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?'”
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.
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:
- develop learning content (MDN, Webmaking 101)
- creating tools and processes (Popcorn, Firefox, Open Badges)
- direct teaching and facilitated learning (Hackasaurus, support of Seneca College, School of Webcraft)
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.