Monthly Archives: January 2012

Teaching the fourth ‘R': a fireside chat with Cathy Davidson

Join us for a virtual “fireside chat” with author Cathy Davidson:
Teaching the Fourth ‘R”: Webmaking as a 21st Century Skill
Wednesday, Feb 1 | 9am PST / 12pm EST / 5pm UTC
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How do we teach the web?

You’ve heard of “the three ‘R’s:” reading, writing and ‘rithmetic.

But author and noted academic Cathy Davidson says the 21st Century demands a fourth: “algoRithms,” as in the underlying threads and logic that shape our digital lives.

More than just “teaching people how to code,” Cathy sees “algorhtmic thinking” and webmaking as a vital antidote to the passive, assembly line model that still dominates too much education.

“Algorithmic thinking:” iterative, process-oriented, constructive

As Cathy argues recently in the Washington Post and in her most recent DML blog post:

We need to reform our learning institutions, concepts, and modes of assessment for our age.  Now, anyone with access to the World Wide Web can go far beyond the passive consumer model to contribute content on the Web….  That Do-It-Yourself potential for connected, participatory, improvisational learning requires new skills, what many are calling new “literacies.”

Like other literacies, algorithmic thinking is foundational, “a set of rules that precisely defines a sequence of operations.” She sees it as the opposite of the “bubble-thinking” ingrained through decades of highly standardized, multiple choice tests. “It provides an alternative to fact-based mastery and proposes, instead, iterative, process-oriented, constructive, innovative thinking.”

What is marvelous about algorithmic thinking and Webmaking is that you can actually see abstract thinking transformed into your own customized multimedia stories on the Web, offered to a community, and therefore contributing to the Web.  Algorithmic thinking is less about “learning code” than “learning to code.”  Code is never finished, it is always in process, something you build on and, in many situations, that you build together with others.   Answers aren’t simply “right” guesses among pre-determined choices, but puzzles to be worked over, improved, and adapted for the next situation, the next iteration.

Webmaking as art, craft and engineering

Cathy has become an increasingly active part of the Mozilla community. She was a driving force at the 2010 Mozilla Festival on “Learning, Freedom and the Web,” and is one of the lead organizers of the “Badges for Lifelong Learning Competition,” run in conjunction with Mozilla’s Open Badges software.

Cathy’s work at Duke University’s “HASTAC” initiative focuses on the intersection between the humanities and technology. Her interdisciplinary approach feels very Mozilla-ish, especially as we continue to reach out to new audiences and spaces:

The 20th century’s division into “two cultures”—with the human, social and artistic disciplines on one side and the scientific and technological on the other—makes no sense in the world of Webcraft.

In fact, algorithmic thinking is so much about process, invention, and customizing that, in some circles, there is still a healthy debate about whether writing code is an art form, a craft, or engineering.  Is it thinking or doing?  Is it writing or making?  Is it theory or practice?  The answer is “all of the above.”

Join us Feb 1

We hope you’ll join Cathy and moderator Mark Surman on Feb 1 to chat about how Mozilla can build on these ideas to create a more web literate planet. See you there!

Buffy slays Twilight: how to make pop-up video mayhem

Remember those awesome pop-up videos on VH1? Thanks to Mozilla Popcorn, the new HTML5 tool for supercharging web video, the pop-up format is about to get a whole new lease on life.

Exhibit A: this wicked “Buffy the Vampire Slayer vs. Edward from Twilight” remix, created by the mash-up maestro from Rebellious Pixels. Check it out here. Then get started making your own pop-up video here.

“Hacking pop culture”

First posted in its original form in 2009, the “Buffy vs. Edward” remix video has garnered over 4 million views, been subtitled into 30 languages, and received media attention from NPR radio to Vanity Fair (“Buffy Could Kick Edward Cullen’s Precious Sparkly Emo Ass“).

The new Mozilla Popcorn-powered “pop-up” version adds a new interactive layer over top, with added annotations, commentary, and tips on protecting yourself from real-life stalkers.

The video’s creator, “pop culture hacker” Jonathan McIntosh, says the remix is all about hacking gender roles and Hollywood cultural coding — a theme he’s explored in other projects like the hilarious “Gendered Advertising Remixer,” now also available in HTML5 format.

Create your own pop-up video with Mozilla Popcorn

Want to add annotations and pop-ups to your own videos? Popcorn Maker is designed to make the power of Mozilla Popcorn more accessible to non-developers and mere mortals. Popcorn Maker’s “pop-up video” template makes it (fairly) easy for you to add annotations and context to just about any video on the web.

The software is still in early alpha version, so there’s still lots of rough edges. But you can check it out and get started now. Just pick “Pop Video” from the “Choose a Template” menu.  Or have a look at the Popcorn Maker user manual here.

Crowdsourcing the State of the Union

Mozilla partners with public media to empower citizen engagement in U.S. election coverage

Tuesday’s State of the Union Address from U.S. President Barack Obama will include something special: crowdsourced captions and subtitles provided by everyday citizens around the world.

Using new web tools from Mozilla and the Participatory Culture Foundation, participants will transcribe and translate the President’s speech into dozens of languages in a matter of hours, making it more accessible to those with disabilities and in other countries across the globe.

Launching “Open Election 2012″

The event marks the launch of “Open Election 2012,” a new partnership  between Mozilla, PBS NEWSHOUR, the Corporation for Public Broadcasting  (CPB) and Participatory Culture Foundation.

Open Election 2012 will showcase how new open web technologies and citizen participation can make election coverage more accessible to diverse audiences, and provide new ways to engage with the news.

Adding context and interactivity with Mozilla Popcorn
Throughout the election, PBS NEWSHOUR will also use “Mozilla Popcorn,” a new HTML5 media tool Fast Company recently called “the future of online video.”

Popcorn makes it possible to pull other content and context from across the web right into the story, providing new ways for viewers to interact with video news.

Engaging and inspiring audiences
“It is part of the mission of public media to make our content available to everyone,” explained Hari Sreenivasan, Correspondent and Director of Digital Partnerships for PBS NEWSHOUR.

“From Chinese to Dutch, the speech translation is a true service for those for whom English is a second language and the hard of hearing. We hope to engage and inspire audiences too often forgotten.”

Learn more