Mozilla Learning Updates, Transitions and Sunsets

Guest contribution by Chris Lawrence, former VP Mozilla Learning Network, originally posted on Medium

For nearly a decade, Mozilla has been a proud leader and catalyst for digital learning — from launching free and open educational software tools like Thimble to building vibrant peer learning networks with the most talented leaders in educational technology across the globe. The work we have done together through Hive Learning Networks, Maker Party, Mozilla Clubs and Webmaker has produced real change in how educators understand and use technology. Together we have produced more learning experiences that take people from being online consumers to creators and ultimately defenders of the open web, advancing web literacy and digital inclusion. As a technology based non-profit with community practices at its core, our work together has influenced Mozilla’s strategy and direction; Web Literacy and Digital Inclusion are now hallmarks of our Internet health agenda, shaped by the culture, connectivity and people-based approach that Mozilla Learning’s practices have inspired.

Through our shared goals, partnerships and programs we have been able to:

  • Mobilize people to adopt digital learning practices and teach web literacy through a constellation of people, networks and organizations;
  • Create high-quality digital learning and web literacy tools, content and practices;
  • Catalyze schools, youth programs, cultural institutions and governments to provide rich digital programs, especially in underserved communities; and
  • Grow demand for events, communities and projects in new locations and sectors.

Together, we have evolved teaching and learning for the digitally connected world.

However, how Mozilla engages with these issues will be changing as we head into 2018. We will be ending the management and stewardship of local digital literacy initiatives over the coming year, including Hive, Gigabit Hive, Mozilla Clubs and our grassroots web literacy work.

It’s truly hard for me to see Mozilla’s stewardship of digital learning work winding down. Like many of you, I’ve been very close to this work for a long time. And I have been a strong proponent of hyperlocal and our work on web literacy ever since I started at Mozilla over six years ago.

But unlike the promise of a digital utopia that existed when we entered this work, when the Internet seemed like a grand path to greater participation and engagement, we now have seen the pendulum swing decidedly towards a dystopian narrative where surveillance, ever-connected devices, and pipelines of propaganda dominate. Of course, both and neither are completely true, and the binary choice further divides us and blocks thoughtful solutions from emerging. We are so excited about the Internet health framework because, like all ecosystems, the Internet is best understood when you realize that aspects can be both sick and healthy and need all of us to help tip the balance to health.

To do this, Mozilla’s attention needs to be on a more immediate and bigger set of fights. We need to use our assets — our brand, our megaphone, our global community, our money — to confront those challenges head-on.

So, what does this mean?

  • Mozilla has made a strategic decision to sunset its local digital literacy programs, which includes our Hive, Mozilla Clubs and other local digital literacy initiatives. These changes will happen over the course of the coming year.
  • We will remain active in web literacy and digital inclusion work through fellowships, research and curriculum.
  • We will be working with the networks, people and projects to ensure that there will be clear next steps into new opportunities and programs within the broader digital learning ecosystem.
  • We will honor all commitments to our grantee partners and donors.

It also means that some staff associated with these programs will be moving on from Mozilla, including myself. I just want to take a moment to say that these staff have been champions of this work and have helped to move the digital learning field forward with passion and expertise. It has been an honor to work alongside them and others who have contributed to this work. I am confident that all of us will continue to help bring real change to Internet health issues. Personally, I am very energized to enter the broader ecosystem as a contributor and active network member. The trajectory of my professional life has been deeply impacted and informed by the work we have done together.

Building a global and diverse community has always been a part of Mozilla’s work. It says so in the Manifesto — and it has been true in practice. Over the last 10 years, the Foundation has worked closely with traditional Mozilla volunteer communities and helped build rich new communities that had never connected to Mozilla before — MozFest is a great example of this. The same goes for the communities of interest we’ve built in science, journalism, policy, etc. You have been, and will continue to be, leaders within this movement for Internet health, and Mozilla will continue to find ways to support you and concrete ways for people from our local communities to plug into this work.

I am excited by what comes next for Mozilla and the work that we all kickstarted together. We have built the base that will propel the Internet health movement forward, just when the world needs us most. Onward!