Toward an Internet of Hugs

How can we create tangible reminders of one another’s presence in our lives, even across great distances? How can we send a hug across the internet? How can physical computing and the Internet of Things (IoT) make those things possible?
Those are the questions we worked to answer on our April episode of the Mozilla Curriculum Workshop.

We were joined by an awesome audience and incredible guests including:

  • Natalie Freed, a computer science and digital fabrication teacher at Lick-Wilmerding High School in San Francisco, CA.
  • Andre Garza, a Mozilla Clubs Regional Coordinator and educational technologist based in Rio.
  • Jie Qi, a PhD student at the MIT Media Lab in the Responsive Environments group.

Our fourth guest, Jeremy Boggs, a design architect at the University of Virginia’s Scholars’ Lab, could not make it, but we look forward to hearing from him on a future episode of the workshop dedicated to IoT.
Highlights of our conversation included:

  • Making the case for physical computing in the classroom as a source of wonder and agency for learners.
  • Finding places to begin with physical computing.
  • How to move from being a physical-computing beginner to being an intermediate or advanced user.

An animated .gif showing text added to the episode's etherpad over time

A big take-away from our conversation (which you can see evolving in the animated .gif above) was that the power of physical computing comes from putting the magic and wonder of making stuff work into learners’ hands. Figuring out how to wire and program a physical computing project doesn’t take away that magic or wonder; rather, it gives learners a sense of control, agency, and decision-making over the technologies they build, buy, learn, and use.
About half-way through the episode, we switched to prototyping an “Internet of Hugs” kit (drawing from past work done by Natalie Freed and Jie Qi) that would help teachers and learners create something like a light or little machine that another group of learners could turn on and off from somewhere else in the world to send a virtual hug.
You can find that prototyping work on this shared document and in our episode’s GitHub repo. Please feel free to comment and ask questions in either place and to use the materials in your own work, as well. We’d love to see this kit develop further to include:

  • A list of materials needed for building circuits with microprocessor boards (like arduino).
  • A list of at-hand materials that could be recycled for this project.
  • A facilitation guide for teaching physical computing and Internet of Hugs projects.
  • A handbook showing the assemblies and code needed for basic Internet of Hugs projects.

Please help! Let us know to how improve the kit for you and your learners. Also, let us know how to improve the workshop for you, our audience and guests.
Our next episode is schedule for Tuesday, May 10th, at 5 PM PT, 8 PM ET, and 9 PM BRT. We’ll be looking at the National Writing Project’s Letters to the Next President 2.0 (#2nextprez) campaign as a pathway into discussing and prototyping youth civic engagement resources on the web. Mark your calendar and join the fun!
In the meantime, if you’re curious to learn more about physical computing and IoT, join this month’s community call and Twitter chat to explore the wonder, magic, and agency of making software you can touch.

  • You can check out the community call here. It’s on Wednesday, April 20th, 2016 at 8am PT/ 11am ET/ 3pm GMT/ 5pm SAST/ 8:30pm IST.
  • Follow @MozTeach to get involved with the teach-the-web chat (#TTWchat) on Thursday, April 28th, 2016.

We’ll see you on the Internet of Things and Hugs!
Are you on the go or unable to tune in at our normal broadcast time? Is audio better for you than video? Listen to our March and April episodes as podcasts! Download the links for .mp3 versions of each Mozilla Curriculum Workshop.

1 response

  1. Charles Rose wrote on :

    I know the feeling, only it’s been over 10 years for me. Just posted on Facebook that I needed a hug, come here and see this. Nice to know I’m not alone in wanting hugs from random internet type people. -hug-