Webmaker Teaching Kits as “Invitations to Connect”

September 02, 2014
By Educator Innovator

Summer is a wakeful and wily tinkerer’s tale about freedom and justice – it’s told with light and scribbled in a notebook hacked with stars.

Or at least that’s the way it seems to me after working with all sorts of teachers and learners engaged in the Summer to Make Play and Connect. I came to this greater connected learning project as kind of a coach this year, helping friends allied through Mozilla and the National Writing Project prepare for #clmooc and level-up their teaching through trainings and ‘Teaching Kits’ built with Mozilla’s Webmaker platform.

Drawing inspiration from exemplary activities and kits like “I believe in an open Web because… and the Lo-Fi, No-Fi! Teaching Kit, we built collections of activities around learning opportunities like Hack Your Notebook Day and efforts to support Net Neutrality. To support aspiring makers, many of us also joined in the conversations on Discourse, Webmaker’s community forum for anyone interested in learning to build the Web.

I took a lot of joy from working with my co-designers and talking with educators like K-Fai Steele from Maker Jawn about their work and how it resisted traditional educational formality.

For a long time, I’ve worked to limit the impact of ‘official’ curricula on my kids’ learning, but writing with and for my friends felt different and right. We didn’t create our activities and teaching kits as mandates; to the contrary, we meant them as invitations to connect through appropriation and remix. Teaching kits, as framed by Webmaker, escape the trap of most static curricula not only by allowing remix, but also by paying equal – if not greater – attention to the contributors and participants using and remixing the kits to teach, learn, and build the open Web and its connected community.

I think it’s right to resist using something like a Teaching Kit to ‘make’ someone learn something, but the Webmaker ethos and its attendant community of Mozillians make it abundantly clear that it’s people who power teaching and learning and that Webmaker and similar communities, networks, and projects are there to connect those people on a journey towards a more equitable future, online and off. In these broadly distributed and warmly supportive spaces, educators, technologists, makers, thinkers, tinkerers, teachers, and open educational resource (OER) developers have all come together to advance people, as well as their Web skills.

What I’m trying to say is this: when my co-designers and I set out to share what we loved, we knew that we could only offer our perspective on how to learn it. We used Webmaker and the Teaching Kit structure to invite others to do the same so that our work could become part of a long trail of starting places describing an arc of learning toward a people ready, willing, and able to program society for good in playful and serious ways.

We need remix. We need localization. We need contributors – like students – to take our work and toss it or remake it in their own images. Each Kit is the beginning of a conversation that starts something like, ‘Wouldn’t it be great if we all made…?’ Naturally, some of the activities kits are going to come from and speak to very specific audiences like kids learning in metropolitan maker spaces. Others will come from and speak to educators in formal settings who feel nervous about both the technology at hand and their capacity for protecting time for open learning inside very closed schools. Others – around the world – will teach through the Internet itself. Some contributors and participants will need help teaching something they already know, while others will need helping learning something they’re eager to teach. Some people need help translating what works back and forth between spaces new and old.

The kinds of activities and teaching kits populating Webmaker and other open educational resource repositories are really proxies for us, the makers, standing as markers – our conversation begins here. It ends somewhere better. There are all these other people to meet and learn from along the way. We just need to listen and speak, call and answer, make and re-make.

If you’re interested in reading more about teaching and learning with Webmaker, check out these Web Literacies resources, as well as these pro-tips and top-tips for beginning activities and making kits of your own. You can browse other Webmakers’ contributions, get help building your first kit, and join the on-going Maker Party.

by Chad Sansing