the Webmaker and the Meat of my Job Description

At Mozilla we’re working on something we’re calling the Webmaker. It’s a couple of things, but at the base level it’s an underlying, consistent toolset that can be used to create or participate in learning experiences.

I’ve been thinking on this thing for a while (since draft one), and I haven’t said anything much about it yet. I will now rectify that. As I’ve said in previous posts, I am a systems thinker. I can’t understand the pieces and parts without understanding the whole. I’ve been doing a little drawing.

The tool is modular and slotted to have seven overarching components:

  1. the Editor
  2. the Mission Library/Maker
  3. the Gallery
  4. the Badge Issuing widget
  5. the Assessment Builder
  6. the Template Collection
  7. the Hacktionary API

My drawings slightly disagree.

First, I collapse the Gallery and the Template collection. The Gallery is supposed to be “A place to save / share / show off / invite remixes of the things you create,” while the Template collection is “Starting points for things you might want to remix or just tinker with for learning reasons.” I don’t see any reason to separate the two because

  1. separating them will lead to confusion from the user on which is which (“Hey, what’s the difference b/w this set of thumbnails and that set of thumbnails?”), and
  2. I think we should give people the ability to remix each others work.
  3. Further, I think that we can designate remixes from originals and learning templates from ‘non learning’ templates (ie those that were not prepared with learning in mind) through metadata and filtering, rather than the creation of two different collections.

Secondly, I’m dump the “Mission Library” (ie templates of learning missions) into the Gallery (as I’ve defined it above). The Missions should be tagged, filterable, etc, but I don’t think there needs to be a separate collection for them.

The “Mission Maker” on the other hand, is definitely separate from the Missions. It is “a way to create guided learning experiences and games.“ The Mission Maker helps people create Missions which are learning templates that live in the Gallery – make sense? Good.

Ok. Here’s where I ended up:

  1. the Editor
  2. the Gallery
  3. the Mission Maker
  4. the Badge Issuing widget
  5. the Assessment Builder
  6. the Hacktionary API

But there’s something missing for me. Another component. The lost consideration. The Meta level. The glue. The Interface. The thing that all of this sits inside. The thing that tracks progress, gives an overview of the system, recommends pathways for learners that need guidance, brings in social. The thing that makes this a personal experience for people and gives them the ability to learn what they want. We need to talk about that at some point.

We can do that later. Let’s go back to the Mission Maker:

Right now, there’s a few of us defining and building the initial “missions” (AKA Learning Templates) for people to use during the Summer of Code Party. That same group of people is trying to figure out the “Mission Maker”.

I must, at this point, reference Audrey Waters who has been talking and writing about Bad Pedagogy for a while now. Last year she talked about Codecademy’s lack of pedagogy and how Khan Academy’s lecture demonstrations aren’t special just because they’re using technology (agreed on both counts). Just yesterday she quoted an article in the New York Times:

“The challenge for Codecademy and others catering to the hunger for technical knowledge is making sure people actually learn something, rather than dabble in a few basic lessons or walk away in frustration. “

“Making sure people actually learn something.” That sentence is what I consider the meat of my job description. We build fun, exciting things, but at some level someone needs to step back and say, “That’s very cool, but the learning that happens there is completely peripheral.” If we’re going big in learning, then learning is the focus.

If we’re going to give people a tool for creating their own lessons, then we need to figure out the flow, functions and wording required for a NON educator to make learning experiences that actually teach something. Yesterday I did a quick hack to begin thinking about this. At this most basic level, a non educator MIGHT have enough prompting to be able to make something that could be used for learning. Is Mozilla, with this particular tool, creating a product or a process? Because Missions should support learning, I feel the Mission Maker needs to be about both.

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the Webmaker and the Meat of my Job Description

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