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) mozillafoundation.org – 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.

Advancing the Promise of Gigabit Internet for Learning in Austin

A Next Generation Learning Opportunity

What if every child in Austin had the opportunity to deploy a network of digital sensors to analyze local air and water quality? Utilize studio-grade audio tools without special hardware, straight from a web browser? Connect flawlessly with peers in classrooms across the city to co-work on collaborative projects? Transport themselves to a protest and march alongside activists in a virtual reality simulation?

Thanks to next-generation internet networks – currently in deployment by Google Fiber at Austin ISD schools, non-profits, public housing units, and neighborhoods surrounding you – opportunities like these are already possible.

Students play a DIY, internet connected, digital foosball table at the Mozilla Festival

Students play a DIY, internet connected, digital foosball table at the Mozilla Festival

Introducing Hive Austin

Last month Mozilla announced the launch of Hive Austin and the Gigabit Community Fund to support innovators who put learners first. Hive Austin will connect and build local leaders in education and workforce development who will help learners understand and leverage opportunities made possible by gigabit speed networks. As in Hive Networks in Chicago, Toronto, Pittsburgh, New York City, Kansas City, Chattanooga and elsewhere around the globe, Hive Austin will advance the promise of the Internet for learning in a networked world.

This August, Mozilla will begin to accept proposals from the Austin education and technology innovation community in response to its Gigabit Community Fund RFP. Grants ranging from $5K to $25K will support the production of curriculum, tools and pilot programs that leverage the next-generation internet for education and workforce development outcomes. Special consideration will be given to projects that can be extended to established Mozilla Gigabit cities: Chattanooga and Kansas City.

If you are interested in learning more, please sign up for our mailing list and look out for opportunities to meet the local Mozilla team this summer.

Teachers exploring the use of Minecraft for design thinking at a Hive educator peer-learning event hosted by the Chicago Architecture Foundation.

Teachers exploring the use of Minecraft for design thinking at a Hive educator peer-learning event hosted by the Chicago Architecture Foundation

An Education Innovation Peer-Learning Community

Hive Austin will support a peer-learning community for innovation in education to move next generation network-enabled technologies out of the lab and into the hands of users. The real magic happens when researchers, developers, and companies work together with learners, educators and learning organizations to engage in user-centered design that proves the viability of these technologies.

Intentional efforts by local leaders to make Austin’s rapidly growing technology sector more inclusive and responsive to the broader community provide real promise for educational and workforce impact. In 2014, the City of Austin developed and released a Digital Inclusion Strategic Plan, which they support with the Grants for Technology Opportunities Program and with implementation partners like Austin Free-Net. Just this year, Austin was also announced as a White House TechHire Community and it already has an active civic-technology community that convenes through Open Austin, a local Code for America brigade.

Specific to the gig, Google Fiber Austin will be an incredible partner for Hive; their local work in unlocking the connection with the Housing Authority for the City of Austin has received national recognition.

In the education space, Austin has been nationally recognized as a STEM Ecosystem city and local funders like the KDK Harman Foundation and the Andy Roddick Foundation have provided important support for collective action initiatives like the Central Texas Afterschool Network. The emergent Computer Science for All efforts lead by the KLE Foundation in Austin create another valuable opportunity for curricular and teacher professional development.

Taken together, these initiatives create incredibly fertile ground for cross-sector collaboration.

Mozillian Raegan MacDonald on stage at the Mozilla Festival speaking to our theme of Shape The Web

Mozillian Raegan MacDonald on stage at the Mozilla Festival speaking to our theme of Shape The Web

What Mozilla Brings to Austin

Mozilla fuels a global movement to create and sustain an open internet that truly puts people first. High speed networks are helping to shape the future of a Web that – thanks to projects like Hive Austin and the Gigabit Community Fund – will remain open, accessible, and built by all of us. Together in Austin, our work will explore core issues facing the Web about which Mozilla cares deeply: open innovation, web literacy, and digital inclusion.

Austin will be joining Kansas City and Chattanooga as the third city in the Mozilla Gigabit Community Fund portfolio, which already includes 26 pilot projects funded since 2014. Two more Mozilla Gigabit cities will be announced in 2017 and will further expand opportunities to spread effective pilot projects nationally.

Hive Austin will distribute a total of $150K in grant funding over the next year in two RFP cycles, the first opening this August 2016 with proposals due October 18, 2016. Local collaborations will be supported by Robert Friedman, Hive Austin Portfolio Strategist.

Connecting Students to Next-Gen Pilots

We have nine amazing projects underway in Chattanooga and Kansas City to pilot applications and associated curricula that leverage high-speed networks for learning. The 16-week pilot period started on May 16 and we had a chance to check in with the grantees on the progress they’re making, the challenges they face, and what they’re most excited about as their projects unfold. Since many of you might be working with them directly, or looking for some inspiration for projects you’re working on your own, we thought you might like a glimpse of what’s been going on as the summer starts.

Three weeks into the pilot period, we asked grantees a few questions and here are some of their responses:

What do you anticipate will be the greatest challenge over the next fifteen weeks?

  • “…The majority of our work will take place in a very short period of time and that will be a very big challenge.” [Cross-city Gigabit-enabled Learning Platform]
  • “I anticipate that the timing of the software will be the greatest challenge during the fifteen weeks. We are projecting that it will take 8-10 weeks of development, but we are very confident in our development team. Additionally, timing is very important because we need enough time for user testing so that children can have the best experience.” ~ [Pennez: Read2Think]
  • “Building a bank of mentors that can be effective for participating schools.  I’m modifying this a bit with corporate sponsors who can provide mentors more easily and without friction on time out of office.” [SensED IoT Student Innovation Challenge]

What impact of the pilot do you think will matter most to participants?

  • “They will be part of developing a brand new technology that incorporates art and technology.” [Raspberry Python Music Genie]
  • “Education is undeniably important, and specifically using virtual reality as a learning tool will leave a unique impact on participants. Users will be surprised by the level of immersion and the efficiency of learning. Most participants will find the experience engaging and like us, be in awe of the possibilities presented.” [ViatoR]
  • “I am hopeful that the information the students gain from going through the pilot process will help them to think differently about design and its potential to positively or negatively affect the environment – and by having data in a clear and measurable way, that this message will stay with them.” [Open Data + 3D Models]
  • “I think teachers will be stunned to see the scope of the projects that middle and high school students came up with in our initial pilot, and the ease with which the program can be integrated into a school subject or as a club.” [SensED IoT Student Innovation Challenge]

What part of your project are you most excited about?

  • “Seeing students come up with their own questions and ideas about the project, as well as engage authentically with scientific research and 4K technology.” [Streaming 4K Content for Learning Experiences]
  • “I am excited about the technology piece of this project. I feel that technology can change education and create excitement in…classrooms. With gigabit internet we not have the power to beam high definition video into the classroom at real-time. There are so many opportunities for entrepreneurial growth.” [Gigtank 4K: Scaling from Micro to Macro]
  • “Personally, I am most interested in actually using the 4k microscopes. As a former Biology teacher, I am excited about what this will look like and how it will be different than what I have experienced before – as a student and as a teacher.” [Cross-city Gigabit-enabled Learning Platform]
  • “My team and I are most excited about impacting how children can read. We know that if we can help how children can read then we can change their lives.” [Pennez: Read2Think]

We plan to bring you more updates and ideas as the pilot period progresses. If you have any questions for our grantees, feel free to leave them in the comments section. In the meantime, start thinking about what you might want to work on and propose for our second round of funding, which closes on October 18. Learn more about the process on our website.

Emerging Gigabit Community Fund trends

Living in the self-titled Gig City, most people have heard of EPB’s gigabit internet service but understanding what that might mean in their everyday lives is a bit more ambiguous. Our goal for the Gigabit Community Fund is to provide opportunities to explore how high speed networks can impact learning. Over the last few years, we’ve had great conversations with educators and technologists about those opportunities and in turn, have funded some exciting and creative projects.

In 2016, we’ve built upon those earlier conversations to further explore new frontiers of technology with our funding in Chattanooga and Kansas City. The local communities are making the connection beyond what is made better by the gig and are moving into what is made possible with gigabit connectivity. Educators are coming forward with their own projects, with an enthusiasm to explore in a world that was typically held by technologists. On the flip side, technologists are seeing clear and practical applications for how their projects can enhance learning for students. Throw in the ballet, a makerspace and a raspberry pi, and you’re creating a gigabit world that goes way beyond big data or live streaming.

A Raspberry Pi. Photo by Danny Chamorro.

If you are asking yourself, “What’s the big deal with gigabit internet?”, our Mozilla curriculum developer, Chad Sansing, provides some perspective:

“If a poor Internet connection is a tunnel we have to go through, stooped over, one at a time, then a gigabit connection is a vast plain with room to move in a hundred directions at once. A gigabit connection is like an entire landscape or ecosystem; its bandwidth creates enough space for data-intensive, multi-user collaborations on web. Learners in the same classroom – and even different cities – can work together in real-time to edit videos, produce music, and participate in immersive simulations through emergent technologies like Web Virtual Reality (WebVR).”

Our funded projects include collaborations between local organizations and cities. Several projects are building on proven pilots (like the Chattanooga STEM School 4K microscope) to become scalable and another is providing real world experiences for students with the emerging field of the Internet of Things. A third project will use virtual reality to immerse students in a foreign land for an interactive language learning experience. With a thriving 4K arena, three of our Chattanooga funded projects will navigate that space to create proven curriculum open and accessible to others. While focused on different technologies, all nine of our grantees continue to push forward the conversation about how to make learning more immediate, immersive and equitable using the gigabit network.

We invite you to consider applying for our next round of Gigabit Community Fund grants (due October 18, 2016). We are excited to see new ideas emerge utilizing gigabit internet as it transforms formal and informal learning spaces! If you are interested, feel free to submit an intent to apply or send us a note with your ideas. Still unsure what all this means? Check out our May Mozilla Learning Community Call which dives into more practical ways gigabit technology is impacting and evolving education. We look forward to you joining the conversation!

Education and Innovation at the Gigabit City Summit

“We all win if we’re all in.” ~ Richard Culatta, CIO for the State of Rhode Island

We value education as core to human and societal advancement. We see it as vital to economic development. It’s the key to preparing today’s youth for tomorrow’s jobs. Yet, it rarely makes the top 10 list of priorities for those in government responsible for innovation. And innovation agendas are taking center stage in many cities across the nation – and the world.

During the Gigabit City Summit hosted by KC Digital Drive last week, we teamed up with Think Big to host the Education Track, which focused on exploring issues at the intersection of community innovation, emerging technologies, and education.

Richard Culatta, Chief Innovation Officer (CIO) for the State of Rhode Island and former Director of Education Technology at the White House, joined us to get the discussion going. Richard’s background in education – he started off as a Spanish teacher – makes it easy to understand why his views on education set him apart from most CIOs. Although education didn’t make the cut of top 10 priorities areas for CIO’s in a 2015 study, Richard sees education as a primary focus of his work. Without an educational infrastructure that is aligned to the increasingly technical needs of the workforce, he believes we’re doing ourselves – and our children – a disservice.

To explore the issues surrounding the role of education in building smart, digital communities, we convened an expert panel to continue the discussion. The panel, made up of leaders in education innovation, city policy, economic development, and ecosystem development, all agreed –  we can’t expect kids to be ready for the future’s workforce without positioning education front and center.

Leigh Anne Taylor Knight (DeBruce Foundation and ThinkShift) introduces the panel – Kiley Larson, Research Scientist, NYU & Research Strategist, LRNG; Sheri Gonzales Warren, Community & Economic Development Project Manager, Mid America Regional Council; Katie Boody, CEO, The Lean Lab; and Michael Baskin, Chief Policy Officer, City of Chattanooga

The panel explored how emerging technologies are creating more opportunity for learning, discussed issues around talent pipelines, skill needs, and data. They talked about the value of empowering teachers, students and parents to be agents of change in the community. A common theme throughout the discussion was the importance of collaboration in tackling many of the challenges ahead as the fabric of our cities change.

After discussing some of the challenges and opportunities our communities and economies face with technological innovation, we heard from some amazing educators and entrepreneurs using technology to transform education. Their Ignite Talks highlighted new approaches and technologies paving the way for tomorrow’s education and included:

  • New school models (XQ);
  • Inclusive programs for bridging the digital divide (Tech Goes Home CHA);
  • New IoT curriculum (SenseEd);
  • Gamified curricula (edcoda, Mission to Mars); and
  • Immersive learning technologies (LumenTouch/SightDeck, Immersive Education).

Gigabit City Summit Education Track participants suggested ideas for virtual reality field trips

As a mission driven organization focused on promoting and protecting the internet as a public good, Mozilla is interested in bringing more voices into discussions about the future of the web. Part of that is about advancing web literacy, but it’s also about exploring new frontiers of technology. That’s what drives the work we do in gigabit cities through the Gigabit Community Fund to pilot emerging technologies in learning environments.

Forums like the Gigabit City Summit are amazing platforms for creating collisions between often siloed discussions about innovation, technology, and education. We’re thankful for the opportunity to partner with KC Digital Drive to create a space for this discussion and grateful to all who participated.

It’s a shared vision and shared work. As Richard Culatta said in his remarks, “We all win if we’re all in.”

Get Involved in the Conversation: Join the gigabit focused Mozilla Community Call on May 25th at 4pm EDT – mzl.la/comcall.

Mozilla Gigabit Community Fund announces third city

In addition to the breakfast taco, 300 days of annual sunshine, and bats galore, Austin, Texas is the newest home of Mozilla’s Gigabit Hive. Chosen from a robust list of amazing cities across the U.S., Austin rose to the top with it’s citywide digital inclusion plan, active developer community, and networked informal education landscape. The first two Mozilla Gigabit cities, Chattanooga and Kansas City, have already contributed 26 projects and pilots to the Gigabit EdTech ecosystem. We can’t wait to see how Austin’s Gigabit Hive community will help grow these existing projects while also contributing brand new ideas to our growing national network. 4k streaming between Austin and Chattanooga? A collaborative censor-based citizen science research project between Kansas City and Austin? The possibilities are endless.

As the third city in the Mozilla Gigabit portfolio, Austin’s educators and technologists will have access to $150,000 in grant funding, as well as support from a vibrant learning community we call Hive. This community will explore how Austin’s high-speed Google Fiber network can impact learning in classrooms, museums, and other learning spaces across the community. Austinite’s of all ages will become gigabit creators and beta-testers, exploring technologies like 4K streaming and immersive virtual reality that wouldn’t be possible on traditional networks.

Launching August 2016, the first round of grant funding will be open for Austin-based applicants to apply by October 18, 2016. Click to learn about the RFP process. In the meantime, stay tuned for meetups and other activities to learn more at Mozilla, Hive, and new Gigabit Community Fund grant opportunities. Sign up to receive additional information and invites to Austin events.

Interested in becoming a future Gigabit Hive city? We will be reopening the city application process in late 2016. Read more about the most recently funded projects in KC and Chattanooga.