Carrying momentum across locally-partnered events


About a year ago, the phrase “Internet of Things” kept coming up in conversations I had at Mozilla. The Internet of Things (IoT) is a network of physical objects and services that sense the environment around them and exchange data over the internet. At Mozilla’s Hive Chattanooga, we thought it would be fun to find ways of combining IoT with the high-speed internet we have in town along with education, which is our passion. Once the idea was born, we approached an incredible local partner, The Company Lab (CoLab), about collaborating with them on a local event, and suddenly the 48Hour Launch IoT Edition was born!

48Hour Launch (48HL) is a weekend-long competition that challenges teams of entrepreneurs and specialists to transform a startup concept into a viable business model, prototype, policy proposal, or piece of curriculum. We asked folks across Mozilla if they would mentor these local teams and share their skills with our neighbors in Chattanooga. I had the unique position of representing Mozilla’s work in Chattanooga with our mentor cohort as well as representing Mozilla to our local partner. The Company Lab planned, organized and hosted the event itself while I worked with our Mozilla convenings team to develop our mentor cohort journey.

This was the first time this event had mentors outside of Chattanooga come to join teams and likewise, this was the first time we had developed a mentor journey like this for such a localized event. We wanted to make the most of each mentor’s time and skillsets as well infuse the Mozilla flavor into a local event, so leading up to the weekend, we did things like:

  • Met one on one with each mentor to hear about their vision for joining the cohort.
  • Led a call for group introductions and discussions before the weekend with the cohort.
  • Wrote blogs leading up to the event, sharing Mozilla’s interest and participation in 48HL.
  • Had weekly planning meetings with Co.Lab leading up to the event to keep clear communication between both partners.

We learned a ton in the months leading up to the 48Hour Launch, as well as throughout the weekend itself. Our mentors’ contributions to one another and to the local event were incredible! They came ready to give and dive into the work being done throughout the weekend.

Additionally, balancing so many details on both sides – with the mentors and with Co.Lab, there could have been misfires but they culminated into an incredible collaboration within and outside Mozilla for a fantastic local event.

Here are three of our biggest take-aways for planning events with local partners:

  • Collaboration between partners should be a natural fit between each organization’s mission and vision
  • There should be clearly defined expectations of duties between both partners
  • Partnered events  can amplify and spread local work across a global network of likeminded people working to protect internet health and users’ rights.

Looking ahead, we didn’t want to lose momentum with what we’ve learned as well as what opportunities this new cohort (and others) could add to local events. To that end, we’ve begun co-planning another local event built on the Chattanooga 48HL model. This January, we’ll be sending Mozilla mentors to the SPARK youth hackathon hosted by St. Anne’s-Belfield School (STAB) in Charlottesville, VA.

I’ve teamed up with Chad Sansing, a curriculum developer at Mozilla, and Kim Wilkens, a local school computer science coordinator and SPARK organizer, to pass along the lessons I learned from our 48HL event.  We want to build off what went well and avoid repeating what didn’t go so well.

For example, we’ll continue working with our mentors to make sure the experience is valuable for them and we’ll continue to send mentors from a wide variety of backgrounds to support local hackathon participants in areas like coding, design, and project management. However, we’ll also work with STAB to make SPARK a collaborative event; as we believe that not every hackathon should be a competition or winner-takes-all affair.
As Chad and I anticipate the SPARK weekend, we’re excited to be refining the mentorship and cross-team collaboration process within Mozilla. Later this spring, we hope to iterate on it again at another local IoT event. Let us know if you’re interested in learning more and tell us how you think we might improve the work!

Results from the 2016 Round 1 Pilot Period

The 16 weeks between May 16 and September 4 were very busy for the nine Mozilla Gigabit Community Fund grantees. During that period, gigabit-related applications were developed to advance the internet and to help educators and students realize the potential power of gigabit internet connectivity. Applications were created with impacts ranging from increasing reading comprehension to understanding the environmental impacts of wastewater in architecture to creating virtual reality worlds to engage learners immersively. Some of the most significant outcomes can be found on the infographic below.


The most encouraging result of these projects was the fact that they all plan to continue to the next phase of development, scale and expansion to new communities, both within our Gigabit city network and beyond. You can read more about each of the grantees and learn how to get involved on our new website. While the second round of Mozilla Gigabit funding has officially closed, stay tuned for our next announcement of new grantees coming in early January 2017.

Grantee Glimpse: Art 120, Raspberry Python

This post was written by Kate Warren, Executive Director, Art 120 in Chattanooga, TN

Stop me if you heard this before…

Have you heard the one about a dancer that walks into a makerspace? I never thought I would
either until I met retired software CEO, Dan Mailman at TXRX Labs during a spring trip to
Houston, Texas. I dropped by TXRX Labs to take a tour of their amazing 30,000 square foot hacker habitat which houses a series of labs from rapid fabrication to electronics, wood, art, and computers. Basically everything you might need to build an electric guitar or a legion of robots. As Dan showed me around, I tried very hard not to get too excited at all the amazing equipment and opportunities TXRX provided. After sharing our experiences in maker education, it became very clear that we both are both passionate about education and the future of our technological workforce. Specifically, that creative, hands-on learning opportunities for youth are critical to our economic future yet very few students have access to an education that can transform them from consumers to innovators.

Dan leading a Python class

Dan leading a Python class

That’s when Dan told me about Alisa Mittin, a choreographer, conceptual artist, and dance
teacher who walked into TXRX Labs and mentioned that she would love to actually create
music using her movements on stage. Our discussion went from “can it be done?” to “can we
teach kids to create this?”. Within that five minute conversation, the Raspberry Python project
was born.

Now if articles about teaching snakes to eat raspberries is your kind of jam, you could be in for a disappointment. At first glance, a Raspberry Pi, looks like an old video card from the nineties but it is actually the entire computer complete with processor, video output, and USB. Python is the coding language Dan developed our curriculum around. The project is teaching students to create a network of computers and program them to track an object in a 3D environment and provide a musical response depending on where that object is in the space.

As a Maker Ed host site, Art 120, had the space and the students. The only thing lacking was
funds to get a pilot class off the ground. As soon as I returned to Chattanooga, I began looking
for opportunities and came across the Mozilla Gigabit Community Fund. As a project to develop and execute curriculum between a software CEO from Houston and a youth makerspace in Chattanooga, the Mozilla grant seemed like a perfect opportunity. In April, we received the announcement that we were recipients and by the morning of June 6th our first students walked through the door.

Students working with Dan

Students working with Dan

Our students varied in age, ability, and background. One on end of the spectrum, one student
had exhausted every possible programming class she could take at her high school and was
simply bored, while another came from an artistic background and never worked with a
computer beyond Microsoft Word. With Dan’s dynamic teaching skills, students began to tackle
each step, separately at first, and then later as a team. By the middle of the course, each
student had a fully functioning computer and were beginning to create their own virtual musical instruments. Before long, you could hear a cacophony of sounds erupt from the computer lab coupled with laughter.

As the students grew in their knowledge, a new opportunity sprang into action. AIGA, Cogent
Studios, and River City Company created, Passageways, a call for proposals to animate four
alleyways in downtown Chattanooga. We jumped on the chance to get our students’ work out in the public eye and submitted a proposal to soundscape one of the Passageways. Once we
were selected, we had only six weeks to get our curriculum out of the classroom and into the
streets. As the students focused on code, we began coordinating between a team of artists from New York creating a visual installation called Stargaze and the Chattanooga Ballet Company to showcase the musically responsive alleyway.

It was amazing how many more learning opportunities quickly fell into place. Unfortunately most of that occurred once our students had to go back to school, so students worked on waterproof assemblies for the computers, installing hardware, creating back up systems, and learning the term, “bash to fit”. The biggest asset we really needed more of was time. On top of this, Art 120’s board chair and our install guru, Mike Harrison, had a heart attack. Losing his skills put us in a dire situation. Fortunately, our partners at TXRX Labs saved the day by sending us Diesel. We are not talking about fuel but rather an extremely talented maker and innovator in his own right. Diesel dedicated his time and talent to not only making sure the show went on, but that our students would have a year-round opportunity to use the soundscape as a hands-on lab.

A member of the Chattanooga Ballet dances in the Passageways alley

A member of the Chattanooga Ballet dances in the Passageways alley

Showtime came upon us quickly. The Passageway sprang to life, illuminated by the light
installation from the Stargaze team which hung above, the ethereal reverberations of the
soundscape, but most of all, the performance from the Chattanooga Ballet stole the show. Were there complications? No more than the usual when developing a curriculum, a new art form, and a new venue. Was it worth it? ABSOLUTELY! Thanks to TXRX Labs, Jason Helton, Diesel, Dan Mailman, Art 120, and most of all, Mozilla, for making our students shine brighter than the stars.

To follow Art 120’s work, follow them on Twitter @Art120org.

Have an idea of your own? The deadline to apply for the Mozilla Gigabit Community Fund is October 18, 2016.

Mozilla brings the IoT to Chattanooga, TN in a 48 Hour Launch

Event Recap

Throughout the weekend of September 9-11, mentors from across Mozilla’s extended network met at Hive Chattanooga to help local educators and entrepreneurs prototype the future of civic and educational technology in the Gig City. Our mission was to support the Company Lab’s IoT edition of their increasingly popular 48Hour Launch event. For two days and nights, mentors collaborated with local entrepreneurs to harness the potential of connected devices to change the way we live, learn, and work.

Event Highlights

  • 7 teams of budding entrepreneurs from Chattanooga and beyond
  • 8 experienced mentors from the Chattanooga community
  • 5 local experts holding office hours on everything from legal to branding
  • 10 Mozilla community members offering creative and technical expertise
  • 125 attendees, including local businesses and members of local government, at the final public demo night
  • Great buzz on on Twitter and Instagram
  • Insightful blogs by writer Kevin Fann, curriculum designer Chad Sansing, and connected devices engineer Tamara Hills

Countdown to Launch

3 — Kickoff night

In order to explore ideas around emerging technology and education, the theme of Internet of Things (IoT) was chosen for the event. Prior to the weekend, CO.LAB worked with Mozilla to connect participating entrepreneurs with resources from the community to start thinking about their submissions. Friday night began with presentations from the finalists and an invitation to all participants to join their teams. Energy was high as people mingled between groups, deciding how they would devote their energy over the weekend.

2 — Product development

Saturday was a day of innovating, testing hypotheses, and foundation-building. Throughout the day, teams connected with mentors and experts to design brand elements, develop prototypes, prep with legal, and get their Arduinos and Raspberry Pis fired up. The CO.LAB crew provided room to think, a supply of energizing food, and an endless pitchers of delicious sweet tea and lemonade.

1 — Pitch night

Throughout the final day of the event, teams worked feverishly to finalize their prototypes and business plans with their mentors and the local experts. Participants were purposeful and focused through the home stretch, up until the 4:00pm deadline. Then it was time to practice pitching before the big moment on stage. We moved to a the beautiful Church on Main Street where we were joined by 125 attendees from the Chattanooga community.

Finalists had three minutes to pitch their idea and two minutes of Q&A with the panel of judges

Finalists had three minutes to pitch their idea and two minutes of Q&A with the panel of judges


The first place prize went to Forrest Pruitt, founder of Viator VR – a virtual reality platform that submerges users in interactive language learning experiences. Cristol Kapp came in second place for launching Inclusive I/O, a space that provides engaging activities for students of all abilities to explore and create. Two individuals, Matthew Nassar with Chatties and Ashlanett Miller with Digital Windows, earned free trips to MozFest in London this October. For full details of the prizes and winners, check out CO.LAB’s blog post about the event.

How you can participate


  • CO.LAB, who partnered with us on this event
  • The Chattanooga business community who provided prizes to the winning teams
  • ‘Expert Lounge’ hosts and community mentors for their invaluable help and advice
  • Our panel of judges
  • Mozilla mentors from Berlin, Oregon, New Jersey, Kansas City and British Columbia and partner participants: Megan Murphy – National Science Foundation, Scott Turnbull – US Ignite, and Brian Beard – Onspring Technologies
Mozilla mentors and community partners

Mozilla mentors and community partners

Two New Resources for Applicants

With roughly six weeks remaining to submit your Gigabit Community Fund application, you may still be working on your concept or have questions about the submission process. For the latter, we would like to share two brand new resources.

The first is an FAQ document that covers frequently asked questions we heard from Round 1 applicants.

Mozilla Gigabit Community Fund FAQ-1_Page_1

The second provides you with a visual walk-through of the online application.

Still have questions? Feel free to reach out to your local portfolio contact for assistance:

Prototyping Solutions: Building More Inclusive Cities by Design

Once the fiber is in the dirt, what do you do with it? What opportunities do blazing fast internet speeds create, and how do you leverage these opportunities to the benefit of everyone in your smart, connected community?

These were the central questions of June’s Smart Community Innovation Summit, a co-located convening of several national smart cities initiatives including the Global Cities Team Challenge and the US Ignite Application Summit.

Mozilla at the Smart Community Innovation Summit

For the third year, Mozilla partnered with US Ignite to share our Gigabit Community Fund projects at the Summit. Kansas City teams Pennez, The Gigabots, and PlanIt Impact joined Chattanooga team ViatoR to showcase their Mozilla-supported educational technology projects in front of the 1500+ conference attendees. Response to these gigabit-fueled educational projects was enthusiastic, and ViatoR – a virtual reality language learning tool – even won awards for Best Use of Low Latency and Best in Show at the US Ignite application showcase!

Mozilla’s Gigabit Hive work is an effort to connect technologists, informal educators, and classroom teachers to help shape the future of the Web. We’re connecting leaders across these sectors to bring in more voices as beta-testers and co-creators of gigabit tech. In so doing, we’re helping to build a more inclusive gigabit innovation ecosystem and making sure that the reality of these high-speed networks lives up to their promise. So while the application showcase highlighted the possibilities of gigabit speeds (“what do you do with it?”), Mozilla focused our 2016 Summit programming on expanding these opportunities to new corners of gigabit cities (“how do you you leverage these opportunities to the benefit of everyone in your community?”). Through panels and a design activity, we encouraged Summit participants to explore how gigabit networks could be used as a tool to overcome – rather than to reinforce – existing barriers and digital divides in their communities.

Exploring Solutions to Participation Barriers

Of course, barriers to digital inclusion are difficult to overcome, no matter the speed of a city’s network. However, building web technologies that are relevant and responsive to users’ demands that we confront these barriers to participation – regardless of their complexity – in order to bring more diverse voices into the conversation about the future of internet. Thus, we challenged US Ignite Application Summit participants to begin examining five common barriers to participation in the gigabit innovation ecosystem:

  • Language: “Gigabit? Low latency? Open source? You’ve lost me”
  • Access: “We don’t have devices in my classroom.”
  • School Policy: “Gigabit? We can’t even use Skype in my classroom!”
  • Connectivity: “It takes an hour to load a YouTube video in my classroom.”
  • Awareness: “I don’t understand why fast networks matter.”

Using the design exercise worksheet below, participants worked in groups to share the challenges related to one of the above barriers, to explore the opportunities that would emerge from overcoming it, and to imagine some first steps towards solutions. From advocating for school policy changes with regard to firewalls to making sure that city websites were free of high-tech jargon, participants explored a range of possible solutions to the stated barriers. More important than the potential solution ideas generated though was the recognition and mapping of these common barriers across gigabit cities.

Mozilla Design ExerciseMozilla’s Gigabit Hive initiative uses gigabit implementation and innovation as a catalyst to start important conversations about digital inclusion and web literacy. Because high-speed networks are meaningless if everyday citizens lack the ability to participate in and benefit from these speeds, these conversations are critical to the smart and connected communities of the future. By connecting innovators and leaders from across sectors beyond standard technologist communities, Gigabit Hive amplifies these conversations in Kansas City, Chattanooga, Austin, and two new cities to be announced in 2017. If you would like to explore how you can leverage gigabit speeds to overcome divides and barriers in your own community, you can apply to become the next Gigabit Hive city by November 9.

Hive’s First Month in Austin: What We’ve Learned

On July 11, Mozilla hit the ground in Austin to spin up our newest Hive Learning Network right here in the heart of Texas. You can read our last post to learn why we chose Austin from two dozen candidate cities. Our first month here has already demonstrated that we made a great investment. Austin is a city of rapidly growing tech-driven prosperity, but also a city where digital access and inclusion are urgent concerns.

That’s where we believe the Gigabit Community Fund can make a difference; by supporting entrepreneurs from diverse backgrounds and by bringing the educational opportunities of the future into the classrooms of today. Learn more about the Fund here; submit a letter of intent by September 15 to get support in preparing a proposal, due October 18.

Listening To Austin

We began our work in July with a visit to Pecan Springs Elementary School, an informational breakfast for Austin supporters, a community hangout, and a stakeholder design charrette – all in our first three days! During the design charrette we engaged an intentional diversity of stakeholders to understand the Austin community context. You can find slide decks, one-pagers, and documentation of the event on our public GDrive. Thanks to the Google Fiber Austin team for hosting us!

Since then, we’ve had conversations with dozens of local educators, regional leaders, and direct service professionals; we’ve joined panel discussions at Urban Co-Lab and with the Electronic Frontier Foundation; we’ve been hanging out at the Open Austin meetups every week; and we’re looking forward to the upcoming Learn All the Time Community Meeting and the Austin Tech for Schools Summit co-hosted by our friends at EdTech Action.

Learning From Austin

There’s still so much to learn about our new home, but we think we’ve already picked up a couple of important lessons that can inform our work going ahead. Here’s four to start with:

  • Austin is the center of an evolving regional ecosystem. The whole city core has been experiencing rapid gentrifying and the target population for broadening inclusion has been migrating beyond the city limits into surrounding communities including Del Valle, Manor, Round Rock and elsewhere. That’s why we’re defining Hive ATX’s service area to be inclusive of Texas Education Agency’s (TEA) Education Service Centers (ESC) Region 13, which covers Austin Independent School District (AISD) and 59 other school districts between San Antonio and Waco.
  • Austin is doing some serious work on the digital inclusion front. Austin is now America’s fastest growing city, fueled by the economic opportunity of a regional tech boom. However, that opportunity is not equitably accessible to all of Austin’s residents. That’s why Austin’s Office of Digital Inclusion is doing essential work to and needs critical support to help bring everyone along.
  • Austin is already working to strengthen its educational ecosystem. Nationally recognized and vibrant groups like EdTech Austin have been building bridges between the tech sector and school districts for years, new players like Code/Interactive have arrived to work alongside folks at CS4TX, and collective action initiatives like Learn All the Time are aligning service agencies across Region 13.
  • Austin wants to talk about Digital Literacy. If anything, our connections over the last month have resulted in many creative, nuanced, and passionate conversations on the importance of digital literacy, what it means, and who’s in greatest need. We can see that people still have more to say and we’d love to keep the conversation going.

Working With Austin

Hive Austin has the opportunity to add fuel where communities of practice on digital literacy may already exist, like with Learn All the Time. Where they don’t, we have the opportunity to build, but our greatest potential lies in convening a cross-sector community of practice focused on defining digital literacy and inclusion for their communities.

With the The Gigabit Community Fund, we can invest in leaders who are already laying down pathways and building bridges between diverse learners and the tech sector, like e4 Youth.

We can invest in educators and educational organizations that create diverse and inclusive learning environments for learners of all backgrounds and ages, like the Thinkery.

We can invest in entrepreneurs and technologists – like the folks at Urban Co-Lab’s diversity in tech launch party – that hope to build tools and resources that help learners leapfrog the current digital divide by anticipating the high-speed, networked innovations of the future.

This is how we can support Austin to create the inclusive and equitable tech boom its community deserves.

Get Involved with Hive Austin

Save the date for our Information and Networking Meetup event on September 24 at the Google Fiber Space. Sign up for our mailing list and follow @HiveATX on Twitter to stay up to date with local opportunities to learn more. Then take a moment to vote for our Core Conversation at SXSWEdu, “Empowering educators to shape the Web…empowers youth to shape society.”

Bring Out Your Best IoT Ideas

We’re hosting an IoT sprint weekend this September. Here’s what to expect — and why you should participate

We’re living in a world where physical objects are quickly becoming conduits for something more genius than their original functions, and there is great opportunity for innovation in this Internet of Things (IoT) space. Innovations like your coffee maker starting up when your alarm goes off or your umbrella lighting up when it’s going to rain that day are changing the way we all live, work, learn, and play.

Photo from a Mozilla IoT week in Scotland

Photo from a Mozilla IoT week in Scotland

These opportunities for innovation are even greater in gigabit cities like Chattanooga where our super-fast network allow for dozens (or hundreds!) of connected devices to operate simultaneously and to deliver real time big data. Our gigabit work at Mozilla is based on the belief that open, innovative technology can make learning more immediate, equitable, and immersive through next-generation technology.

Photo from an Mozilla IoT event in Berlin, Germany

Photo from an Mozilla IoT event in Berlin, Germany

With that in mind, Mozilla’s Hive Chattanooga, in collaboration with The Company Lab, is hosting 48Hour Launch: Internet of Things (IoT) Edition, on September 9-11. 48Hour Launch is a weekend-long competition that challenges teams of entrepreneurs and specialists to spend 48 hours transforming a startup concept into a viable business model, prototype, policy proposal, or piece of curriculum. The experience culminates with a Demo Night, where participants debut their work for a chance to win cash prizes, free business services, and a free trip to MozFest in London.

We’re looking for ideas that harness the power of high-speed internet to develop applications involving connected devices. Eight selected teams will work on their innovative IoT concepts and receive support from expert mentors in development, design, curriculum development, communications, policy, and other key fields. We are excited to see applications from all types of professional backgrounds, including educators, entrepreneurs, designers, open source advocates as well as people who are just beginning to dig into the gigabit and IoT worlds.

An interested team could be:

    • An educator with an idea for how connected devices can be used in his classroom
      • What he gets from weekend: recruit a team to help him build an initial prototype as well as support to help turn his idea into an IoT/gigabit curriculum
    • A startup IoT business
      • What they get from the weekend: Mozilla expertise to help them develop their business idea in an open way, educator advisors to help them dream about how their business could find a new audience in the classroom
    • A technologist with a vision for a new connected device
      • What she gets from the weekend: a plan to turn the vision into a business idea, technical experts to help build a prototype, educational advisors to explore how this concept could be put to use in learning spaces

All teams will:

  • Benefit from Co.Lab’s network of experts
  • Learn from Mozilla’s designers, developers, open source advocates and globally-recognized IoT experts
  • Have the support of local education experts and Mozilla’s learning leaders to explore how their innovations could be put to using in learning spaces
  • Get “stuff” to play with
  • Shape the future of IoT innovation and implementation by exploring how gigabit networks make possible smart and connected communities

Interested? Looking forward to jumping into this intersection of gigabit + IoT? Need an excuse to visit a world-class outdoor adventure destination? Apply here by August 26 and join Mozilla as we share our commitment to and expertise in open source practices, web literacy, and digital inclusion in an incredible local event.

If you have questions, please contact Katie Hendrix – katieh (at) – and she would be happy to speak with you. Look forward to seeing y’all in Chattanooga in September!

VR + Education: A Learning Adventure for All

There has been a lot of buzz about augmented and virtual reality this past week in Kansas City, and not just because of PokemonGo. Kansas City’s first virtual reality hackathon took place over the weekend – and we gave it an educational spin!

The focus of the event, hosted by KCVR, was to make virtual and augmented reality accessible. It served as an opportunity to bring together educators interested in how the technology could benefit their students with developers eager to learn how to build virtual games and experiences.

A KCVR Hackathon participant tests the Hololens during team networking.

A KCVR Hackathon participant tests the Hololens during team networking.

What if stepping into the classroom or library meant stepping into anywhere? Essentially that’s the core promise of virtual reality. There is amazing potential to create new learning environments that are immersive and engaging. It’s as much about the technology as how you use it. Augmented and virtual reality technologies literally make it possible for educators to put the world into our kids’ hands.

Over the course of a weekend, teams of educators, designers, developers, and students – most with little to no experience working with virtual reality (VR) – came together to build amazing projects that demonstrate how the emerging technology could be used to impact learning. Event co-hosts Steve Biegun and Andrew London, also the co-founders of KCVR, gave demos on platforms like A-Frame and Unity and talked about where the technology is going. They also jumped around from team to team to provide advice and help troubleshoot.

Project ideas ranged from historical journeys and virtual reading experiences to game based challenges for understanding the laws of physics. Educators worked alongside developers to conceptualize projects and advise on classroom applications. Developers with no previous VR experience prototyped with A-Frame, rolled up their sleeves to figure out how to incorporate motion sensor devices with VR headsets, and applied their code know-how in to build virtual environments in platforms like Unity. A local 13 yr old student with an interest in coding even joined a team to help out!

Niko Cano, a 9th grade student in Kansas City, tests Tilt Brush while helping her team, LIFE, come up with educational VR game ideas.

Niko Cano, a 9th grade student in Kansas City, tests Tilt Brush while helping her team, LIFE, come up with educational VR game ideas.

After a weekend of building and hacking, teams presented their projects to a panel of judges – Steve Biegun and Andrew London, Aaron Deacon of KC Digital Drive, and Brooke Cashion with zSpace.

And the winners were…

Best educational impact: Team Pennez presented a concept for building out libraries of virtual reading experiences to improve children’s literacy.

Best use of technology: The Data XRAY team presented an application that combined the Hololens with IoT technologies to display uses of connected devices.

Most engaging: The LIFE team presented a series of VR games to help children learn math and science. The games also incorporated motion sensor technology.

The entire weekend was an adventure in learning. As teams worked to develop virtual experiences to enhance learning opportunities for others, many were also learning how to build with VR for the first time. It was INCREDIBLE!

Local coverage of the event by the Kansas City Star and KCUR.

Mozilla’s Curriculum Specialist shares some ideas for VR in education.

Have a project idea? Learn more about Mozilla’s Gigabit Community Fund.

Follow @HiveKC on Twitter to learn more about events taking place in Kansas City.

If you’re in KC and interested in VR, attend a KCVR meetup.

Takeaways from ISTE 2016

The country’s largest education technology conference took place in Denver this past week and I was excited to be there! Nearly 20,000 k-12 educators, university professors, students, reporters, and ed tech company representatives gathered to explore how technology can be used to transform learning.

“I See What You Mean,” aka the giant blue bear peering into the lobby from outside of the Denver Convention Center

“I See What You Mean,” aka the giant blue bear peering into the lobby from outside of the Denver Convention Center

People and ideas were in constant motion. Wide-eyed educators were everywhere and ready to take in as much as possible when it came to applying technology to innovate learning. I’ve been to a lot of conferences, but none quite like this!

The ISTE 2016 conference was jam packed with opportunities for learning and building, and it was clear that educators had created their own personalized learning plans to make the most of it. Attendees filled session rooms, gathered around poster presenters, spent time in makerspaces, and connected with companies in the expo hall to discover new ways to use educational technology to enhance learning and engage their students.

Interactive sessions covered topics from shaping learning spaces to the latest gizmos and gadgets – many of them with lines out the door! Digital playgrounds and makerspaces invited hands on learning with everything from 3D printing to robots and Raspberry Pi’s. Powerful speakers like Dr. Michio Kaku and Ruha Benjamin challenged conference participants to think differently and more boldly about the intersections of technology, education and society.

Educators building in the ISTE Makerspace

Digital citizenship, making, project-based learning, and emerging tech trends all had strong showings at ISTE 2016. (Jason Ohler’s session ‘Five Trends that Bend’ was a big hit! Here is the slide deck.) Other trending topics included designing innovative learning environments, approaches for collaboration and communication, and utilizing online tools and resources.

Virtual reality also had a big presence.

Samsung released a survey during the conference revealing that 93 percent of teachers feel their students would be excited to use virtual reality, and 83 percent believe it can help improve learning outcomes — from better understanding of academic concepts to increased engagement and collaboration. Amazing! According to the study, the top three subjects teachers think can benefit from virtual reality are: science (82 percent), social studies (81 percent) and history (81 percent).

Given those numbers, it’s no surprise that dozens of sessions focused on the emerging technology. One of my favorites was a session led by Hall Davidson from Discovery Education on the 3R’s – QR (quick response), AR  (augmented reality), and VR (virtual reality). Here’s the slide deck full of ideas and resources.

It was inspiring to see so many educators on a common journey to innovate learning and powerful to witness how much technology is being developed or applied to advance education.

If you’re in Kansas City and interested in using virtual reality in your learning space, join us and KCVR for a VR Hackathon July 15-17.

Stay tuned for information on the next round of funding opportunities through the Gigabit Community Fund to support hi-tech technologies for learning in Austin, Chattanooga, and Kansas City.

Learn more about Mozilla’s tools and resources for teaching web literacy.