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“Character Education” with quotes.

There are people in the world who think that their world vision is better than yours. People allow their cultural and societal norms to dictate what kind of face they put on, and everything about their behavior. Some people are a certain way online, and a different way offline. They are one way in groups of people, and another in private. This identity thing is a passion of mine. The whole who am I? What’s wrong with me? Am I ok? The associated stress and anxiety associated with my being comes from years of being alive. Or maybe it’s because my brain has been considering it since I started reading.

Lately, I’ve been trying to pull myself together again after a string of identity shaking occurrences that started happening a couple years ago. It doesn’t matter the specifics, but there have been people who said “You are not allowed” and attached it to some commentary about my personality that resulted in my brain understanding “You are not allowed to be who you are.” Others have made me feel like I’ve been shut out because of who I am. Still others have tried to build me up, and I’ve felt guilty when I wonder about true motives. I have spent time trying to understand why I am how I am, and I have spent time trying to forgive myself for it.

It’s a struggle to reflect on your being. It is a struggle to strive towards being a better person by reflecting on your individual traits and becoming mindful of how you affect the world and people in it. It’s a struggle to hear someone say

“You aren’t allowed to be who you are”

and stand up and say

“Oh, yes I am. You are in every way my equal, flailing human who also doesn’t know what the fuck is going on.”

I can’t look back and say “Oh, I’m being stubborn right now because of my seventh grade character card.”

Humans absorb a thousand different lessons through a thousand different experiences that lead to the development of character. I am confident that character grows and shifts and changes based on those experiences. Predetermining desired character traits (who the hell are you to say what makes up a good person?) and then pretending like you can teach them is…god it’s so crazy.

Anyway, just needed to rant on that for a minute. I might start using #SoWhatIfIam to talk about social and cultural norms. It was a joke when I was tweeting yesterday, but this keeps coming up. Bucking social and cultural norms has something to do with leadership development. I’m quite sure of it.

What’s next for Laura?

TL;DR My last day at Mozilla already happened, but I’m still me. I bring together disparate parts to foster learning, spread openness and design for participation. I’m a creative generalist who likes to make stuff, and I’m open to exploring opportunities.

About 5.5 years ago I took a broken dream to the first Mozilla Festival (at the time it was called Drumbeat) in Barcelona. Going to this festival with my struggling project was a last ditch effort, I was hanging on, trying to make it work.

Drumbeat was the place that I was finally able to let go, start over, try again. The people I met there gave me new ideas, they introduced me to a way of working that fit with how my brain operates. Drumbeat lit a fire under me. I met Mozillians.

photo by Mozilla Europe

I’ve resisted the status quo because when I questioned it, I don’t received satisfactory answers. Over the years, Mozillians taught me how to focus my defiance towards a common good. It’s that focus that has cultivated me and my way of being in the professional space.

I believe in open, and I believe that what Mozilla is trying to do for the world is a just cause. Openness can be hard, but in my experience the right thing is always more difficult.

Last Monday was my final day as a paid contributor, and I’m in the process of detangling Mozilla from my own identity. We’ve grown up together in this community. We have rallied around a nascent vision and made it something that is resonating throughout the world. I am proud to have contributed to every aspect of the Foundation’s work – from strategy to learning design to prototyping to evangelism to community management to production – I’ve helped Mozilla innovate in the teaching and learning space.

Our work has inspired people, and I’ll always be a Mozillian. But I want to be more too. Mozilla is a part of me, but it can no longer define me.

What’s next for Laura?

photo by Doug Belshaw

I don’t know what’s next for me, and that’s ok. I will continue to think and write and make and learn and fail, and I will continue to embody the open ethos. Even when it’s hard, especially when it’s hard. In the immediate future, I will pause, breathe and take stock. I can literally do anything with the competencies and skills I’ve developed and honed over the years. That feels like a powerful invitation to do the right things.

There is a lot of right in the world. I’m looking for something where I can design learning/engagement opportunities, develop leaders and apply open practices, digital/web literacies and all things geeky. I want to help people/orgs grow, collectively, as they allow me to grow together with them. I want to shift power structures and community dynamics, be a voice for people who need one and just be who I am – defiant, curious, unwavering in the ideals of open.

If you think you have a right thing for me, let me know. You all know how to find me. laura [at] this domain is where you started interacting with me in 2010, and it’s where you can continue to do so. You can also find me on twitter or LinkedIn (or just google me, I’m all over the web). I hope some of you reach out – there are plenty of wonderful memories and new ideas to discuss, and I will always be here for my Mozilla friends.

Collapsing Open Leadership Strands

Missing context? Catch up with recent posts tagged with "Methods & Theories".
A couple weeks ago, in the Open Web Leadership call we talked about the last iteration of the Open Leadership Map (OLM) (notice: this call has been changed! New pad + details here). One of the things that we discussed was the idea that theory and practice are too often separated – that understanding theory is important for improving practice, but practicing is important for understanding. It’s cyclical, so trying to divide the competencies we believe are necessary for leaders in the Open Community into arbitrary theory/practice based groupings is simply not necessary. Upon conclusion of that discussion, we decided to collapse the “Understanding: Participatory Learning” and the “Facilitating: People, Processes and Content” strands together. Makes sense, right? To have “what you need to know” and “how you wield what you know” as “What you need to know and how to wield it”? While working through this, I made some decisions based on our conversations, so I’m particularly interested to hear your thoughts on how this worked out: [caption id="attachment_2592" align="aligncenter" width="500"]Collapsing Open Leadership Strands click for the enlarged version of the Open Web Leadership Map[/caption] First, as discussed, “Making” replaced “Prototyping” as the competency, and I moved Prototyping as a note on topics to cover (we may yet get to the granularity of skills!). Next, I moved “Open Practices” and looked at “Making” and “Open Practices” in concert. Design thinking, it was noted, fits well under making, but what seemed to work better was exploding the term “design thinking” into the steps in the process and organizing them under these two competencies. It was here that I started moving around what I viewed as mainly thinking versus mainly producing – to clarify, I say “mainly” because we are constantly producing AND thinking with our methods, so Making + Open Practices are always in concert with one another (for open leaders anyhow). Aside: We had discussed that the terminology “Open Thinking“ isn’t right, but I did find it difficult to not want to address just how brain-heavy ideation, reflection and analyzation can be. Also, I sort of threw out “Connected Learning”. I was thinking that “Connected Learning” as a model comes in during a content step, rather than a meta organizing step. Though, at the same time, I found that “web literacy” as a model can be included because I feel that web literacy directly contributes to the ability to make, teach, organize and sustain learning for the web. All of this was the hard part of the iteration. Afterwards, I simply moved all the topics from under participation to under “Promoting Action” because designing for participation is about promoting action IMHO. I also see a congruency between “promoting action” and “mobilizing community”, so I’m looking forward to continuing the conversation. Another thing we should talk about – naming for this strand – in the meantime, I called in “Facilitating: Participatory Learning”. Looking forward to hearing what folks think! Join us on June 2nd 16:00 UTC (18:00 CET / 12:00 ET / 09:00 PT) and share your thoughts, or leave a comment / tweet at me / tweet using #teachtheweb or send me an email :D

Iterating organizing structures

Here’s another stab at trying to nail down the competencies and topics leaders in the open community need to have and an organizing structure for Teach Like Mozilla. I’ve worked in the initial suggestions from the community, and made quite a few new changes as I was sorting and organizing content from across Mozilla Learning – seeing those resources just made me realize how complicated sorting mechanisms can be. Iterating organizing structures After thinking that “Facilitating” encompasses a series of skills and behaviors that are embedded in many of the other competencies, I changed the second strand to include facilitating as an overarching concept. I also slotted “developing leadership” under participation because I feel like mentorship and personal/professional development among collaborators is part of participating with an open ethos. Then I swapped "playtesting" as an overarching competency and replaced in with "prototyping" of which I feel "playtesting" plays a part. We can discuss all this and more in this week’s Open Web Leadership Call! Or leave comments, contact me on twitter or start a discussion in Discourse, whatever your preference, I’d love to hear what you think ;)

Open Web Leadership

Over the last couple of weeks, we’ve been talking about an organizing structure for future (and current) Teach Like Mozilla content and curriculum. This stream of curriculum is aimed at helping leaders gain the competencies and skills needed for teaching, organizing and sustaining learning for the web. We’ve been short-handing this work “Open Fluency” after I wrote a post about the initial thinking.

Last week, in our biweekly community call, we talked about the vision for our call. In brief, we want to:

“Work together to define leadership competencies and skills, as well as provide ideas and support to our various research initiatives.”

We decided to change the naming of this work to “Open Web Leadership”, with a caveat that we might find a better name sometime in the future. We discussed leadership in the Mozilla context and took some notes on what we view as “leadership” in our community. We talked about the types of leadership we’ve seen within the community, noted that we’ve seen all sorts, and, in particular, had a lengthy conversation about people confusing management with leadership.

We decided that as leaders in the Mozilla Community, we want to be collaborative, effective, supported, compassionate for people’s real life situations. We want to inspire inquiry and exploration and ensure that our community can make independent decisions and take ownership. We want to be welcoming and encouraging, and we are especially interested in making sure that as leaders, we encourage new leaders to come forward, grow and participate.

I believe it was Greg who wrote in the call etherpad:

“Open Web Leaders engage in collaborative design while serving as a resource to others as we create supportive learning spaces that merge multiple networks, communities, and goals.”

Next, we discussed what people need to feel ownership and agency here in the Mozilla community. People expressed some love for the type of group work we’re doing with Open Web Leadership, pointing out that working groups who make decisions together fuels their own participation. It was pointed out that the chaos of the Mozilla universe should be a forcing function for creating on-boarding materials for getting involved, and that a good leader:

“Makes sure everyone “owns” the project”

There’s a lot in that statement. Giving ownership and agency to your fellow community members requires open and honest communication, not one time but constantly. No matter how much we SAY it, our actions (or lack of action) color how people view the work (as well as each other).

After talking about leadership, we added the progressive “ing” form to the verbs we’re using to designate each Open Web Leadership strand. I think this was a good approach as to me it signifies that understanding, modeling and uniting to TeachTheWeb are ongoing and participatory practices. Or, said another way, lifelong learning FTW! Our current strands are:

  • Understanding Participatory Learning (what you need to know)
  • Modeling Processes and Content (how you wield what you know)
  • Uniting Locally and Globally (why you wield what you know)

We established a need for short, one line descriptors on each strand, and decided that the competency “Open Thinking” is actually a part of “Open Practices”. We’ll refine and further develop this in future calls!

As always, you’re invited to participate. There are tons of thought provoking Github issues you can dive into (coding skills NOT required), and your feedback, advice, ideas and criticisms are all welcome.

Open Fluency

Open Fluency

Open Fluency I’ve been thinking about lenses on the Web Literacy Map again. Specifically the “Leadership” component of what we do at Mozilla. In his post, Mark called this piece fuzzy, but I think it will become clearer as we define what “leadership” in the context of Mozilla means, and how we can offer professional development that brings people closer to that definition. What does it mean to be “trained” by Mozilla? Or be part of Mozilla’s educational network? What do the leaders and passionate people in our community have in common? What makes them sustainable?
What do we need to cognitively understand? What behaviors do we need to model? How do we unite with one another locally and globally?
I have some theories on specific competencies a leader needs to be considered “fluent” in open source and participatory learning. I’ve indicated possibilities in the above graphic. The Web Literacy Map Doug Belshaw and the Mozilla community created is extremely relevant in this work, which is why this post is using the word “fluency” – to indicate the relationship between the map and this lens on it. It feels like leadership in our context requires fluency in specific competencies - the highlighted ones on the web literacy map above. There is a lot of content for professional development around teaching Web Literacy. I’m working on collecting resources for an upcoming conceptual and complete remix of what was Webmaker Training (and before that the original Teach the Web MOOC). Last week in a team call, we talked about my first attempt to use blunt force in getting the Web Literacy Map to cover skills and competencies I think are part of the “Teach Like Mozilla” offering at Mozilla. I made the below graphic, trying to work out the stuff in my brain (it helps me think when I can SEE things), and I immediately knew I was forcing a square peg into a round hole. I’m including it so you can see the evolution of the thinking behind the above graphic: Open Fluency I’d love to hear thoughts on this approach to placing a lens on the Web Literacy Map. Please ask questions, push back, give feedback to this thinking-in-progress.

On the Archive

The Internet Archive in the Bibliotheca Alexandrina, mirror of the Internet Archive in San Francisco (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Yesterday I got to hangout with the #DMLCommons folks in the blog garage (complete with tools) to talk about our views on blogging.

In that conversation, we talked a little bit about control and how driving your own online space, and caring for your online presence is so important to your career (and life) pathway. I mentioned (a few times) how important it is to me that I create an archive of my thoughts, ideas, processes and Jim expanded with the fact that it isn’t just an archive, it’s an open, searchable, interactive archive.

Lee followed up with a point about how blogging doesn’t always need to be open. I internally agreed because I have another one, you know. Another archive. One that isn’t open, searchable or interactive. I have my personal pathways in a mess of journals, files, floppy disks (yes, truly), CDs and external hard drives. My closed archive is personal, but Lee’s point was that some topics can’t be explored in the open because it’s just not safe. Sad, isn’t it, that we haven’t come far enough as a species to truly transcend judgement and practice unconditional empathy?

Anyway, I was just thinking about this mess of me, and it makes me happy to know that someday I get to organize it. Then, I read this article about the Internet Archive, a brilliant, important non-profit organization that is working to archive human knowledge, and I became even more excited that I will be able to look back not only at my personal and professional pathways, but also the cultural pathways the web allows us to document.

Just another reason I love the web.

Order the Chaos

Yesterday I wrote this post, but I forgot to post it… Yesterday, Doug said that I tend to bombard people with ideas, which overwhelms them. He told me that I need to start resurfacing my ideas, and making connections for people, so they can see the big picture. He told me to stop moving onto the next thing before people have grokked the work I’ve already done and how their work links to it. [caption id="" align="alignright" width="216"] Control the Kaos! (Ahem, I'm not old, just retro.)[/caption] That’s not how Doug’s feedback hit me at the time, I processed it. It was good feedback. When I got quiet, Doug said “I wasn’t trying to piss you off,” but I was just processing, reflecting, trying to stand in his shoes. Yesterday, I was presenting a sort of napkin sketch I had put together. In my mind the sketch was pretty worked out. I had documented the way that I would do a particular thing, the plan that I would put in place, and to me it was clear enough that someone else could take it and build it. As the meeting continued, I realized that my colleagues couldn’t see the picture I saw in my brain. My napkin sketch didn't demystify the system. I didn’t order the chaos in my head well enough for them to connect the dots. When I got quiet, someone said “Laura, you look very concerned,” but I was just processing, reflecting, trying to stand in their shoes. Apparently I make faces when I’m trying to understand other people’s minds. Yesterday, I posted something in the connected courses forum for Unit 3: The World Wide Web - From Concept to Platform to Cultures, and Jeffrey Keefer said
That is one of the things I am struggling with in #ccourses anyway; what central hub to go to when I get behind and somewhat disoriented. Good thing for me to consider, now that I am considering it, as I hope this exercise helps to sensitize me more to my students who may also feel disoriented at times.
When I got quiet, I processed that statement and equated the disorientation with fear of the chaos, the need for order, and I started to reflect on how my understanding of order may be different from other people’s understanding. I think this fear rears it's ugly head when you're learning about technology, and we tend to look at people who "can computer" as being gifted in some way. We think "I could never do that." I’m failing because I am not ordering much of my work in a way that other people can understand. I can’t see where the disconnect is so I’m not sure how to fix it. I think not being able to see is something we struggle with when we're learning about technology, and just like in any other situation it cripples us with frustration. We think "I'm never going to learn this!" I'm failing because I’m not doing well at helping people order their things so that we can link our work together. I think we don't help each other enough. In anything. But that might be another story altogether. I'm failing and it hurts, but at least I’m learning. Now I can push myself to figure out how I have to present things so that people can see the connection, so that they can understand the system. I am not a finisher, but I have to learn how to pull my ideas further. When we're learning, we have to be brave. Learning is chaos, and chaos can be scary, yes, but I think any system can be tamed, ordered, reigned in. I have to learn to order the chaos in my brain better, and be brave enough to keep failing.

Love the Lurkers

A couple days ago I had a BIG conversation with Bill Mills, the Community Manager for Mozilla Science Lab, about open learning, designing for participation, online engagement, collaboration, inspiration and a bunch of other metaphysical ideas that I often create practical implementations for. During our conversation, Bill asked if I had any advice for designing learning experiences that can engage and activate the far ends of the introvert / extrovert spectrum, and I said something along the lines of “The extroverts are easy, and the introverts just need time.”

Later, I was mulling this over and thinking about how hard it is for an outgoing person such as myself to understand people who are shy or don’t participate the way I do. I was thinking about why in our online spaces we have so many people lurking and so few participating. Why don’t more people contribute?

Then I got an email from a blog I follow, and I realized I’m a lurker too. For almost two years, I’ve been lurking around a community that I quite admire. I’ve never said hello, never reached out, never participated in the challenges, or submitted a comment. I’ve not gone to any of their events. But I read what they’re talking about, and I try out their ideas. My life has, without a doubt, changed for the better since I started lurking in this particular community. And no one on Earth knows it, except for me (and you, kind of, though you don’t know what community I’m talking about or the topics they care about).

That website, and the people who participate there, have done a fine job of designing for participation. They have made me feel welcome, I feel like I know people there, I trust those people to a certain extent. I wonder what they’re up to when I haven’t been around in a while. So why don’t I say hello? Why don’t I say “Hey guys, you’re a cool community, thanks for the things you’ve put out in the world. It’s helped me,”?

Simple: I don’t feel like I need to.

I have a global community I like, the Open Community is where I choose to spend my time interacting online. I have the issues that I want to discuss in the open, and the themes of this other place I lurk around aren’t things I feel like I need to discuss. But I’m growing, I’m a better person, I support what they’re doing over there.

We can’t force people to participate, and if we really care about educating people, we shouldn’t try. We should build and design for the people who are participating, and we should be careful to ensure that the lurkers feel welcome. We should create safe spaces of learning and mentorship where even those who don’t complete the call to action still start to develop trust in us, in our products. The fact is you are always a lurker before you participate, so we should be careful not to push people away by implying that they don’t count if they aren’t like us. If we work to love our lurkers, maybe some of them will find their reason to participate.

New Modules at Webmaker Training

In the two weeks that lead up to the September 15th launch of Connected Courses (#ccourses), a connectivst experience to help you build your own connectivist experiences (META), Howard Rheingold, Alan Levine, Jim Groom and the organizers of #ccourses will be helping you get set up with your own space in the web, so that you can start blogging, building your network and otherwise practicing openness.

In a happy coincidence, Webmaker Training is posting two under-development modules that can help you understand the ins and outs of building your online presence and beginning to tinker around with the web.  The “Building an Online Presence” and “HTML Basic” modules are renewed and remixed, maker centric intros to becoming a master of the technology behind open learning. Using peer to peer methodologies (hey, this content was built together with P2PU!) and clear production oriented tasks Webmaker Training can help you learn everything you need to know to have your own space of the web.

The entire Webmaker Community is eager to #TeachTheWeb, and we’re looking forward to helping people who are starting to dabble. Have a look at the modules, and pop into our discussion forum or a community call and ask questions, share ideas and get advice.

Looking forward to making and learning with you.