Running a Webmaker Event (Popcorn)

This weekend, I had the great opportunity to chat with some other Mozilla Reps organizing hackjams, specifically this time using Popcorn Maker (yay), and so during the process of this conversation I realized how much I had gone through, learned, considered and maybe…not documented so well. 

This is my  first attempt at that.  As a Web Developer and Educator-wannabe, I’m not sure if my attempts at event design are coherent, but I  hope this blog post can help others who want to organize an event using Popcorn. Definitely welcome feedback/collaborative opportunities to grow something even better.

*Although based on our Victoria Popcorn Hackjam, this blog takes from my experiences running classroom, Thimble, Hackasaurus, reading/talking to others (HIVE) and strengths as a community (non profit/fundraising)  organizer.

Planning ~ Things to Consider.

1. Outcome/Objective

Identify some key learning objectives for your event.  Consider ages when planning the complexity of objectives, but also expect that younger children catch on and carry on very quickly.  Group strength/interest is also key (children vrs young fillmakers, code-keen hackers)

Some possible objectives (please suggest more):

  • Understanding Web Native Cinema
  • Creating Video
  • Adding Context to  Video with Popcorn Maker
  • JavaScript

We only had one child make the leap from Popcorn Maker to JavaScript .   If you have an group strength / interest in programming and mechanics of the web, a simple leap is to export the Popcorn Source ie:

 pop.wikipedia({ 4 start: 0, 5 end: 10, 6 src: "", 7 title: "this is an article", 8 target: "wikidiv" 9 });

changing values of start, end ( as we do in Popcorn Maker UI) .  Then referencing the documentation for more plugins.

Consider also rewarding accomplishments, I know Mozilla is working on a set of Webmaker Badges, which will integrate with Webmaker tools – but if that seems a bit much to plan in advance, you can do as I did and create an event certificate.

2. Theme

Theme can be anything you can dream up!   If you are on campus, a theme could involve campus history, school motto – it could focus on a political argument.  For a group of video savvy teens,  focus on movie genres,  literature or historical figures are all ideas.  Lego, school spirit – story telling.

2. Duration

Keeping your participant engaged and challenged, will depend on how well you structure your event.

This post is based on our experiences running a 4 Hour HackJam, Story Camp is an example of a more focused event (so a medium length hackjam could be a remix of ideas and activities in all of these).  Would love to hear about others.

3. Event Venue and Technology

Streaming video on You Tube, remixing with Popcorn Maker all require decent a decent internet connection.  Some additional considerations:

  • Venue Restrictions – public libraries for example limit access to sites like YouTube
  • You will need HTML5 capable browser like FireFox
  •  If you have younger children, consider Google and YouTube safe search
  • Collaborative Space

4. Setup – Lists!

I recommend planning out the computer setup prior to your event.  Planning setup like setting Google safe-search, opening up Popcorn Maker to the event template are all things that save time and talk on the actual day.

As a part of setup, keep a list of all things ‘you need to print’ (like signs, lab setup instructions, certificates, paper-popcorn stuff).

5. Volunteers/Skills

Depending on who you are, and who is helping you organize and run this event, ensure you understand commitment, and skill-sets available.  Volunteers might be enthusiastic but unclear on what role they can play.  Consider drafting a list of all the areas of help you might need (this will also help limit the number of times you have to explain).  Here’s one I made.

Additionally, consider providing some brief introductions to the technology and ideas behind Popcorn Maker (Webmaker) for volunteers who may only be just learning about Web Literacy and our work with Mozilla.  Here is one I made, here is a better one from Mark Surman.

I also created a Thank You card, for our volunteers – but sadly the printing came off wrong.  Instead I sent personal emails to each volunteer in thanks.  I hope to get better at this part.

6. Event Materials

Paper Popcorn – story-boarding can come to life in a variety of ways, but usually requiring some creative materials (pads of paper, crayons, markers, post-it notes, magazines).

Name tags, swag, table cloths, PENS, registration sheets…
7. Event Video

If you have a theme picked out, consider creating an event video.  This video can set the tone for your theme, and come pre-popcorned as a teaching tool.  Checkout this one we did for Victoria’s Popcorn Hackjam : spaces in the story were filled in by children using their own Popcorn events.

8. Sharing

Participants have spent time ‘making, creating – Popcorning!’  . How, as a group do you plan sharing?   This is definitely something you want to decide on and setup in advance. Popcorn Maker allows you to share in a number of ways.
Some ideas:

  • Create an event Tumblr Blog and have participants submit their creations.
  • Create a Facebook event page
  • Create a Twitter hastash tag and have participants tweet their work
  • Create a YouTube Channel for uploading video (if required)

9. Breaks / Technology Down-time

Depending on the length of your event planning breaks for sunshine and sandwiches is a good thing !  Additionally having other non-computery things to make in the room (like Lego, or Jenga  provide much needed digital downtime.)

12.. Photography

If, as part of your sharing you want to post photographs of your event, ensure you have proper permission from participants (especially children’s parents/guardian)

 13. Media

Aside from the fun,  the opportunity to collaborate and learn, I see Webmaker events like this as an opportunity to *show* people (parents, students, educators – anyone who will take a moment ) what web literacy is all about, how much fun it is – and why it’s important.  Take some time to draft a paragraph or two on the fun and details of your event, but also how it ties into the global movement of Webmaker .

This tweet has been going around via MoFO types:

Mozilla Webmaker: a quick way to make, remix or tweak a webpage or 
video while learning how the web works.

A Media release, might include this Tweet, and more on turning consumers of technology into ‘makers, creators innovators’. Be passionate, clear and don’t forget include event details and contact information!

(I’m hoping through MozFest discussions a Media Kit will be born)

Event Design


Introduction should include your theme, lab rules, introductions.  It could include a brief overview of your agenda, an introduction to Web Native Cinema (I use this video from   Popcorn Story Camp library ) , and group conversation on ‘what it means to remix/hack’.  It’s always great to let participants TELL YOU what they think hacking/remixing means, and then follow up .

Ice Breaker

There are a lot of great ideas out there for icebreakers, we created a Webmaker Bingo to introduce the idea that remixing is something we do every day, in every way.  Participants were required to find others in the room who could answer ‘yes’ to the Bingo questions.   At a previous hackjam we had a puzzle icebreaker (‘the web is made up of many pieces’)


* I really want to invent a Webmaker version of Evolution (AKA Rock Paper Sissors Ultimate) .

 Paper Popcorn/Story Board (if appropriate)

In our larger hackjam, and in smaller groups I have experimented with storyboarding prior to hacking of our event video.  Mostly this has been a ‘miss’, because my event learning objective has not been strongly focused on story telling AND because kids just want to ‘get to the computers’ once they can see what Popcorn Maker does.

I had the opportunity to chat with Leah from the HIVE about their Popcorn event – Hacking Little Brother  , where their participants were already video-savvy and Paper Popcorn was embraced.   I think with younger children, presenting ‘a story’ PRIOR to showing them Popcorn version is the best way to ensure they focus on the ‘story first’.

So, in the case of our event video – I would provide only the story, and a bin of markers, glue, speech bubbles – then set them loose.

Popcorn Maker Introduction / Event Video

If you have used Paper Popcorn to get to this point , they know the story (context/theme) and now is the opportunity to show them what Popcorn Maker can do with your story and the Web.  Really, not a lot of talking need to happen here  – a demonstration/ review of Popcorn events is enough to get participants ‘started’.   I like the idea of less yack/more hack (phrase by @sleslie)

Popcorn Maker – more advanced ideas

Once participants have had a chance to change existing Popcorn events, it’s time to show them more advanced features.   Of course, you may already have had questions about these as some learners race ahead!

This would also be a good place to step users through ‘Sharing’ their work.

Complementary Hacking

Although this was a Popcorn Maker event, we wanted to make sure that we had other options available should some learners race ahead, or lack interest in the initial challenges.  We had two stations setup with Mozilla Thimble and Xray Goggles.  Challenges can be issued for these as well  (here is a summer-themed challange we had for a previous event.

Popcorn Maker Challenge

Once the group has edited their event video (hacked it, remixed it and creating something they want to share), they’ll likely want to go to the next level and make something entirely from their own ideas.   Simple guidelines of this next step could be:

  1. (in groups or individuals) create a documentary or story
  2. Video tape your story
  3. Import to YouTube
  4. use Popcorn Maker to add context and complete their story


  1. Pick your favourite music video (and yes I’ve seen this done with Oppan Gangnam Style :)
  2. Remix/ using Popcorn Maker


  1. Find a newscast, or documentary on Youtube
  2. Make it funny/scary/romatic/gross using Popcorn Maker


Sharing work through Youtube, Tumblr – whatever method you have chosen is a fun and full-circle way to enjoy the success of your learners and the fun of making with your participants.  If you’ve been working with kids, it’s an even better way to show parents what  Webmaker is all about.

Additional Thoughts


Our event was free – and although that is indeed a great thing, I wonder if I should have included donation to foodbank, or some ‘pay it forward’ activity for children.  I leave that as a question, because I haven’t tried this yet.


Helpful to all of us running these events are FEEDBACK, what works, what isn’t working – what do people in our communities want next?

I made a list of questions for volunteers  and one for participants  (these are just the questions I made to use with Survey Monkey.  I found out in the process that Mozilla has a couple as well  for participants and event host.

Keeping your community connected

Regular meetups, more events – after school clubs.