with Rachel Roberson from KQED, Andrew Brennen from Student Voice, and Ariam Mogos from Global Kids, to learn more about their programs and campaigns that promote youth civic engagement. Specifically, they shared how they support youth to participate in current events and issues in their communities, and how web literacy and 21st Century skills can enhance opportunities for young people to be more active agents of change.

Here is an overview of each of the programs/campaigns shared by our guests:

Letters to the Next President 2.0 is a campaign led by KQED and National Writing Project to engage and connect young people, aged 13–18, as they research, write, and make media to voice their opinions on issues that matter to them in the coming election. Letters can take the form of collages, photos, videos, spoken word, infographics – any form youth wish to express themselves. The site also features robust resources for educators, from videos to curriculum.

Student Voice inspires and empowers students to take charge of their education by adding their voice to educational decision-making. During this important political season in the U.S., election rhetoric is making its way into classrooms and it’s more important than ever to empower youth in navigating these difficult and relevant topics.

Student Voice publishes an inaugural State of Schools Report, a comprehensive document that evaluates the current climate of America’s schools from the student perspective. Contributions from students are being accepted – get involved by sharing your experience, story, network, or social media presence to the cause by contributing here.

Young Innovators Squad brings together high school students interested in hands-on making by providing opportunities in STEAM (science, technology, engineering, arts, math) and civic engagement across New York City. The program, which was fully co-designed with participating youth, is led by Global Kids and support by Mozilla Hive NYC.

Watch the recording to learn more. If you know of other programs, opportunities or resources that help empower youth to participate in civic discussion, share them with us on our forum.

Curriculum as algorithm

Doug Belshaw

Mon Sep 26 2016 14:57:13 GMT+0000 (UTC)


Way back in Episode 39 of Today In Digital Education, the podcast I record every week with Dai Barnes, we discussed the concept of ‘curriculum as algorithm’. If I remember correctly, it was Dai who introduced the idea.

The first couple of things that pop into my mind when considering curricula through an algorithmic lens are:

But let’s rewind and define our terms, including their etymology. First up, curriculum:

In education, a curriculum… is broadly defined as the totality of student experiences that occur in the educational process. The term often refers specifically to a planned sequence of instruction, or to a view of the student’s experiences in terms of the educator’s or school’s instructional goals.
The word “curriculum” began as a Latin word which means “a race” or “the course of a race” (which in turn derives from the verb currere meaning “to run/to proceed”). (Wikipedia)

…and algorithm:

In mathematics and computer science, an algorithm… is a self-contained step-by-step set of operations to be performed. Algorithms perform calculation, data processing, and/or automated reasoning tasks.

The English word 'algorithm’ comes from Medieval Latin word algorism and French-Greek word “arithmos”. The word 'algorism’ (and therefore, the derived word 'algorithm’) come from the name al-Khwārizmī. Al-Khwārizmī (Persian: خوارزمی‎‎, c. 780–850) was a Persian mathematician, astronomer, geographer, and scholar. English adopted the French term, but it wasn’t until the late 19th century that “algorithm” took on the meaning that it has in modern English. (Wikipedia)

So my gloss on the above would be that a curriculum is the container for student experiences, and an algorithm provides the pathways. In order to have an algorithmic curriculum, there need to be disaggregated learning content and activities that can serve as data points. Instead of a forced group march, the curriculum takes shape around the individual or small groups - much like what is evident in Khan Academy’s Knowledge Map.

The problem is, as the etymology of 'algorithm’ suggests, it’s much easier to do this for subjects like maths, science, and languages than it is for humanities subjects. The former subjects are true/false, have concepts that obviously build on top of one another, and are based on logic. Not all of human knowledge works like that.

For this reason, then, we need to think of a way in which learning content and activities in the humanities can be represented in a way that builds around the learner. This, of course, is exactly what great teachers do in these fields: they personalise the quest for human knowledge based on student interests and experience.

One thing that I think is under-estimated in learning is the element of serendipity. To some extent, serendipity is the opposite of an algorithm. My Amazon recommendations mean I get more of the same. Stumbling across a secondhand bookshop, on the other hand, means I could head off in an entirely new direction due to a serendipitous find.

Using services such as StumbleUpon makes the web a giant serendipity engine. But it’s not a curriculum, as such. What I envisage by curriculum as algorithm is a fine balance between:

  • Continuously-curated learning content and activities
  • Formative feedback
  • Multiple pathways to diverse goals
  • Flexible accreditation

I’m hoping that as the Open Badges system evolves, we move beyond the metaphor of 'playlists’ for learning, towards curriculum as algorithm. I’d love to get some funding to explore this further…

Comments? Questions? Get in touch: @dajbelshaw /

Image CC BY x6e38

Introducing Mozilla Campus Clubs

Julia Vallera

Wed Sep 21 2016 15:48:09 GMT+0000 (UTC)


In 2015, The Mozilla Foundation launched the Mozilla Clubs program to bring people together locally to teach, protect and build the open web in an engaging and collaborative way. Within a year it grew to include 240+ Clubs in 100+ cities globally, and now is growing to reach new communities around the world.

Today we are excited to share a new focus for Mozilla Clubs taking place on a University or College Campus (Campus Clubs). Mozilla Campus Clubs blend the passion and student focus of the former Firefox Student Ambassador program and Take Back The Web Campaign with the existing structure of  Mozilla Clubs to create a unified model for participation on campuses!

Mozilla Campus Clubs take advantage of the unique learning environments of Universities and Colleges to bring groups of students together to teach, build and protect the open web. It builds upon the Mozilla Club framework to provide targeted support to those on campus through its:

  1. Structure:  Campus Clubs include an Executive Team in addition to the Club Captain position, who help develop programs and run activities specific to the 3 impact areas (teach, build, protect).
  2. Specific Training & Support: Like all Mozilla Clubs, Regional Coordinators and Club Captains receive training and mentorship throughout their clubs journey. However the nature of the training and support for Campus Clubs is specific to helping students navigate the challenges of setting up and running a club in the campus context.
  3. Activities: Campus Club activities are structured around 3 impact areas (teach, build, protect). Club Captains in a University or College can find suggested activities (some specific to students) on the website here.

These clubs will be connected to the larger Mozilla Club network to share resources, curriculum, mentorship and support with others around the world. In 2017 you’ll see additional unification in terms of a joint application process for all Club leaders and a unified web presence.

This is an exciting time for us to unite our network of passionate contributors and create new opportunities for collaboration, learning, and growth within our Mozillian communities. We also see the potential of this unification to allow for greater impact across Mozilla’s global programs, projects and initiatives.

If you’re currently involved in Mozilla Clubs and/or the FSA program, here are some important things to know:

  • The Firefox Student Ambassador Program is now Mozilla Campus Clubs: After many months of hard work and careful planning the Firefox Ambassador Program (FSA) has officially transitioned to Mozilla Clubs as of Monday September 19th, 2016. For full details about the Firefox Student Ambassador transition check out this guide here.
  • Firefox Club Captains will now be Mozilla Club Captains: Firefox Club Captains who already have a club, a structure, and a community set up on a university/college should register your club here to be partnered with a Regional Coordinator and have access to new resources and opportunities, more details are here.
  • Current Mozilla Clubs will stay the same: Any Mozilla Club that already exists will stay the same. If they happen to be on a university or college campus Clubs may choose to register as a Campus Club, but are not required to do so.
  • There is a new application for Regional Coordinators (RC’s): Anyone interested in taking on more responsibility within the Clubs program can apply here.  Regional Coordinators mentor Club Captains that are geographically close to them. Regional Coordinators support all Club Captains in their region whether they are on campus or elsewhere.
  • University or College students who want to start a Club at their University and College may apply here. Students who primarily want to lead a club on a campus for/with other university/college students will apply to start a Campus Club.
  • People who want to start a club for any type of learner apply here. Anyone who wants to start a club that is open to all kinds of learners (not limited to specifically University students) may apply on the Mozilla Club website.

Individuals who are leading Mozilla Clubs commit to running regular (at least monthly) gatherings, participate in community calls, and contribute resources and learning materials to the community. They are part of a network of leaders and doers who support and challenge each other. By increasing knowledge and skills in local communities Club leaders ensure that the internet is a global public resource, open and accessible to all.

This is the beginning of a long term collaboration for the Mozilla Clubs Program. We are excited to continue to build momentum for Mozilla’s mission through new structures and supports that will help engage more people with a passion for the open web.

How to bring open source to a closed community

Abigail Cabunoc

Tue Sep 20 2016 04:19:23 GMT+0000 (UTC)

This is (roughly) a transcript of my talk at Strange Loop this year! At least, it’s what I meant to say. Watch the video for all the fun Canada facts and nervous rambling.

Slides made using reveal.js. Screenshots captured using Decktape


First off, I want to thank the organizers for this opportunity. Strange Loop is such an amazing conference – I can’t believe I fist attended with an opportunity grant two years ago. The friendships and community I’ve built here have been amazing.

Let’s get started!


Hi, I’m Abby! This is me. I work for the Mozilla Foundation as Lead Developer of Open Source Engagement. This means I with with the open source projects and community around the different programs at the Mozilla Foundation including Open Science, Internet of Things, Women and Web Literacy, Learning and Advocacy.

Also, I’m from Toronto. This is important because Toronto is great.


A bit of history: I came to Mozilla because of the Mozilla Science Lab. Before Mozilla, I was working in research labs where we were dealing with so much data and analysis. It was easy to see how the openness and collaboration available on the web could make science better.


At Mozilla, our mission is to ensure the Internet is a global public resource, open and accessible to all.

The Science Lab is applying Mozilla’s mission to a specific community of practice. Most of the work I’m covering today was done within the Mozilla Science Lab.


So, today we’re talking about bringing open source to a closed community. Slight disclaimer: this is my story! This is not a how-to that will work for everyone.

The past eight years of my career, I’ve been working on open source projects for researchers and thinking of ways to bring more open source to academia. I want to share some of the lessons I’ve learned and hear from you as we start to expand to other Mozilla Foundation programs.


My story starts with open source. I actually wrote open source code for years before I fully understood this movement.


I find it’s helpful to look at origins of terms and words to help give some cultural context around what this meant at the time.

‘Open source’ is interesting because the free software movement predates this term by over a decade.


In 1997, Eric Raymond published an essay on the state of free software at the time, “The Cathedral and the Bazaar”. He saw two types of free software:

  • The Cathedral is a public space where anyone is welcome to attend a service, but the experience is put on by a small group of people in charge. They decide what happens and when. This is like a development team working on software among their trusted group, then releasing a new version to the public.
  • The Bazaar is an open space where people come along, setup tables and start bartering and selling whatever goods they have. Anyone can come and shape the experience in this space. Raymond saw this happening in Linux at the time, a diverse group full of differing agendas that was able to work together to build a stable system.

Also, I can’t be sure, but it looks like there might be a fire in this Bazaar. Metaphor for open source? :)


This essay inspired the Netscape Corporation to release the Netscape browser suite as free software the following year. This became the basis of the Mozilla Project and inspired the term open source.


I don’t know if you all remember the early 2000s, but there were no browser wars then – Internet Explorer was everywhere. The fact that a group of passionate open source contributors were able to come together and build Firefox, the browser that toppled the giant, was really amazing.


At the heart of open source is the idea that a diverse group working on a problem is better.

But how do we get there? How do we work in a way that brings this diverse group together in the first place?


At Mozilla, we call this “Working Open”, being public and participatory. This requires structuring efforts so that “outsiders” can meaningfully participate and become “insiders” as appropriate.

For me, this way of thinking helped me understand what open source should look like in our day-to-day work.


For the official definition of open source, the Open Source Initiative has ten points outlining what exactly open source software is. Having this comprehensive definition along with the OSI has helped the open source movement stay strong today.


The next part of my story is Science! I worked in research labs writing scientific software for most of my career.


Sometimes, trying to participate in research can feel like this. As soon as I left academia I lost access to most published research in academic journals. Even within academia, institutions can feel like ivory towers where only the invited few can participate.

These drawings are by John McKiernan for “Why Open Research?”


On the other side of the wall, there can be a lot of fear around getting scooped or someone stealing your data. This stems from a lack of knowledge around open licensing options.

Contrasted with my experience in open source, this helped me see that on both sides of the wall, there’s a need for culture change if academia is going to work openly.


One of the first projects I worked on when I joined Mozilla Science was Collaborate, a collection of open source software for scientists. This was a great way to highlight some of the work going on in this community, but after watching these projects for awhile, I learned that researchers weren’t very good at open source.

In general, the projects weren’t as welcoming as they could be. Sometimes, requests from potential contributors for more information would be ignored for weeks. This list of projects still exists today and helps the open science space tremendously, but we thought we could make this better.


This brings us to the final part of my story (and most of this talk): Fueling the movement.


I couldn’t find a definition of 'movement’ that I liked, so I defined it here as “mobilizing a community around a shared purpose”.

One of my favourite visual representations of a movement is a this clip of a dancing guy fro Derek Siver’s TED talk on leadership and movements.

One guy dancing enthusiastically slowly mobilizes those around him. Once you hit critical mass, you have a movement! You watch him change the culture here in a few minutes.


This is a figure from Marshall Ganz’s essay “Public narrative, collective action, and power”. A key part of a movement is mobilizing people to action. This diagram shows how we need both the strategy and narrative (head + heart) to take action.

Working with researchers, many of them want to be working open and collaborating more – you can see how many open source for science projects wanted to be listed in 'Collaborate’. However, there’s a lack of knowledge or strategy around how to do this effectively. This is when we realized we need to make resources outlining the steps involved in running an open source project.


So we started to think about how we can best fuel the open source movement within academia. I think we can summarize it in these three steps:

  1. Resources: Creating the resources needed to mobilize others
  2. Leaders: Selecting leaders in our community. Use the resources we created to mobilize them.
  3. Mentorship: Helping our leaders mobilize others through mentorship.

First up, resources!


To create resources, we did an exercise focusing on the “Working Open” aspect of open source. How do outsiders become insiders on our projects? We’re going to do this exercise now as the audience participation section of the talk!


Think of a place you felt welcomed the first time you visited. This can be in person or online. I’ll give you a minute to think of a place in your head.

Okay, what places did you think of?

Some of the answers:

  • Strange Loop
  • Canada
  • College
  • Niagara Falls


Now, what made it welcoming?

Some of the answers:

  • Strange Loop
    • Everyone is friendly and wants to know where you’re from and what you do. >> friendly, human welcome
    • Food and snacks. >> takes care of our needs
    • Smaller Preconf events >> makes it easy to find connections
    • Opportunity grants >> makes it easy to get involved
  • College
    • Orientation week >> orient people to their new environment, show them where they can get involved and make friends


How can we apply these to software projects?

Some of the answers:

  • friendly, human welcome
    • say hi and welcome new people in chat, mailing list, etc
  • take care of our needs
    • clear installation instructions, contributing guidelines
  • make it easy to get involved
    • good README, starter issues for new people


We went through this exercise and came up with a bunch of ways to make open source projects more welcoming. We came up with these seven points and put together handouts for each point.

I think we came up with a lots of these in the exercise we just did!

  1. Public repository: make sure your code, history, and discussion is public and available on the web.
  2. Open license: this goes back to the official Open Source definition. Make sure your code is licensed in a way that others can legally contribute and remix your work.
  3. README: Especially with GitHub, this is often the people’s first introduction to a project. Be welcoming!
  4. Roadmap: At the very least, break down what you plan to do in issues. This way people know how can get involved and what work you’re looking for.
  5. Code of Conduct: Collaboration is hard and collaboration with a diverse group can be messy. A code of conduct is a good step towards making people feel safe and outlining the behaviour expected in the group.
  6. This is another file that has become more important because of the GitHub experience. Your contributing guidelines can outline how a new contributor can participate in your community.
  7. Mentorship: This is a larger topic that covers both the attitude and strategy needed to make something welcoming and fuel a movement.

I’ll be sharing more about each of these steps later in the talk.


Next part of 'Fueling the Movement’ is investing and mobilizing leaders. We can use the resources we just created to mobilize some of our more involved community members.


We did this at our first Working Open Workshop in February in Berlin. We brought together some of our existing project leads and more active community members. This was a group of people passionate about what we’re doing and eager to learn skills that would help their work be more open.

We put on a two day workshop going over most of the lessons from the Open Source Checklist. We built in lots of time for group work where participants could start applying the lessons they’ve learned to their open source projects.

This was a great start, but we wanted to keep up momentum after the workshop. We’ve all done weekend courses and workshops where we leave with the best intentions, but then life gets in the way and we forget. To combat this, we offered 1:1 mentorship after the workshop.

We planned this workshop to happen three months before our Global Sprint, a two day hackathon on open source and open data projects. The 1:1 mentorship would occur over the three months preparing the projects for the Sprint.

Now we’re going to draw out the movement in action!


We start here with Abby (that’s me!) and Aurelia, Community Lead for the Mozilla Science Lab. Aurelia is also a strong open source developer in her own right. The two of us decided to offer mentorship to all Working Open Workshop (WOW) participants.


27 people attended WOW.


25 of them signed up for 1:1 mentorship. We called this group the Open Leadership Cohort (OLC).


We met with each project every two weeks for a quick 30min check-in.

We started our mentorship meetings by setting goals. WOW was fresh in their minds! We helped set goals around:

  • Their community: what do they want their contributor base / user base to look like?
  • Their product: Will they ship a new feature or release an MVP at the sprint?

Then, we set a loose plan around how to accomplish this over three months. This set us up to be able to do lightweight check-ins every two weeks to see how things are going and where we need to troubleshoot.


As soon as we started, 8 new people were added to the program since many projects had co-leads who wanted to join in.


The yellow nodes are all the people that made significant contributions to mentored projects at the Global Sprint at the end of this round of mentorship. The contributions were significant enough that the project lead decided to give them a shout-out on the Mozilla Science Project Call.

It was great to see the project leads start to engage and mentor new contributors on their projects.


For a bit more background on the Global Sprint, here’s a picture from our 2015 Global Sprint. This year, we had 40 sites around the world all hacking from 9-5 in their time zones.


We saw a massive increase in participation through GitHub activity this year. I think this is directly linked to the resources we made on working openly which we offered to all participating project.


Now that we mobilized the leaders, we wanted to work with them as they mobilized others. We do this through more mentorship.


We selected a few of the people we mentored to become mentors in round 2. We intentionally kept the group of mentors small as we tested this out.


We wanted to test our this type of mentorship around open source in other programs. We asked each program to nominate a few community members for mentorship. We have participants from Open Science, Internet of Things, Internet Policy & Advocacy and more. We paired each mentor with 1-2 participants.

This round of the program started mid-August and is running till the Mozilla Festival (MozFest), Oct 28-30 in London UK. MozFest is the world’s leading event for and by the open Internet movement. All the participants and mentors in the program will be running sessions at MozFest – we’re using this program to help prepare their projects for the festival.


Now we’re going to look at a few stories and lessons we’ve learned going through this experience.


I’m going to go through each lesson from the Open Source Checklist and tell you a story about how that lesson affected someone in the mentorship program.


First up is having a Public Repository and looking at Achintya’s story.


Achintya is a science communicator at CERN and a PhD student in scicomm at UWE Bristol. We’re going to talk about how GitHub usage helped him centralize and organize efforts around his project.


Achintya has an interesting project, Open Cosmics: Cosmis-ray physics for everyone!

For a bit of science background: cosmic rays are high-energy particles that bombard the earth’s atmosphere. This produces showers of particles that we can detect on the earth’s surface. You can even detect these particles with your phone by installing CRAYFIS. You can also get a pocket sized detector from Cosmic Pi.

The problem that Achintya is tackling is that there are all sorts of ways to measure cosmic-rays, but each project stores the data in different formats. Achintya’s project, Open Cosmics, attempts to bring together all these efforts and help with interoperability and data standards.

You may have noticed in the “movement graph” that Achintya brought on three additional projects leads to this project. He was in a unique position where he acted a facilitator between all the projects collecting cosmic-ray data.

At the end of our first round of mentorship, when we asked Achintya was most helpful he said it was learning how to use GitHub for project management. GitHub gave his community a central place to community and the tools he needed to organize and discuss.

Now, Achintya is mentoring two other projects!


So, make sure your code is available! At the Mozilla Foundation we rely a lot of GitHub and have produced some trainings on GitHub for collaboration. But there are many other services you can use for your public repository.


Next, we’re going to look at having an open license and how that helped Rob.


This is Rob! He was fairly new to open source when he joined us.


This is a blurry Rob at our Working Open Workshop. We’re all doing the 'Open Web Stretch’ here. I believe they’re all “leaning left to avoid the NSA”.


Rob’s project was creating a tool built around PubMed Central, a repository for life science and biomedical research. He created PMC-ref, a tool where you input a paper, then it checks which references in the paper are free to read.

It’s a pretty simple tool that can have a huge impact for a life sciences researcher. Especially if they don’t have access to all the big journals.


I mentioned Rob with this lesson, because going through his GitHub repo, he added an open license days after the Working Open Workshop. Yay MIT license!


If you see the yellow dot linked to him, Rob received his first open source contribution ever during the Global Sprint! The contributor, Deborah, actually wrote a blog post about her experience at the Global Sprint and contributing to this project. The fact that he had an open license made this possible and legal.

Rob is now mentoring Minn. Minn is running an interesting session at MozFest around facial recognition to create art and generate metadata.

open-source-strangeloop-2016-063.png is a great resource for picking an open license for your software. For something easy, Mozilla Science recommends MIT or BSD.


Next we have Kirstie who really embraced writing a great README and having welcoming project communication.


This is Kirstie! She’s a postdoctoral researcher in the Brain Mapping Unit at the University of Cambridge.


We recently announced that Kirstie is one of the new Mozilla Fellows for Science this year! Mozilla Science has a fellowship program for researchers who want to influence the future of open science and data sharing within their communities. Fellows spend 10 months as community catalysts at their institutions and building lasting change in the global open science community.


During the first mentorship round, Kirstie worked on her project STEMM Role Models - inspire future generations by providing the most exciting and diverse speakers for your conference. She built a simple database of great speakers for conference organizers to use when planning an event.

Kirstie took to heart the idea that to make our projects as welcoming as possible, we need to have clear and friendly communication. Even here, on her draft landing page, she makes a real effort to welcome everyone at the top.


Looking back at the mentorship graph, Kirstie did such a great job explaining her project she was able to engage a couple contributors who did significant work building an MVP (minimum viable product). Kirstie has a background in neuroscience (not web development!), so watching her bring technologists and designers together to build something she is passionate about was really inspiring!

Now, as Kirstie begins her fellowship, she’s mentoring two projects including a group from the Detroit Community Technology Project. They’re addressing gentrification through storytelling technology and plan to have a booth at MozFest.


We have a few resources designed to help you write a good README and communicate your project.


First is the Open Project Communication handout.


In the handout, we include the Open Canvas, a tool I find very helpful when starting an open source project. Open Canvas is remixed from Lean Canvas, a popular tool from the startup world that helps you make a one page business plan.

I worked with Jordan Mayes from Top Hat, to remix this for open source projects. We removed some boxes that didn’t apply and added more thinking around community and contributors. You can read more about the process of creating Open Canvas in his blog post.

The Canvas forces you to think through the problems you’re addressing and your proposed solution. We divide the canvas in two main sections, Product and Community, to get people to think about their community, what they’re building, and how others will get involved.


Next in our checklist is writing a roadmap, featuring Bastian.


Here’s Bastian!


When I first email introduced Bastian to his new mentee, his mentee replied with “Thanks for introducing the Mark Zuckerberg of open-source genetics! What a great mentor to have!” and linked to this article. I had no idea this article existed! But I am not surprised considering Bastian’s project.


Bastian is a PhD student in bioinformatics, and was working on openSNP (pronounced open snip). SNP stands for Single Nucleotide Polymorphism, a type of mutation that can occur in your DNA. openSNP let’s you upload your 23andMe (or any other genotyping service) results online. You can learn more about your results, find others with similar genetic variations, and help scientists discover more genetic associations.

When Bastian first uploaded his genetic data on GitHub (before he made openSNP), he received an email from someone who found the data online and analyzed his genetic report. The analysis said he might have an increased risk of prostate cancer. Since this type of mutation is inherited, he told his dad to go to the doctor. They found a tumour growing in his dad’s prostate, but they were able to catch it in early. His dad is alive and well today.

OpenSNP benefited greatly from going through the Roadmapping exercise! I worked with Bastian and Philipp (co-lead on the project) to plan out a few features and fixes that needed to be done. This helped then identify the need for new volunteers and shaped up a few projects they could submit to Google Summer of Code (GSoC).

By making a roadmap, they were able to accomplish a tremendous amount in a few short months. You can read about their GSoC experience on the openSNP blog.


We have a couple exercise you can go through to write a roadmap for your project. Writing down what you plan on working on helps new contributors know where they can get involved.

A roadmap can be a simple as a collection of issues in your issue tracker to a comprehensive wiki outlining the future of your project.


This handout walks you through picking a few milestones and breaking down the tasks needed to get there.


Next up is code of conducts with Richard.


You might notice from the graph that Richard wasn’t part of the first round of mentorship. Richard was actually a 2015 Mozilla Fellow for Science. He did some amazing open source work during his fellowship year, I thought he would be a great mentor.

Notice the moss beard in his avatar.


Sadly, he doesn’t walk around with a moss beard in real life. This is a picture of Richard and his partner Steph at MozFest 2015. MozFest is so awesome that we had capes, buttons, and fox masks. You should come.

I listed Richard under code of conducts since he has an incredibly thoughtful approach when writing documentation for communities.


You can see the code of conduct Richard wrote in the last link, Slidewinder Code of Conduct.

In this particular code of conduct, he has a section called “Open [Source/Culture/Tech] Citizenship” that outlines the goals of having an open culture and encourages others to reward welcoming behaviour. I think this is incredibly important as we’re trying to build welcoming communities.


If you get stuck, Mozilla Science has a CC0 code of conduct you’re free to take, remix, and use however you like!


Next is Contributor guidelines and Tim.


Tim was a physicist at CERN when we started the program. He recently moved to Zurich and is now a tech consultant.


Tim was working on Everware, a project trying to address reproducibility in scientific software. Everware uses Docker to launch an instance of a jupyter notebook directly from a GitHub repository.

Tim cares a lot about reseach reproducibility. I first met him at a hackathon a CERN where he first launched Everware and ruffled some feathers with his insistence that we need to focus on better research reproducibility.

Now, Tim’s mentoring two other groups including one looking at research reproducibility, ReFigure.

Tim and the other Everware developers wrote some great contributing guidelines that helped quite a few people get involved before and during the Global Sprint.


For resources, we have a guide that walks you through creating your contributing guidelines.


The file should be named and placed in your root directory.


We break down the different parts of your contributing guidelines in the exercise.

Open with some cheer! You should celebrate someone looking to contribute to your project. Then, introduce the document and explain what these guidelines are for.

The bulk of the document should be some how to guides on contributing, along with expected norms the group follows, like a style guide.


The naming convention has become popular since GitHub integrates this in their interface. If there’s a file in the root directory of a project, GitHub will display this notice as the top of the page whenever someone opens a new issue or pull request.


The last step is our catch-all for attitude and process, Mentorship. Here, I’m highlighting Madeleine since she’s done a great job including and delegating to others.


Right off the bat, you can see how connected her node is in the graph since she’s been able to bring so many people into her work.

Madeleine is a PhD student at the University of Toronto. Madeleine not only runs an open source project with us, but she also runs a weekly open science meetup at her school, the UofT scientific coders.


Madeleine (on the left) actually spoke about running events at our Working Open Workshop because of her experience with the UofT scientific coders.


Her project is phageParser which uses open data to better understand CRISPR systems. CRISPR is all the rage nowadays because it’s opened the door for faster and cheaper targeted gene editing.


CRISPR stands for Clustered Regularly Interspaced Short Palindromic Repeats. In the diagram the black diamonds are repeating DNA. In between the repeats are spacers. Spacers are pieces of DNA from a virus that attacked the system. The CRISPR system saves the virus DNA so that if it comes across the virus again, it can recognize it and cut it out, hence targeted gene editing.

Madeleine’s group realized that there are many openly published genomes with CRISPR systems. Her project is trying to collect and analyze these systems to try to find patterns and learn more about CRISPR.


Madeleine was able to engage so many people during the Global Sprint that she ran out of tasks for new contributors. I’ve noticed that Madeleine is naturally good at finding tasks and asking others for help, both in her project and with the UofT scientific coders.

At her first UofT scientific coders meeting, she delegated registering a club, managing the GitHub repository, and baking cookies for next week. Most of those people are now the green dots co-leading the group.

For those of us who need some instructions on how to delegate and involve others, we have a few exercises to help you start thinking about mentorship.


Good first bugs can be a great way to give a new contributor a small win when they first start working on your project. Identify a few smaller issues that would be appropriate for someone completely new to the project. Ideally the hardest part of completeing this issue would be setting up their development environment.

This helps you reward new contributors sooner.

Another exercise that helps you think about a contributors progression through a project is the Personas & Pathways exercise. This gets you to create a persona of an ideal contributor. Then, you can outline their pathway from when they first hear about the project, to their first contribution, to becoming a maintainer, to maybe even running the project when you’re ready to hand it off.


To summarize, these resources are helping us mobilize leaders in the open source movement.


Combined with trainings and mentorship, we’re working to fuel the open source movement in science, advocacy, learning, IoT and more.


I mentioned MozFest a few times, you should all come! It’s a lot of fun and you can meet a lot of people and projects I highlighted in this talk.


MozFest really is a place where “you can make things that matter”


Huge thanks to the many people that took part of the mentorship program as participants, mentors, and content creators. There’s a lot of people that made this happen.


You’ve all been awesome!


Thank you!

I talk about projects from a lot of different fields in this presentation. I’m not an expert in all these fields, so I may have explained something wrong here. Happy to make corrections! Please be kind!

PhD Fieldwork, Day 1: A Researcher in Residence at the Tate (^.^)

Kat Braybrooke

Fri Sep 16 2016 15:24:09 GMT+0000 (UTC)

Today is a big day in the web-wolf glitter land that is my PhD. After a crazy and wonderful year of reading, discussing, traveling and (over!)thinking everything there is to think about spaces for digital making, cultural institutions, methodologies and open creative practices, I start the pilot stage of my doctoral fieldwork at the Tate Britain, situated within the ever-colourful Taylor Digital Studio as its new Researcher-in-Residence. I have consent forms ready from the University of Sussex, about a thousand web broswer windows open on the Tate’s computers, a T4 file full of community photos and about 20 pages of to-do’s - and yet, it feels no small task to get started.

As a part of the study I’m undertaking with the Tate and other cultural institutions in the UK, my aim in hanging out, messing around and geeking out at these spaces, in addition to implementing more formal qualitative methods like participant observation and interviews, is to engage with the situated knowledges and actor-network theories of Donna Haraway, Bruno Latour, Doreen Massey and other great thinkers as a user myself - not as an “objective” researcher, seemingly removed from the environments I am actually an active part of. This is because when we make things in a space like the Tate’s Digital Studio together, we all become connected - whether we happen to be a computer, a workshop participant, a gallery curator or an observer. We all help make these sites what they are. Without these interactions, a makerspace is just a conglomeration of infrastructures, plaster and walls alone, without meaning or identity.

This project’s data collection starts, perhaps fittingly, with making. From September to December, I’ll be spending my Fridays in the Studio, collaborating with other PhD and researcher groups and with the Tate’s excellent Digital Learning team members, while playing the role of both researcher and designer through a few different hands-on projects. The first intervention I’ll be working on is SPACEHACKER, an evolving artwork that I’ll be launching as part of MozEx, an exhibit curated by the Tate and the V&A as part of this year’s Mozilla Festival in London. SPACEHACKER implements critical and speculative design models by asking participants to sketch out their imaginaries of a digital space that members of their community would feel welcome at. For those interested in getting involved (I’d love collaborators on this project!), I’ll be presenting it along with a few other (mega talented!) MozEx artists in this public pop-up at the Tate on October 10th-11th.

Community making at a workshop entitled “Wandering Ruins” in 2014.

While learning about speculative user imaginations of digital spatiality through this artwork, I’ll also be working with Tate teams as a design practitioner, building a digital mosaic website on the ever-excellent Tumblr platform that highlights the many workshops and community happenings that have occurred at the Digital Studio since it opened in November 2013. Through these hands-on methods and more traditional qualitative observation and interviews, I hope to help build a public-minded narrative of the myriad experiences of users at this site, and the groups who have helped bring them to life - while building an understanding of the politics and institutional apparatuses of access, ownership and power that may also weave themselves around these interactions. My goal with this multi-level approach is to keep the research process as open, iterative and participatory as possible - which makes blog posts like this (and the discussions they bring about) just as important to me as formal academic journal articles and conference presentations. It just wouldn’t feel right to not share this work openly with the communities of makers, thinkers, curators and users who are actually involved in it!

As you can probably tell from my e-tone, I’m massively excited to be getting started on fieldwork this autumn with the Tate and other institutions who are quickly becoming pioneers of digital participation by mixing spaces for making with cultural spaces. I will keep sharing work here as it evolves, and in the meantime I’ll be heading to Johannesburg for a few days to see whether there are similar-minded initiatives that merge culture with digital learning and making in their communities (have any ideas? Please let me know!), and I’ll also be talking about these ideas and others on a panel entitled “Who is the digital revolution for?” in Brighton at the end of this month for those who are in town. Summer may be winding down and the days of sun getting shorter, but it’s shaping up to be an exciting autumn - and I’m already looking forward to meeting, making and thinking these ideas over with many of you throughout it!