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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

Where did the kids go? Exploring Interaction at a Science Museum Exhibit

A post by Naomi Thompson

Hello! My name is Naomi Thompson and I’m entering my 3rd year in the Indiana University Learning Sciences program. Dr. Kylie Peppler is my advisor. I’m interested in intersections between art/making/play and STEM, especially in informal spaces. Lately, I’ve become increasingly interested in museums, such as science centers, as really interesting places for these intersections to thrive. Science centers and museums especially can provide many opportunities to redefine what comprises STEM, and provide young children with powerful hands-on experiences. Museum exhibits for children are generally designed to provide whole-body, interactive learning experiences. Observing these interactions can provide meaningful insight into how children engage and learn across various kinds of settings.

Where did the kids go? Exploring Interaction at a Science Museum Exhibit

A Child Playing with Water Works at Wonderlab, photo by Chris Higgins

For a graduate seminar titled Knowing, Designing, and Learning with Dr. Sean Duncan, I got a chance to spend a few hours observing The WonderLab Museum of Science, Health, and Technology in Bloomington, IN. It’s a popular space where children and their families often spend considerable amounts of time playing with and learning about a wide array of scientific concepts. I found myself hovering around the Water Works water table, fascinated by the children’s play with water and toys there. This exhibit is part of various clusters of activities through the museum meant to uncover “how things work.”  It entailed a large, cylindrical container that was partially raised above the surface of the shallow pool in the table, I called this the vortex. Water inside was constantly spinning in a downward spiral, sucking along anything small that was placed inside, and sending the objects back out into the general pool. The majority of the visitors playing were small children, mostly younger than 5 years old. As young children often do when they learn about something new and exciting, they tended to repeat their actions, picking up brightly colored plastic balls and dropping them into a water vortex over and over, fascinated by the results each time. Alternatively, the children could toddle to the far end of the table, which was full of pipes, fountains, and faucets, and send the balls down a ramp that allowed them to be shot into the air by a strong fountain. The balls would then roll down a guide wire and plop back into the water vortex. These children seemed to be having so much fun, I wish I had gotten up to play with them. I was curious to see what might happen as this activity evolved over time.

During my second day of observation, just about all the brightly colored plastic balls had gotten stuck at the top of the fountain, unable to roll down the wire into the water vortex. One boy with brown hair, a little older than some of the others, sent the last ball up, apparently to see if it could jog the others loose. He watched to see what would happen, and when this ball got stuck as well, he played with other parts of Water Works briefly before walking away. By this time, very few children were left at the table – only three slightly older children compared to the usual six to eight young ones – and parents had noticed that all the balls were stuck. Some parents around tried using sticks and toys to knock them down, and briefly saved a few that promptly got stuck again. Finally, a parent went to get a staff member who used a broom to knock them all down. Moments later, almost without my noticing, there were six young children playing at the table again with the colored balls circulating nicely along their paths.

It was really interesting to witness what changed with children’s interactions, when a breakdown in the exhibit occurred. Whether it was a temporary flaw, or it was purposely created to occasionally “break,” there are interesting implications here for what engages young children, and what learning opportunities exist when things break. When do children try to fix the problem, and when do they decide to move on to something else? It would be really interesting to study these moments of accidental and on purpose “breaking,” and look into how different children in different settings respond to these setbacks. Is there something about informal settings that lets kids feel like they can try a new activity if something isn’t working for them? Or since the stakes are lower, do they feel more able to work through problems if they want? What roles do adults play in these situations? I’d be interested to hear ideas and suggestions from others about this line of thought!