MozFest 2014: We Made This Together

This article was originally posted on the Webmaker blog & captures the main highlights of MozFest 2014. Hive Toronto was well represented at MozFest by several Hive Toronto members & the Hive Toronto team.

We arrived as individuals, we left as a community.

More than 1,600 educators, community-builders, technologists and creators met in London from October 24-26, 2014 for MozFest, a collaborative festival dedicated to innovating for the open web.

Over the course of three days, attendees from 50+ countries participated in hundreds of hands-on sessions exploring topics ranging from opportunities for the mobile web and digital literacy; to journalism; science; arts, culture and music on the web. Friendships were forged, ideas emerged, prototypes were hacked.

Here’s a taste of what we worked on together at MozFest 2014:



Imagining Applications for BRCK

BRCK is a device that allows connectivity in places where it wouldn’t normally be—it’s durable; portable; can be powered with, for example, solar cells; and uses the 3G network. It inspired a number of ideas at MozFest including:

  • @SteveALee from GPII attended a BRCK session because he’s interested in using the technology to address accessibility issues, especially cognitive disabilities and digital literacy.
  • Mozilla Rep, Andre Garzia, saw opportunities to combine BRCK with MozStumbler, an app that lets people use their devices to contribute to a database of location data that’s used to enable context-aware applications.
  • The Mozilla Appmaker team thought it would be awesome to load Webmaker onto BRCK and take it to communities as a new product for increasing digital literacy and to enable people to create their own apps.


Mozfest’s First Youth Zone

EPIK Youthzone is a digital literacy initiative designed for young people ages 8-25 that started in Kent, UK but is now taking their work global. The EPIK team setup and wrangled the first MozFest “Youth Zone” this year and it was a huge success:

  • All weekend the Youth Zone was one big Maker Party for kids. The best part? They used a peer-to-peer, kid-to-kid teaching model so by the end of the weekend it was kids doing the mentoring to their new maker peers.
  • Young mentors and facilitators used Mozilla’s Webmaker training to learn about the web literacy map and Minecraft based activities to engage new learners and makers at the festival.
  • EPIK used this year’s MozFest to develop a new model for teaching young people at events worldwide. In 2015, they have plans to take the “youth zone” concept to Turkey, Poland and the US.


Brainstorming How to Use SAM Wireless Sensors

SAM is a set of building blocks with sensors and motors that are connected wirelessly. The SAM app allows you to connect them in interesting ways, and helps you learn to code if you don’t already know how. MozFest participants played with SAM while learning about its potential applications including:

  • Elderly care: using the accelerometer and gyroscope modules, a nurse will know if someone is turning in bed or roaming around the room.
  • Fun with proximity sensors: imagine pairs of shoes with spray paint cans on them. When two people wearing shoes get near each other, the shoes spray paint. 
  • Smart fridges: put a pressure sensor under a milk bottle. When you’re at the store, it can remind you that you need milk.




Learning to Make Personal Apps with Appmaker

Appmaker is a free, open source tool developed by the Mozilla community for creating personal mobile apps, even if you don’t know code. Appmaker allows you to combine individual bricks to create and share custom mobile apps right in your web browser. During MozFest:

  • Youth participant, Dhiresh Nathwani, created his first game using Appmaker’s “Chef Adventure Game” brick. Check it out here! 
  • Laura de Reynal and Jan Chipchase lead a group of participants in planning a Community Challenge for people who want to conduct local research to inform the development of the Appmaker project.


Rethinking the Browser

Matthew Willse, a developer & designer with Mozilla’s Webmaker project, facilitated a MozFest session called, Rethink the Browser to imagine new ways to peek beyond the surface of a web site to enable smarter, safer browsing on the mobile web.

Session participants generated lots of ideas, in part focusing on data usage — a costly and limited resource for many people around the world. The problem: we don’t know how much data we have used until after we use it. Session participants designed an intervention that gives users more information before they visit a site, and agency to preserve their bandwidth. Using bookmarks and top sites listed in Firefox Mobile, they built a system to indicate whether each site is more or less resource intensive (red to green).
If you’re interested in getting involved, the idea needs a bit more work to improve the indicators and interaction, and to map the relative scale of resources and bandwidth. Contact Matthew on Twitter @mw to help. More info in Matthew’s blog.



Encouraging Future Digital Leaders at the Maker Party

Maker PartySaturday’s Maker Party was high-energy event with dozens of hands-on opportunities to learn new digital skills. It was open to makers and learners of all ages but one group stuck out: the Digital Leaders program from the Staplehurst School in the UK.

  • The Digital Leaders program is an opportunity for 9-12 year old kids to teach their fellow students, other adults and even their teachers about key digital skills.
  • These amazing students recently led an open source activity for their teachers and the weekend before the MozFest held one of the UK’s biggest Maker Parties with over 300 participants. At MozFest they taught hundreds of attendees about stop motion animation by making short movies right there on the spot.
  • Inspired by their time at MozFest they are making digital literacy a key part of their educational program and are looking to reach more kids by leading more Maker Parties year round.


Creating Learning Guides for Community Makers

Erhardt Graeff and Nathan Matias from the MIT Center for Civic Media co-facilitated this session with the goal of creating a learning guide for other community-focused makers.

The group explored the question “What do we mean by civic and community-focused making?” and participants shared challenges based on their own experiences.

Several participants committed to refining a template meant to emphasize the community-focused goals and specific context of any initiative or workshop, evaluating the learning guides, and creating ways that organizers who try the guides can share back what they learn. To get involved, contact @erhardt or @natematias. Read more in Erhardt’s blog.

Empowering Local Communities with Snapp

Snapp is a simple and intuitive tool for creating mobile apps, without needing any technical knowledge. Snapp has already been used in Senegal to educate people about the Ebola virus. More than 12,000 people accessed life-saving information by downloading the app in one of 18 local dialects. Co-founder Gabriel Gurovich said he hopes Snapp can empower local communities to create solutions to their particular problems. MozFest participants got an early invite to Snapp and brainstormed how they might use the tool to solve problems in their own communities.


Exploring New Hives

Hives Learning Networks are comprised of organizations and individuals who create learning opportunities for young people within and beyond the confines of the traditional classroom experience. Many of the participants in the Hive sessions were there to explore how they can bring the Hive model to their communities. Sanda Htyte is a Hive and MozFest veteran who was there to explore how she could start a Hive learning network in her new home of Seattle:

  • Sanda has worked with Hive NYC since 2008 as part of the Radio Rookies program at WNYC, teaching kids media literacy skills.She recently relocated to Seattle where she quickly recognized a gap in digital literacy opportunities for kids.
  • She’s working with groups like the Pacific Science Center and the central branch of the Seattle Public Library to add new programming aimed at youth. This summer she worked with Geek Girls Carrots to hold Seattle’s first Maker Party.
  • At MozFest, Sanda worked with others from the Hive Global network to find out what works and what doesn’t in building a new Hive, connecting to other successful Hives and organizations and is headed back to Seattle with all the knowledge and tools needed to start developing a new Hive in her community.
  • Read about even more projects from MozFest 2014.

Get Involved: