MDN Fellows Successfully Oriented

The first-ever cohort of MDN Fellows convened at the Mozilla Vancouver space the weekend of June 20. This MDN Fellowship Pilot is an experiment for Mozilla to engage advanced web developers in strategic projects at Mozilla to advance our teaching and learning objectives.

Day 1: Learning About Learning

One of the first things we did was to collectively identify shared goals for the weekend:

  • Welcome our Fellows into the Mozilla fold.
  • Create ties between our Fellows and their project mentors.
  • Build familiarity with key learning and curriculum design principles.
  • Set up our Fellows for success in creating Content Kits, a new framework designed by both MDN and the Mozilla Foundation to facilitate wide teaching of web content.
  • Understand how the Fellows’ work ties into the broader mission and efforts at Mozilla.

And Day 1 was an exercise in integrity: because one of the least effective ways people learn is by lecture – and since we wanted our fellows to learn about learning – we all jumped in and engaged with learning content. Bill Mills, Community Manager for Mozilla’s Science Lab, conveyed several principles. A few nuggets that our teams have already started to apply to their projects:

  • Structure curriculum into as small, manageable pieces as possible. This allows instructors and students to customize and adapt the content to their specific needs and learning pace. This also helps avoid the common pitfall of underestimating how much time is required to teach material generally.
  • Employ techniques to identify gaps in learning. For example, it’s possible to design multiple choice answers to flag specific learning errors e.g. if the question is “What is 23 + 28?” and a student selects one of the incorrect answers of “41” then you can assume the student did not properly ‘carry’ in their math.
  • Provide multiple approaches to explain the same issue to avoid the common pitfall of simply repeating the information more slowly, or more loudly ;).

Day 2: Getting to Brass Tacks

Day 2 had our Fellows applying their new knowledge to their own projects. They developed a plan of attack for their respective work for the remainder of the Fellowship. Some highlights:

The Curriculum team was well-served by referencing the Dunning-Kruger effect in designing its pre-requisites list. Specifically, they decided to parse this out using a “get information as you need it” approach for the pre-reqs rather than present their potential instructors with one long daunting list.

Both the Service Workers team and the WebGL team are embracing the above-mentioned concept of modularizing their content to make it more manageable. Specifically, Service Workers will create different approaches for different use cases to accommodate the evolving nature of its nascent technology; and WebGL will parse out different components so instructors and students can create reusable hackable code samples.

The Test The Web Forward team is employing “reverse instructional design” so its instructors can help others understand how problems are solved a step-by-step basis that students can dissect rather than simply see the final ‘answers.’ If you’ve heard of “reverse engineering” then “reverse instructional design” should make sense.

The Web App Performance Teamtaking into consideration the complexity of performance and the difference of optimizing the network vs the front-end, will compartmentalize the courses. To keep the introductory course short & crisp, and to further help trainers & students to master performance, each module will have an advanced follow-up. Examples of bad and good performance are linked throughout the course along with practical code to best showcase these performance tactics.

How MDN Fellows Support the Mozilla Mission

Last year MDN began working with our colleagues at the Mozilla Foundation to see how we might partner to advance our common goals of growing web literacy. The work MDN is doing to expand beyond documentation and into teaching and learning dovetails nicely with the Foundation’s efforts to harmonize Mozilla’s learning and fellowship programs. This is a work in progress and we expect our MDN Fellows to play a key role in informing this.