by Kirk Melkonian
Recently I had the opportunity to spend a weekend in London, the UK participating and presenting a session at Mozfest. In case you’re not familiar with Mozfest, it’s a like a festival… or a conference … or an open space for collaboration and idea sharing. It’s an annual event put on by Mozilla, an open-source community dedicated to keeping the Internet healthy, open and accessible to all. They teach web literacy, provide tools and advocation on behalf of every individual who values the Internet as a global public resource. You probably know them best through one of these tools, the Internet browser Firefox. This year the focus was on decentralization, digital Inclusion, open innovation, privacy and security, and web literacy.
I presented a session titled “Students Shaping Their World and Identity in an Open Digital World”. Educators Cooperative supports students in several Southern California districts who are doing amazing things using digital tools and the internet to take ownership of their learning and physical spaces. Teachers are shifting the way they support students, becoming facilitators who provide just the right amount of mentoring, guidance, and content when necessary, and then stepping back and letting the students take the lead. When teachers support students in this way, and students are encouraged to identify their passions, share their ideas, and to learn from each other, amazing things happen! We’ve seen this again and again, from students in middle school, all the way down into Kindergarten. When students are engaged and invested in what they’re learning, and their school community (teachers, administrators, counselors, family members …) supports this, the depth in understanding and ownership of learning students show is remarkable.
Students in Cajon Valley Union School District near San Diego are taking presentation literacy to a new level. As part of their ELA program, students engage in the TedEd curriculum to help students identify what they are passionate about, and then develop the skills to present to a wide audience. Students are using youtube, twitter and other tools to communicate their learning … and this is supported and encouraged by classroom teachers, school administrators, and district leadership! Last year students presented their TED talks to the community at one of the local middle schools … and some students participated in a San Diego wide event, presenting to an even larger audience at a 70,000 seat capacity sports stadium! Imagine what it’s like for a young student to know that their ideas are valued at this level? Take a look at the student Ted Talks to see what I’m describing.
The second group of students I referenced in my Mozfest discussion are from Westminster in Orange County California. We highlighted the efforts at several elementary sites focusing on students are using physical space. The specific school I shared was Finley elementary where students and teachers are redesigning their classrooms. Desks and assigned seating are out, replaced by open, flexible areas that students can redesign as they decide how and when they need to work. Students are collaborating on projects, teachers are conferencing with students and providing on the spot direct instruction. Students are also using various digital platforms to code, create, and teach and learn from each other. The level of problem solving, creativity, collaboration and reflection is beautiful to experience! You can see images and videos of this happening on Finley’s facebook page.
My work allows me the opportunity to present, facilitate and work with amazing teachers and other educational leaders. What I found most valuable at Mozfest was the chance to meet and collaborate with innovative, smart people outside the world of K-12 education. I participated in a session lead by two graphic designers from Croatia/Slovenia focusing on Internet health and representing complex information in simple, visual ways. I learned from Small Media, UK non-profit group with individuals from England, India and Italy, on how visualizing data could support human rights protection in Kenya. They developed a free-to-use tool, RawGraphs that I found fantastic (OK, I’m a data nerd!) and I recommend you try if you are too! I shared ideas with a Code For Life, a UK organization promoting computer science for elementary students. I worked with the “Web Literacy Leaders” team from Mozilla supporting digital literacy development for adults in the US through the public library system, Kelly Hudson with the USO Transition Center for Innovation Opportunities in Washington State helping veterans develop key digital literacy skills as they re-enter civilian life, and a California/New York-based team, Pockets Change promoting student digital literacy … through hip-hop! This is just a sample of what I experienced at Mozfest! As I reflect about the experience of learning and presenting at Mozfest, I see the clear connection between the passionate work these individuals and teams do and the type of work our “Future-Ready” students are doing today. Looking forward to next year’s breakthrough’s and hope to meet more great people!