Jan 09 2013

The Mentor Community Says…


This is re-posted from fellow Mozillan Laura Hilliger’s blog, Zythepsary.

Last month a group of us at Mozilla scheduled a series of interviews with people in the Webmaker community who are engaging on the level of what we call “mentors”. These are the people that are actively participating in spreading the Movement. People who are running webmaking events, trying out ideas, giving feedback and making as they learn. And learning as they make.

We talked to about 80 people over the course of two weeks. We created a guideline for ourselves and used it to focus in on some of the questions we have around participation, content, and needs. We learned A LOT about our mentors and about how Webmaker looks to them. This post highlights some of the commonalities we found.

  1. The Making is Learning narrative needs to surface quickly
    One of the things we noticed in our conversations was that a lot of people have been trying to understand how their “thing” fits in the Webmaker initative. Maybe their “thing” isn’t explicitly surrounding web technologies, maybe their “thing” is based in the physical, rather than the digital, world. Last year we spent a lot of time talking about “Program or be programmed” and coding. But it’s not just code that we care about. This is quite clear to the people that participate at a deeper level, but the narrative of Making is Learning seems to be confined to our core community and those people that show up to events. This year we need to communicate more clearly and widely the pedagogy we use (Connected Learning, Constructivism, Making is Learning, interest-based, hands-on, etc), so that people from both the wider Learning Movement and the wider Maker Movement understand how they are Webmaker Kindred Spirits.
  2. We need an ethos offering
    When we run events, we talk about and embody the open web, collaboration, participation, digital citizenship. Webmaker is more than just code, it’s political, it’s active. Tying back into the first point, this is a message we need to surface better to the public. In this case, via content. How can we reflect the ethos principles we champion in the Open Web Community in our content? How can someone learn about the tenets of openness via projects?
  3. Mentors are asking for help understanding the soft skills of mentoring.
    Things like human development, facilitation techniques, and other practical resources for the actual process of mentorship are needed. We need to create and curate a library of reusable resources (like slide decks, visuals, forms, etc) for mentors to use, hack and expand on. We have the beginning of this library on the Teach wiki. If you have resources, contribute them (just edit the wiki)!
  4. People are having a hard time finding resources, thus are lacking confidence to teach, run events, or design their own agendas
    Blame the mullet. We have lots of resources and documentation in the Mozilla wiki, but we don’t have a good way to surface things (yet). What we need to think about is a way to remix, reshuffle, and repost agendas and hacktivities. A Playlist for Mentors. It’s important that we figure out a way to post the “songs” in a way that people don’t get overwhelmed with the details at the get-go. Right now, the hacktivity kits are overflowing with details. Necessary details. But to pull more mentors in, they need a quick overview and a way to hack. The details can be a level below.
  5. We need ways to matchmake
    No surprise here, mentors want to figure out who else in their local area is working in this domain. Educators are looking for technologists and vice versa. Webmaker can and should help matchmake. Perhaps this is simply by using location tags in profiles, perhaps this is a more robust community outreach initiative. In any event, people who are active in a learning or technology community should reach out to other communities. There are tons of online communities that are open and accepting, and you never know when something you say or write will change the way someone else works, thinks or acts. So be social!

In 2013, we’re (and when I say “we” I don’t just mean Mozilla staffers, but rather the entire Webmaker Community) going to create clear, organized and dynamic hacktivities around the soft skills of mentoring. We’re also going to figure out lighter touch on-ramps for mentors to form their own playlists for learning events and then share them so that others can remix. We’re going to matchmake and spread the open ethos, and we’re going to show people that they are kindred spirits.

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