Being Educators: Mozilla and Me

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There’s ongoing discussion about Mozilla’s role as a ‘teacher’ and how it fits alongside that of “inventor”. In a recent blog post, Mark Surman wanted to find out whether “Mozilla as teacher” resonates and what other terms might be appropriate.

Having spent the past year with Mozilla helping people learn, I wanted to respond, both with how Mozilla could position themselves and, in a secondary post, on what Mozilla should teach.

Mozilla as ‘teacher’?

“What’s a less top-down word than ‘teacher?'”
@openmatt

When identifying Mozilla’s teacherly role it’s useful to look for a friendly term that implies trust and doesn’t intimidate potential participants. It should encourage collaborative participation and new ways of learning together and on the web. Mozilla should, with this word, be represented as teacher, mentor, innovator, expert, facilitator, guide, communicator and technician.

So, they’re not just a teacher then…

If not a teacher, then what am I?

It’s a tough ask and it struck a nerve. Over the last years of fine-tuning Twitter profiles, blog “About” pages and public speaking bios I looked for a similarly encompassing term to convey my old role within School of Webcraft and beyond.

I wanted to be a “learning [r]evolutionary”. It implies change whether it happens slowly or fast. But it takes some explaining, a commitment to questionable square brackets and is problematic when used on passports and visas.

I am here for the learning revolution

CC-BY-SA - Bill Moseley

For a long time I primarily identified myself as “learning activist“, but I was stuck with a term that intimidated some people and confused everyone else. When an activist isn’t agitating for change, what do they actually do?  Well, sometimes I teach, I facilitate, I develop educational tools, I research and learn, and most importantly I believe that we can continually identify better ways for people to learn. How to convey that complexity?

In the end I’ve reclaimed “educator” as the umbrella term with which I can start [and end] discussions about what it is I actually do. It’s understandable, can be taken seriously, but most importantly it communicates that my primary goal is to help people learn. Sure, “educator” is a little unsexy and at times can be formal, but in the end, it unpacks to include roles such as teacher, mentor, edupunk and activist.

Education involves consciously setting out to learn. It also involves certain values and commitments.
infed.org: “Being an Informal Educator”

There definitely is some reclaiming that needs to happen for “educator”: to extricate the identity from degrading formal educational systems, to divorce the term from its relationship to “instruction” and “knowledge transfer” and to site it as a role which covers the many ways in which people consciously help others learn.

By reclaiming “educator” can we also make it useful for Mozilla?

“Mozilla as educator”

I have a feeling that Mozilla as “Educator” has resonance and a better scope to describe the range of projects that support people learning to use and make on the web:

In just the same way that “Mozilla as inventor” can unpack to allow discussions of Mozilla as hacker, innovator and creator I think it’s important to easily convey that Mozilla can be teacher, mentor and facilitator, and generally an educator.

Metanoia: Mindshift – a ‘freestyle’ learning workshop

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As part of the Free Culture Incubator (FCI) series, I’ll be running a workshop in Berlin at the end of August on self-organised and free learning culture framed around the question:

How we can navigate, define, share and remix our own learning in ever-changing contexts?

More information and registration form at the Transmediale website.

Ela Kagel asked me in 2010 to present an open learning topic as part of FCI workshop series. I’m really grateful for this opportunity to meet with other people and discuss the challenges of learning “openly and freely” outside (and between) formal education contexts.

I’m conscious that we’ll end up raising more questions than we find answers, but longer term I’m looking forward to the continued discussions that will emerge.  One of the subgoals of the workshop is to identify ways in which these discussions of a new learning culture can continue.

As the workshop is only for half a day our immediate output will be restricted, but what we do produce will be released under an open license, with both participants and everyone else invited to respond.

If you’re unable to attend due to time or geographic reasons, it would still be great to hear your voice. To share a statement, ask a question or offer a resource, please sign-up to the workshop wiki.

Shaping the Crowd – Subnet Talk

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The lovely people at Subnet posted the video of the talk I gave in Salzburg at the end of March on “shaping the crowd” and open-learning and identity.

subnetTALK: Pippa Buchanan – shaping the crowd from subnetTALK on Vimeo.

I mention P2PU and School of Webcraft a little bit within the context of new places for learning, but primarily this talk is about how we can take control of our own learning by sharing and being open and reflects on my own experiences with the DIY Masters project.

Slides for the talk are available at Slideshare.

Brand Eins Article

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This is slightly belated, but following the Drumbeat Festival: Learning, Freedom and the Web, both the School of Webcraft and myself were mentioned in an article from German magazine Brand Eins.

You can read a web version of the article (minus all the photos) here.

 

School of Webcraft talk at Hackerspace Adelaide – Feb 9th

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My partner and I have been located in Australia and New Zealand for the last month or so, both trying to keep up with work while we catch up with Antipodean family and friends. In between fighting the never-ending battles against our email inboxes and waking up at odd hours to join in community calls, we’ve also been speaking to audiences about our work and personal projects. So far we’ve spoken at two Dorkbots – one in Canberra in the middle of December and last week for Dorkbot Sydney at Serial Space (Thanks Pia!).

Next week we head further west towards my home-town of Adelaide and into deeper time-zone confusion. It’s the first time I’ve been back home in over 2 years, and on Wednesday February 9th I’ll finally have a chance to talk about what I’m working on to a South Australian audience.

I love A-Town. Linocut print by Pippa Buchanan

I love A-Town. Linocut print by Pippa Buchanan

I’m really excited to share P2PU, School of Webcraft and Drumbeat with my family and old friends.  What’s even cooler is that we’ll be talking at the Adelaide Hacker Space which is hosted by Format. I’ve been following the founding of Format space, the festival and related projects like Renew Adelaide ever since I left for Europe and it’s exciting to know that such exciting collaborative and DIY projects are running in Adelaide. I have a feeling the participatory and DIY background of Format and the Hacker Space group will provide a really great context for talking about peer learning and the open web.

On the same evening my partner, Tim Boykett will  be talking about experimentation, collaboration and research at  Time’s Up, the art collective and research group he’s been a member of since 1996.

You can find out information about both talks and the Adelaide Hacker Space here.

Where: Format, 15 Peel Street, city.
When: 6pm, Wednesday February 9th
Cost: Free
Facebook event: link