I keep delaying this post because I’m not sure where to start in describing my incredible trip to Athens Greece for Webmaker training days. ‘Incredible‘ only begins to describe the experience of learning, friendship, of being actually seeing Athens, and the generous Greek Mozillian community who took such great care of spoiled us.
So what was Mozilla Reps Training Days? Well, training days brought together 40 reps from all over the world . We spent time observing a Hive Popup in Athens, and another another two ‘training’ : exploring ideas for our local communities, setting goals, being empowered as teachers and mentors – and generally connecting as a global community over a common goal of spreading web literacy.
And that last point is really amazing if you think about it, and it was powerful to experience: Mozilla Reps – volunteers from Uganda, Greece, Keyna, Canada, Indonesia, Romania, India, Brazil, Argentina (and many more) gathered together over the shared value of creating a web literate generation . I, from a tiny West Coast town and someone from an entirely different part of the globe, with vast differences in culture and language, blended effortlessly together during these days in Athens. The world feels forever smaller.
I left with great respect, admiration and love for our close group, and for our Mozilla Foundation Hosts: Michelle, Laura, Mark, Chris and Gunner.
Day 1 Take-aways (Athens Hive Popup)
I was really interested in the Athens Hive Popup, because we’re trying to organize one here in Victoria. I was super-impressed with this event, but also felt this was a ‘doable’ locally which was reassuring.
Stations were setup for making opportunities ranging from robotics to Popcorn Maker. Youth were divided into groups of 9 (I think it was) and circulated through stations. I liked this better than a free-floating style, because it meant kids would have opportunity to try everything, including those things they might avoid if unsure.
There were enough *different* types of making opportunities, that participants stayed engaged: Popcorn, Playlab, Robotics, Thimble (webpage Remix), Storyboarding, Stop Motion, Makey Makey and a few others… I think Victoria could pull this off as well.
I also think variety can lend to a event theme. Halloween Popup?
From the Icebreaker through to the end, the energy was palpable. Credit to this goes to the obvious fun of the event, but also the energy and enthusiasm of the volunteers and station leaders were were having fun too.
Each station was setup, ready to go and I later found out – tested the day before and it showed. I think our local version should consider this same approach if possible, nothing worse than those technical difficulties at the last minute, and I liked the idea of testing everything a full day prior.
There were a lot of volunteers, you can never have too many and I noticed that a lot of the volunteers were youth. A takeaway here is that we can hopefully involve some youth groups in YYJ.
Fill the Gap
Something I felt could have happened in Athens, that we could consider in YYJ is filling the Gap between ‘people arriving’ and the ice breaker. We had a lot of talented people even among Reps who could have been ‘doing demos’ of some cool technology related to the event. I think this would be a good way to get participants thinking bout why they were there and have that informal learning happen as a result of participants and mentors ‘mingling’.
Language and Collaboration
Wishing I could understand some of the conversation between learners as a way to see what they thought of the event, of some of the Webmaker tools. One thing I did observe at the Thimble/Popcorn station was a lot of sitting, and waiting for help. Or, that the more vocal kids moved ahead quickly because they sought help, while others seemed to struggle a bit until someone noticed. I wonder if collaboration/team projects could have helped here.
Day 2 & 3 Training Days
Last to circle-singers
I had unplanned learning opportunities at this event, one was actually in a small segment where we paired up to teach each other something. My partner Pablo taught me about CartoDB, which since then I’ve learned a lot more about on my own time. I took mental notes on how Laura, Gunner, Michelle and Chris facilitated our group as something I am trying to get better at (speaking in front of grownups – kids are easier).
I learned a lot about other Reps countries, their challenges and goals – and could align most to my own. I learned that I was in the company 0f some very smart, passionate people making the world a better place through actions, not by talking about it – but as directors of change in their local areas. I felt incredibly honoured to spend these two days learning together.
Personally I worked on a plan for organizing a mentor meetup this April, with the support of our local Webmaker group I hope to bring together interested youth leaders to hack on some Webmaker tools for an afternoon.
Day 4 Take-aways (Teaching Greek children at the British Consolate#2)
On the last day, our Reps had the opportunity to teach groups of Greek children at the British Consulate. We were divided into groups and assigned age groups, I led a group of four reps assigned to the 13-15 yr old group, which was promised to be approx 25 kids (if I remember correctly). We prepared a bit for this day during training days, and for some other Reps this meant better understanding Popcorn Maker which was our Webmaker tool for this event.
My take-aways tend to be things I wish had gone better, sorry this is just how my mind works! I think overall it was an amazing experience and a beautiful day of learning.
The day-of, unfolded a little differently than expected (but the unexpected *is* expected at events like this ). We ended up with a merged crowd of two groups since we shared a room – so approx 40 kids? I never did count.
Before I go to takeaways, I want to say how awesome it was running this room with Ioana : we worked together as if we always had, I adore and miss her already. Move to Canada Ioana.
When I say we merged two groups, we actually made a choice to do this – as an alternative to pulling a divider across into two much smaller spaces. It seemed doable at the time, but the mistake I think we made was to treat the room as a single group – I think icebreakers could have been done separately still, or we could have had each group take turns asking the other group ice breaker questions. I think even share-outs could have been done separately (we went over time because of this).
And yes crowd control, having prepared methods of getting participant’s attention (clapping response etc) would have given us a lot more control.
I think we handled the bad internet connection quite well all things considered. I’ve run enough events to actually think ‘oh the internet dropped – I wondered when that was going to happen’. Because I have run events previously around paper prototyping, it was easy enough to grab paper, draw squares and have learners focus on planning their popcorn story while the internet connection was sorted out. I think this went well for most, except for the less patient kids who wanted no part of ‘planning’.
We had a couple of boys using their ‘Open Web bracelets’ to wack each other in the ear, and some kids who really didn’t appear to be listening to their Rep leaders at times. I wonder if removing the collaborative element could help kids like this, one on one. When it came time to show their work, they were actually quite engaged in the topic, and the Webmaker tool – but too distracted to accomplish much.
I think of three kids when I think of the success of this day:
- ‘Volcano Kid’ This was the very engaged child, who in the two hours he worked on it, completed a full narrative of a video on Volcanoes, which he presented to the group with a presenters confidence, adding is own voice narration to the presentation. He was amazing, and clearly the Webmaker tools were something that gave his imagination wings.
- ‘The girls who worked with Viking’ (photo above), they were so engaged, and Viking was such an amazing mentor that this group propelled itself. Just watching them work together, share-out with both serious and silly projects was a joy to watch.
- ‘the quiet kids’ Volcano Kid is probably the kid that does well academically anyway (not that this makes him any less amazing), so it was with as much appreciation that I saw the work accomplished by one of the quieter kids in the room: a thoughtful presentation on the earth, and he pride in their faces made this entire day worthwhile.
Spontaneous Ice Breaker, and my new fear of spontaneous ice breakers
The only thing I wished to erase from my memory is attempting the ‘Hack the Dance‘, without ever having seen it done, and with my nervousness over teaching with adults in the room. This icebreakers basically meant that Reps had to do a silly dance, that kids would hack. I realize I need to visualize things like this beforehand, or at least participate on one first. Not that this is a likely scenario ever again, but I can actually say this was hard.
I loved Athens
I loved visiting Athens Hacker Space
I loved everything in Greek – including the Webmaker sign and the Victoria Station
I loved touring Athens – especially visiting the Acropolis, which took my breath away.
I loved spending so much time ‘in person’ with my Mozilla Rep friends family.