With a specific focus on computing and technology in education, Su Adams is a business owner and computing curriculum specialist at U Can Too. Her proactiveness and enthusiasm to share ideas and knowledge is evident in her work as the regional clubs coordinator for Mozilla and her involvement with the preparation, organization, and planning for Demystify the Web — the Mozilla Learning Network space at MozFest 2016.
Could you give me an overview of your work to set the stage?
I worked in the IT industry and then in education. I still work in education now, and specifically in computing and education — teaching teachers, running workshops and writing curriculum for kids.
That provides me with an opportunity to share the Mozilla curriculum, where relevant, within education. I also work lots with CoderDojo and, as a spin-off of that, also I’m involved in #a11yhacks [A11y stands for accessibility — 11 represents the number of letters between the a and y], which is accessibility hacks. This started up around January 2016.
My aim is to excite everyone as much as I’m excited about technology, and to champion the importance of it.
What excites you about technology?
The room for creativity is probably the main thing. Specifically, for me, teaching others and seeing the lights come on as they realize how to make something happen, or how to change something, or how to make something better, or that they can actually affect something and control something for good.
Thinking about your work, could you hone in for me on a specific example of a time where you really felt a sense of success?
I have two examples from when I was working in the school.
We were using X-Ray Goggles in school, in a club. The school had let go of computing, in that there wasn’t anyone responsible for it. As a result, there was little digital activity within the school. I was the IT technician and suggested that I take responsibility for the computing curriculum. Otherwise, I felt that we were letting the kids down, especially given the relevance of computing in our world.
I started up clubs after school. There was this one boy who was in Year Six, so he was 10, going on 11. Throughout his time at the school, he had really been quite disengaged, quite an angry child at times, and just didn’t really see why he was there. He decided to join my computing club, which was quite amazing to me in itself.
We were looking at X-Ray Goggles and he started saying, “Oh, this is just Inspect Element. I’ve done this, that, and the other.” He’d been up to all sorts of stuff. Through technology, he could see that he did have something to share and learn. Before that, he felt like he knew it all already and there was no point in school for him.
He also felt like no one got him. The fact that we were able to bring technology and computing into the curriculum, and tools that he could use and relate to, provided an amazing opportunity for him. He changed completely.
This boy’s face lit up. I never saw it light up before. He would be quite aggressive towards other children in the playground. He just changed completely. That, for me, was a real success moment, to really see the power that it can give.
He already knew what Inspect Element was?
He did. In the activity we were using X-Ray Goggles, which none of the other children had any idea of how to use. I took him onto Thimble, because he already had the introduction that X-Ray Goggles could bring. By using that tool, it sparked up a conversation. By using the Mozilla curriculum and tools, there were opportunities there for him that there wouldn’t have been before.
He was able to be challenged, or go further?
Yes, and it also opened up new channels. Before then, there hadn’t been a conduit for him to communicate on the level that he felt that he could. There were opportunities provided. I was able to use the curriculum. And even though X-Ray Goggles was too basic for him, he was able to go on and do something with Thimble.
Did he then interact differently with the other kids? Was he helping them?
Yes, and he obviously felt more confident because he already understood. He was able to share and people were excited to hear what he had to share as well.
It was very clear that he was much more able than he was letting on, and that his dissatisfaction was based on the fact that he felt that he everything already. He said to me, “I know it already and I didn’t understand the point of being here.” He didn’t see the purpose of education.
The other example is not so much of a Mozilla one. I don’t know that it’s so relevant. This painfully, painfully shy girl. Painfully shy. I’d never interacted with her before she joined the clubs that I was running. She was busy beavering away, just getting on with everything in the background when I walked over. I thought, “Oh my goodness. Wow. She’s really catching on to this quickly.”
Later, we went off to an event, which wasn’t a Mozilla related event. Although, actually, it was because of Mozilla that I got to it. It was CoderDojo. Mozilla London ran a CoderDojo and invited me and some kids. At that Dojo I ended up running sessions on X-Ray Goggles and Appmaker — which I love and I’m really sad it’s gone — and then ended up getting involved with CoderDojo.
CoderDojo London did a girls-only event, and this girl came along.She was so inspired by technology and in particular Ohbot, which is a programmable robotic head. She came up to me in the playground on the Monday following the event and she stood beside me. She was so shy that she couldn’t even couldn’t even look me in the eye. She stood beside me. The conversation was quite slow and stilted.
I asked, “All right?” “Yeah.” “You all right?” “Yeah.” “Did you have a good time on Saturday?” “Yeah.” She said, “I wonder if I can talk to the other people in the club and tell them all about Ohbot?” Inside I’m thinking, “Oh my God!” because she’s so, so painfully shy. I said, “Yeah, that’ll be all right.” We couldn’t actually do it that day, but the following Monday she did it.
She was still keen. It has inspired her so much. She presented to the whole club about her experiences — explaining to the club members how to program Ohbot — a youth mentor in the making! If I hadn’t been involved with Mozilla then, I never would have become involved with CoderDojo, who I’m heavily involved with now as well. There was a link there.
What do you think precipitated her breaking through this shyness?
I think, for her, Ohbot clearly was something that she engaged heavily with. Whether she would have engaged as well with another form of physical programming, I don’t know. I think that probably would be the case. She really was ethused and engaged with the physical computing side of things, and the fact that Ohbot could do so many things.
Ohbot’s got a collection of servos on it and a programmable environment similar to Scratch. You can move the head around. You can move the eyes around. You can make it speak. You can connect it to the internet and then have it talking to you and reading out wikis, and stuff like that.
There were five girls that I took along. She went to Ohbot and just stayed with it, whereas the others wandered around exploring the range available, “Oh, I’m going to try this! Now I’m going to do this!” But she was there all the time, and I think she was aware of that — that it was her thing.
There is another success story. I’ve just thought of a major, major thing, which is Mozilla wholly and utterly, which is how I got involved with Mozilla. When I took on the computing curriculum coordinator role at the school, I had a challenge on my hand because the majority of teachers did not want to teach computing at all. Generally, teachers didn’t want to anything to do with that. Many openly said that they didn’t want to spend any lesson time using technology. Not very conducive to teaching computing. It was scary. It was problematic. Nothing ever went smoothly and confidence was low.
Then, when I said I would take on this role, I found out that there was a new computing curriculum was coming in, which was even harder and more complex than the previous one.
I was doing a lot of research. I came across the Mozilla website on couple of occasions. Then one day I saw Maker Party and I thought, “Ooooh, that sounds interesting. I wonder what that’s about.” I had a deeper look and I thought, “This is what we need to do. This is how I’m going to get computing taught within the school and this environment.”
I went down that route and organized a MakerParty for the July before the summer holidays. We did a curriculum day where I brought in companies from outside to run sessions. I provided training for the teachers for a couple of sessions that they had to do as well. It was a whole day, and the whole school went round to each of the activities.
Then the following day, on a Saturday, we did a technology fair where the parents came in and the teachers were responsible for certain stands. Whether they realized it or not, that was embedding their learning and achievements, which gave them the opportunity to feel successful while providing the children with the opportunity to share with their parents what they have done. Also providing children with an opportunity to go back to things that they really enjoyed, and to explore these further. A lot of the technologies that we used were free online resources like X-Ray Goggles, and Thimble, and Scratch, so the children have the opportunity to upskill themselves over the summer.
One of the reasons it was such a success — or I feel that it was such a success — is because on the afternoon of the curriculum day, I walked through a set of doors and there were a gaggle of teachers. They went quiet as I walked through. “Hmm, that’s interesting.” I kept walking.
Then one of them said, “Oh, actually, Su, can I just say it’s been really great, this day, but it’s just not long enough. Each activity, it finishes too quickly. If you’re going to do it again, can we do it for two days so that we have longer for each activity?”
I said, “OK, I hear what you’re saying. Problem is that we’re pulling in people from outside to be able to make this happen. To give up one day is one thing. But, we’re not able to pay them, so requesting a sacrifice of more time is not really achievable. I asked “Do you feel it’s been worthwhile?” “Yeah, yeah, yeah,” they said. “Do you feel like you’ve learned something?” “Yeah, definitely.” I asked, “Do you feel like you’d want to use some of these resources again?” The response: “Oh yeah, definitely.” I wanted to encourage them: “Great. Let’s book out the laptops next week and carry on.”
That was that. It achieved everything I wanted to do. They were saying it wasn’t long enough. They wanted to do more. They had the skills to do more. They just needed to be able to see that it was something they could do.
After that, they then did. And then the teaching of the curriculum within the school took a big leap. They were actually doing it and implementing it. Then we did several others [technology fairs] as well.
What I’m hearing you say is that the official curriculum coming in was so intimidating to these teachers that they didn’t even want to touch computing. But they ended up adopting and integrating the Mozilla curriculum, because of the way it designed and it included accompanying resources and used a more fun experience or approach. Is that correct?
Well, not everything we used was Mozilla curriculum because in the national curriculum for the UK there are certain requirements you have to meet [that go beyond what Mozilla offers]. But the Mozilla curriculum fits some of those requirements really nicely. For example, they need to learn about HTML, so Tag Tag Revolution, Hacking the News, and Thimble activities — those kind of things — work really well. And Ping Kong. I absolutely love Ping Kong. We’ve run that loads of times in the playground with 60 kids at the same time. Actually, no. It was 90 kids one day. That was the biggest amount we did.
Ping Kong is brilliant. It’s basically a way of teaching an understanding of networks, but it’s really active and you get the kids up and about. They race against each other to complete the task. We had three classes all doing it at the same time.
The brilliant thing was that we did this in the first year that we did the Mozilla Maker Party Curriculum Day and Tech Fair. We started with a smaller group, and we also did Tag Tag Revolution. Then we did it again a few months later with the next group. Then, the following year, we ran another event and the teachers were actually teaching other teachers how to do it. That speaks volumes. It’s really easy to pick up the curriculum and run with it — whatever level you’re at.
For many people it’s difficult. Many people have this mental block about computing, and a lot of those people are teachers. Many of them have never learned about computing. A lot of them have never studied computer science at all.
Yet they need to understand and be able to teach the core coding fundamentals for programming and understanding how networks work. They don’t even know these things themselves. You say words to them and instantly they’re scared, and they need to be teaching 5- and 6-year-olds what an algorithm is.
It does sound crazy, but in the UK five-year-old children entering school — in the UK, what we refer to as early years — get taught phonics terms, which are split diagraphs, phonemes, graphemes, etc. If they can understand that, then algorithms are no worse. An algorithm is a set of precise instructions. It’s easy by comparison.
Just to make sure I’m understanding… the Mozilla curriculum and activities made concepts less scary? So teachers were able to jump into related parts of the official curriculum?
The Maker Party provided an opportunity, so that wasn’t curriculum so much. I did incorporate elements of the Mozilla curriculum into the Maker Party. The Maker Party format just made it accessible for them. I would never had done that if I hadn’t seen the Maker Party movement on the Mozilla website.
I don’t know how I would have achieved what I needed to achieve without that. Whether I would have come around to that conclusion myself or not is in another matter. Whether I would have achieved it in time or not, is another matter again. But, Mozilla was fundamental in making a difference to the school that I worked at. We incorporated elements of the Mozilla curriculum into our teaching.
Thanks for clarifying. I’m want to make sure I understand the connections and what happened — or didn’t happen.
The Maker Party is a movement about sharing ideas. We were the first primary school in the UK to run a Maker Party.
Maker Party can either be three people in the kitchen or 300 people in an institution. Obviously, we went for the latter. Then there’s curriculum in addition to that, which has expanded a lot since 2014. And there’s also the Mozilla Clubs movement, which came about after the Maker Party movement. Clubs provide opportunities for children to extend themselves in areas that they’re really interested in.
How about a specific example of a challenge?
This is quite negative… I’ve got a couple of areas of challenge. The second year, in July 2015, I decided to run a Family Appmaker Day so that children and families could work together over the summer holidays and build something.
Even if the families weren’t going to do it together, the children could explore and create and the parents would be able to engage with them, because they would understand what it was. The idea was to do it together.
I arrived to run this session, went online, and everything had changed. The whole format of how everything run was stored on the Mozilla website — it was all completely different. I was shocked and concerned that this wasn’t going to be a slick session, that the resources wouldn’t get best presentation and that I’d look a bit of an idiot. It was fine, I was able to run with it, and found the core elements I needed. But it meant that I couldn’t quickly find the examples that I’d lined up to support the session.
Whilst it was fine, it wasn’t ideal. And now Appmaker gone. We ran that session in July 2015 and I think by September or October it was gone. So that session was relatively pointless. It was such shame as it was a fantastic tool that was only just getting traction. I’ve spoken to lots of people who feel exactly the same.
When I highlighted that it had gone and it was a real shame, the answer was that people weren’t using it. I asked what the measure was for that, and turns out the measure was the number of people who had logged in and saved something.
I said, “Well, as a school, we couldn’t log in and save something because the children couldn’t create accounts — because they were younger than 13.” While some of the children might already have Facebook accounts, we can’t be seen to be encouraging accounts to use those because they’re younger than 13. Instead, we were just creating on the fly, and then things might get saved, or they might not.
CoderDojo told me exactly the same thing. In September 2016 we had a meet up and someone said, “Oh yeah, Mozilla tools are great, but what happened to Appmaker?” I said, “Oh yeah, I know. People didn’t really use it.” “We use it loads.” I said, “Oh, but you didn’t ever log in did you?” They said, “No, because we couldn’t.” — for exactly the same reason.
The whole issue of accounts is another area of real contention. It’s holding me back and stopping me from being able to go into schools and encourage them to use Mozilla’s platform. Every time I have encouraged schools to use the tools on the Mozilla platform it’s ended up with them saying, “Well I did start. I did try because it’s great stuff, but I couldn’t work out a way to actually log in. It wasn’t easy enough for the kids to save their work, and then I’ve got no assessment evidence.” I feel I can’t go and talk to any school as it would be pointless. That is a real challenge.
When you asked the Mozilla Foundation what the metric was, and then you told them, “But we didn’t log in,” what was the response then?
If I remember rightly, it was something along the lines of, “Well, that’s how we measured it.” They can’t know. I said, “Well, maybe you need to speak more to the community, find out who’s using what.”
Regarding not knowing about Appmaker’s decommission, it was probably in an email. But this can be difficult because there are, at times or at least in the past, so many emails. It might well be that I got an email that said, “Oh, and by the way, we’re not going to be running Appmaker anymore. We’re not going to be keeping it anymore,” I just didn’t see it because it was buried deep down in some email. For big changes relating to an app change or the demise of an initiative it would be really useful to have this highlighted. For example I also didn’t know for some time that Maker Parties were a thing of the past. They then got brought back to life in 2016, but I think they’ve disappeared again now, until the next time.
I do sometimes find that, based on the titles of the emails, it’s not easy for me to know what the content is. For example, the MozFest email that had the tickets in it. Friends of mine who attended, they deleted it because they thought it was just a circular. They didn’t realize it actually had the tickets in it.
For the Appmaker scenario maybe it would have been helpful to everyone if there were some way to sign up to inform Mozilla that you do use the product. You can say, “I use it with X amount of people.” Maybe surveys should be done first… but if I had received an email with a survey, if it was in that deep in another circular email, then would I have seen it?
Maybe announcements about stopping tools should get their own email? And not just be part of a newsletter?
Yeah, or when you go and use that tool they could ask: How many times have you used this? What do you think about this product? How many kids have you used this with? How many projects would you estimate that you’ve run on it?
Maybe to have that question asked over a period of time and in different ways. Provide lots of different ways for people to complete survey, whether that be an email that says, “Appmaker Survey: Tell Us What You Think,” so you know exactly what the email is about. Or whether it’s when you use the product it says, “Can you help us out? We need your answers. We need to know what you think.” It’s such a real, real shame. Real shame.
Thinking about this account issue, has there ever been any discussion about a special account for educators or people who deal with underage users? Some type of mechanism to solve this problem? I imagine this is common — that in North America there are similar rules around accounts.
Thinking about the profile of an educator, what might their needs be? For example: I can’t have account for each of my students. I need to be able to assess the results of this work. I need to be able to save the work.
Or to be able to go back and build on work.
[Update: I tested sign in on an account the other day… I could use the same account at the same time within different browsers on the same computer. So it looks like we have some form of solution, not an ideal for education or clubs but certainly helpful. Question is… why did noone tell me this. I’ve been seeking a solution for well over a year, but only found out about this because I happened to test it. I could have shared this sooner with others. I have to say I find this frustrating, especially when I’m trying to champion Mozilla tools and curriculum.]
Right, there are a number of needs that that educator persona might have. Has there ever been any discussion…?
Yes. It’s one of my favorite things to talk about. Although, to be honest, I haven’t had a chance to talk about it for a while. I was really lucky and got to go to MozLando, where we had a whole talk about it. One session, I think, was a two-hour chat just about this problem and how we might be able to resolve it.
It’s a challenging problem to resolve. It’s causing such issues, and it’s not specific to just Appmaker. The same will be happening with X-Ray Goggles and Thimble. With Thimble, you really want to be able to go on and build on what you’ve created. You don’t want to just spend one lesson and be done.
With X-Ray Goggles, you want to be able to share the creation. All of them, you want to be able to share the creation. But you can’t save it. The answer is now, “Well, you’re just going to have to save it locally instead as an HTML page rather than it being up live on the internet and being able to share it with other people.” That defeats the objective to a degree.
It’s not really open and free for all, is it? We’re creating these stoppers within an environment that’s trying to promote open and free for all. I will continue to raise this issue.
At MozFest 2016 I worked closely with two people from North America. One said to their students, “Just go and create the email accounts,” even though they shouldn’t. Then their boss or a colleague said they weren’t happy about that, and told them not to do it.
This person felt that we needed to resolve this issue. They were fully on board with helping to promote a solution to the problem because they want to use the tool — but they feel that they can’t. So in one school you’ve got some students who can use it, and others who can’t.
Educators ideally need an organised space to save evidence and manage learner creations. I need to look back at the change to project storage to see if this is now possible. If not it would be very helpful to address this. If it is sorted, again it would have been VERY useful to know about so that I could promote mozilla tools and curriculum in the ways I’ve been intimating to many that I’d like to.
Turning now to the broadest issue in the Mozilla universe: keeping the web open and free and a platform for opportunity for all. What, for you, is the open internet?
For me, the open internet is something that so many of us take for granted. It’s that ability to access a wonderful resource, to share and create, to learn and explore and to extend ourselves in so many different ways; it’s an enabler.
I love the fact that I can see something that inspires me and then share my feelings on it, which might then inspire someone else as well. We can help others to understand, create and share too.
I have to remind myself how privileged this access is though. Whilst I feel access should be a right, not everyone has it. It’s easy to get a bit complacent and forget how difficult it is for other people just to be able to snap their fingers and get the answers, communicate, reach out for help or share. And for those who do have the access, we really need to educate on how to best use this amazing resource. There are so many times when we share without thinking, we should always consider others, so that the open internet is a positive experience.
Can you give me an example of how you’ve taken advantage of this access in your life?
I use it all the time in so many different ways. I suppose it’s all about what your interpretation of open is, as well, isn’t it? In some ways, it’s not as open as it could be, because of privacy issues. I have to be very careful about what I share, and what I post, and what other people share about me. As we all do.
At the same time, I saw a post the other day about two girls who are young engineers, and about the opportunities that were available to them. I just thought, “Wow, this is so cool.”
Recently, I keep walking around thinking, “Wow, look at that. It’s amazing how that tunnel was built,” and I wonder why there’s a tunnel that goes past all the museums in Exhibition Road in London.
They’ve built tunnels within tunnels, and I was thinking, “Was that just the Victorians doing something because they could? Or was there a reason for it?” I realized more and more that my mind is an engineering-y type mind, and I wonder — if I’d had the opportunities in the past — what I would have become.
The post that I saw then inspired me to want to share that opinion, that feeling, that wondering. Then someone who saw that post — who I didn’t know, who knew other people that I knew — she got in touch with me and said, “Wow, thanks so much for sharing that. It really connected with me.”
Openness over the internet has provided an opportunity for me to be more open and sharing things that I would never really necessarily think to say out loud. You just wouldn’t think people would want to know. Then you find out that people actually do find it interesting.
I wouldn’t be where I am today if certain things didn’t exist on the internet. If the internet didn’t exist, I wouldn’t be doing what I’m doing. Not just because of Mozilla, but because of social media. Twitter has been a huge enabler for me, providing opportunities.
To an extent, you provide your own opportunities. But if you don’t know about things, you can’t do it anyway. Then there’s learning about opportunities for the people that I work with and for. If other people didn’t share, then I wouldn’t have as much to share, or as much to say.
Getting more specific about Mozilla — how you got involved with them and what that’s been like. You already touched on some of this — do you want to add more details around what that’s been like or felt like?
Yeah, because if I hadn’t just run a Maker Party, and just gone and done that, nothing really more or as much would’ve come of it. Because I like being a little bit cheeky, and operate on the grounds that if you don’t ask you don’t get, I got in touch with Mozilla London and asked if there was a possibility of getting hold of some tablecloths.
It sounds really silly, but when you run an event like a tech fair, if you can dress it up a little bit, it feels like a higher-quality experience for everyone. There was a suggestion that there might be something out there, so I got in touch. Then I got invited up to an event, a MozPub event about organizing MozFest, and I went along.
It’s just such a big family where everyone is welcome. If that didn’t exist, then I wouldn’t be involved. If they hadn’t said, “No, come along. It’s fine,” and then, “No, stay. Have a drink. Have a chat. Talk to us,” I wouldn’t be here. Talking to anyone and everyone, and sharing thoughts and ideas — I was so inspired by the people that I spoke to.
There is a constant reaching out to the community. Mozilla tries to involve you in more and more ways, all the while working out what things you’re interested in and trying to engage based on those interests. It’s very powerful. It must be very, very tiring, but it’s very, very powerful as well, in building community — and Mozilla do it very well.
I would say one thing that I struggle with a little bit, as a British person, is that sometimes everyone seems a little bit too positive, and sometimes the speed of that relationship building can be a bit fast.
People will say, “I feel like we’ve known each other for ages,” and it’s like, “You only emailed me a couple minutes ago!” Sometimes it doesn’t feel quite as sincere as it should. In the back of my mind, when people say lovely, positive things, without experience to base it on I can think, “Yeah, you probably say that to everyone,” which is probably the cynic in me, but I think it’s worth noting.
You’re not the only person who has given this type of feedback. Another British person I spoke to also mentioned that it was difficult to publicly discuss their achievements, saying “That feels like bragging to me. I don’t do that, but I noticed that the people who talk about what they’ve done and what they’ve achieved are recognized.”
It’s something that I’ve always struggled with. I remember going to a performance management review in a job that I had and them saying, “We better start this, because you’re not going to be able to say anything positive about yourself.” I said, “Well, actually, this is something that I had to do, so I have prepared. I’ve got notes written down.” I had to do that — it was part of my job so I prepared myself. In this case, there was a reason. But to just openly do it is something that I do struggle with. You can’t succeed in business if you don’t do that at all, so as a business owner I’m developing that.
The other thing is constructive feedback. That’s something that I need. I think there’s a possibility that Mozilla are so worried about giving any kind of criticism — even when it’s constructive. It’s not somewhere they’re prepared to go. But, for me, that validates the positive things they say. I want to be able to improve.
People can say whether they want feedback or not. It doesn’t have to be done. When I ask for it, I can see there’s pain in the eyes of the Mozilla people, because I think it’s something that’s alien for them to do. They’re like, “Oh, my goodness. How can I put this in a really positive way?” It’s almost like they’re wondering, “Am I allowed to do this?” Obviously, I’m on one side of the fence and I don’t know what it’s like on the other side. But if you’re only ever allowed to say positive things, how can you be constructive?
Perhaps that’s also a skill — being able to frame the feedback in a way that will be heard. I’d be trying to assess, “How much can this person hear? Am I going to upset them?” It’s difficult for anyone. And then receiving feedback can be challenging, too.
I agree. It’s something that a lot of people do struggle to receive, but I think if people seek it, then they’re obviously ready to receive it. Even if sometimes it hurts, sometimes you don’t want to hear it, but you go away, and you process it and then you think, “Do you know what? That’s fair enough, and I can do something about that.”
I’ve always said I’d much rather know if there’s something that’s causing difficulties rather than not. I tend to think about things. If I think that something is possibly causing a problem, I’d actually rather be able to action that.
Could you tell me about a time that Mozilla had some sort of impact on your life, or your work, or your organization?
There are so many!
The MozFest opportunity — being involved in organizing — has been hugely beneficial. In particular, I’ve gained some great skills around collaborative working, planning and received some feedback. From Robert Friedman in particular, because I was working so much with him.
I just said, “I need to have feedback, because otherwise I can’t be as effective.” I can’t remember how I said it now, but I’m a doer and, when it came down to the actual event and getting things done, he recognized me enough to say, “Don’t do. Instruct. Make sure you don’t do anything. Make sure that you tell other people.”
I organize so many events, I’m always doing, and then wondering why I’m completely burnt out at the end of it. If you’re the one with the idea of what the end result is going to look like, then everyone else is going to be standing around, doing nothing, if you’re doing, then they may well be wondering why they were there.
Him telling me to do that was, in my my, me getting permission to do it, and it actually wasn’t as bad or difficult, as I thought it would be. That was hugely beneficial to me. The whole process, to be honest, was hugely beneficial.
I think it’s the first year that they’ve had community wranglers, and there was a lot of time that needed to be put into it, it was very, very demanding. I suppose, it’s as demanding as you will allow it to be, to a degree. Our space was hugely, hugely ambitious, but we achieved. That was an amazing thing, to be part of that achievement, as well as all of the different processes we learned in collaborating and communicating, working in a completely different way. It’s all been very enlightening, and very beneficial.
Other than help learning to delegate, you said that you learned about different ways of working. Could you give me a bit more detail around those? What practices might you adopt based on this experience? What might you do differently now that you’ve been a space wrangler?
As a direct result of just working with Mozilla, I use Skype even more heavily as a regular form of communication, and Google Drive a lot more than I probably would have done. They’ve become my go-to tools for meetings and collaborative working.
Also Etherpad. I don’t know that I would use Etherpad outside of Mozilla, just because that would almost seem wrong. I’ve never actually set up an Etherpad, so I don’t even know if I can.
I suppose that being able to communicate in more than one way at a time as well, which sounds like a really bizarre thing to say, but when you’re working in an Etherpad, you’ve got the conversation going on, you’ve got the typing into the pad going on, and then you’ve got the chat going on. And often, we’re on Skype as well as Etherpad, with a chat going on in Skype and a chat going on in Etherpad!
You suddenly become a lot more able to multitask communication. Certainly, I’ve never multitasked communication to that degree before. I remember first going into Etherpad for Mozilla Clubs calls and thinking, “Oh, my God. I can’t keep up.” It’s a skill that you develop over time.
Can you tell me about a time that Mozilla didn’t meet your expectations, or do you have more feedback? You’ve been so great about providing feedback so far!
I’m quite an honest person. I see every opportunity for communication as an opportunity to improve in both directions. I strongly believe that, if I’m doing something that’s upsetting someone, if I don’t know, there’s absolutely nothing I can do about it.
Because I want people to deal with me like that, I assume the same the other way around. I always try to give useful information where it can be helpful.
How might these stories that we’re collecting be useful to you, if at all?
I suppose getting to know other community members a little bit better. I see that you’ve spoken to Shreyas, who I see in and around communication channels, and there are times where we’re in the same collaboration areas.
I haven’t yet looked at his story but, if I had the time, it would enable me to better understand him, and to see if there’s room for identifying whether we have the same problems, the same successes. Identifying with individuals always makes it easier to develop relationships with them.
It all depends on who the audience is really, and how you decide to use the story, so that’s a difficult one to answer.
I don’t know that we know who the audience will end up being, because it will be open content. For Mozilla, each story will be a unit of analysis and will be coded. Then similar feedback, themes, issues, and change pathways to change can be highlighted.
I suppose it can provide a really good platform from which to build a questionnaire to then ask a wider audience, couldn’t it?
Yes. Or to even start a broader discussion, or a design thinking process where you can develop a challenge statement, and then start brainstorming around that challenge.
The idea is to test this feedback loop, and perhaps systematize it, and have it be a constant thing that Mozilla does. Another idea is to occasionally add a few questions around certain themes, in addition to seeing which themes emerge.
For example, I’ve got four or five stories around online harassment and trolling. We asked a few people for their thoughts on that issue. So now. we can take those responses and examples and build a story with all of their voices. So, I think we might use not just each story individually, but see how they fit together, on the feedback side as well as the outreach/communication side. We’ll see how they get used.
Is there anything more you want to tell me, or ask me?
I don’t think so, no. There’s loads more that could be said, but whether it’s relevant or not is another matter. If anything ever comes up specifically around accessibility, that’s an area that I’m really interested in. If you do ever decide you want to ask questions on that, then there’s that.
You mean access to tech for people with disabilities?
Yeah. I’ve been working with #a11yhacks, as I said earlier, and specifically at the moment with visually impaired children.
And also with individuals that have less access to tech — to provide them with opportunities in different ways. There’s a project I’m going to be doing in July. That’s more about older people, 18- to 30-year-olds, giving them opportunity that will benefit them to be able to go out into the workforce and get jobs.
Do you feel that Mozilla has any resources or discussions around these topics?
Accessibility is something that Mozilla seem to be quite interested in at the moment. There is currently no real way for a visually impaired individual to be introduced softly to code. They just can’t access it very easily, until they master some of the other skills first.
There’s a blind programmer that we’ve been working with. He’s self-taught. Why should all other children from the ages of four, five and up have opportunities for more accessible routes for them to code and visually impaired children can’t? It’s not really very fair.
Whilst there actually are some resources that we’ve identified, or a resource, at least one, for the much younger ones, there’s a huge gap in between. Because, as the name suggests, visual programming — or block-based programming — is currently inaccessible to a huge audience.
Chad Sansing has appeared quite interested in perhaps incorporating some of the #a11yhacks content into Mozilla curriculum. So it seems that there may be room for it.