Introducing the New Thimble, an Educational Code Editor for Teaching and Learning the Web

Hannah Kane

Today, Mozilla is introducing the new Thimble, an upgraded tool for teaching and learning web literacy in a simple, hands-on and visual fashion.

We believe the Web is a better place when everyone can read, write and participate online, a belief that served as our inspiration for first creating Thimble in 2012. With Thimble, users write and edit HTML, CSS, and JavaScript on the left side of their screen, and watch their code come to life on the right. Learners can start with simple remixes, changing words and images on a page to familiarize themselves with code and build confidence. Learners can also work their way toward creating entire web pages from scratch. We’ve seen Thimble used by educators in amazing ways: middle schoolers in Virginia building apps, activists in Barcelona designing net neutrality posters, and university students in Mombasa hacking together projects.

Screen Shot 2015-08-31 at 3.50.34 PMThimble exemplifies the hands-on, collaborative learning philosophy at the core of Mozilla’s work. Thimble can be used by educators to create a customized and interactive classroom experience, or used by independent learners eager to teach themselves via step-by-step tutorials. All of Thimble’s creations are open source and fully remixable. And Thimble itself is free and open source, always. In 2014, Thimble was recognized with the ON for Learning Award from Common Sense Media, an accolade for outstanding digital media products that educate and engage young people.

So, what’s new with this version of Thimble? We’ve built enhancements that transform Thimble into not just a better code editor, but also a rich platform for educators to build curriculum on. Updates include:

  • Expanded capabilities. Users can now build and link multiple web pages, rather than just one, within a single project
  • A helping hand. A more guided learning experience featuring easy-to-use tutorials, auto-closing tags and autocomplete
  • A streamlined interface. A sleeker look and feel with light and dark theme options, an easy-to-use color picker, and easy access to all of your files and projects
  • Drag, drop and unzip. You can now drag and drop a zipped website into the editor, expand it, and start hacking immediately
  • Better previews. A mobile browser preview mode, to see how your project will appear on the mobile Web
  • So much more. Auto save, extensions, a selfie-taker and other new features

The new Thimble is the result of collaboration between Mozilla and the Seneca College Centre for Development and Open Technology, and research was funded by the Natural Science and Engineering Research Council of Canada (NSERC). The new, more powerful Thimble is also made possible through our incorporation of the open source text editor Brackets. Read more about Seneca and Brackets here.

The Thimble community has a rich history of creativity: teachers create template projects for their students to remix; students remix each others projects for collaborative learning; and educators share their curriculum and teaching activities with colleagues. We’re excited to see what educators and learners create next. Use Thimble to help others read, write and participate online — and make the Web a better place.

Questions? Reach us anytime at @MozTeach or, and watch our introduction video below:


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Reflections on the Webmaker Launch

Paul Johnson

With the official launch of Webmaker last week, we wanted to share some early results, talk about our ongoing promotion of the new app and reflect a bit on how we’ll be evaluating success and impact in the weeks and months to come.


Assessing Product/Market Fit

With this launch we’ll be refining our understanding of product market fit, specifically as it relates to target markets and audiences and future product iterations: Is it a compelling experience for a large number of people, how and what do they do with the app, do they find the app useful over time and do they share it with friends and community? Furthermore, does it have meaningful impact as a learning and content creation tool in support of our goal to get more people reading, writing and participating on the Web?

“It’s now feasible for many people to access the web, but contributing to the web? That’s harder, since you usually need money, know-how or both to create much more than a Tumblr page. Mozilla thinks it can help, though. Its just-finished Webmaker app lets anyone with an Android phone create web content.” –Jon Fingas, Engadget

Initial Results

  • over 21K active users of the app and nearly 31K total downloads since the Beta launch in late-June.
  • users in 188 different countries
  • Top 5 countries of use are India (13%), US (12%), Indonesia (10%), Bangladesh (5%) and Brazil (5%)
  • over 20K projects created and nearly 5K projects shared
  • 69 press stories, in 22 countries, and nearly 5K social media mentions
(snapshot of real-time app usage from 8/24)

(snapshot of real-time app usage from 8/24)

What It Means

We don’t have enough time elapsed or enough feedback – yet – to make any real assumptions about the relative success of the launch. But, it definitely feels like a good start. The buzz was significant, overwhelmingly positive in tone, and thousands of people are downloading and using the app. And our initial focus on a small number of communities appears to be paying off – those are the places where we are seeing the most activity.

To help us answer the core question of product/market fit, we’ll be looking at a variety of quantitative and qualitative metrics over the next 30-60 days:

  • Active users, particularly as it relates to acceleration and week-over-week and month-over-month growth rates
Retention rates, measured by how many users are still active at 7 days and 30 days, or inversely by churn and uninstalls
  • Engagement rates, by looking at number of makes and shares per user, to evaluate stickiness
  • Virality, as measured by total shares and, more importantly, new users added via shared projects
Locale-specific growth and retention rates, to evaluate cost/benefit in our core locales and to identify additional locales to focus on
  • Popular content types as measured by makes and shares
Qualitative feedback from Google Play reviews and support channels
  • Qualitative feedback from community

The Launch Campaign

The secret to our success has been – and will continue to be – an incredible community of Mozillians passionate about the work we are doing and showing incredible effort and initiative in promoting Webmaker. In Indonesia, Bangladesh and Brazil in particular, small teams of motivated individuals have stood up over 40 events (with more planned), deployed social media campaigns and effectively reached out to media to have our story told publicly. There’s a lot more planned in the coming weeks and it’s already clear that we have community-generated momentum on our side.

In support of the remarkable effort by the community, we also deployed a campaign through our marketing and communications channels, including:

  • Launch blog on and, which was quickly translated by many of our communities
  • Global promotion on the snippet
  • Promotion on, and on new tab page in Firefox
Emails to Webmaker, Mozilla Learning Network and Reps communities
Heavy promotion on social through @mozilla, @webmaker and @mozteach
Localized ad campaign on Facebook in ID, BR, BD and KE
Press outreach in North America, Brazil, Indonesia and Bangladesh
Webmaker workshops in Indonesia, including more than 40 school visits
Message testing on landing page, email, snippet and paid Facebook ad campaign

In the weeks to come, we’ll be doubling down on the tactics above, testing additional channels, expanding our grassroots events to more places, optimizing messaging and creative, focusing on onboarding and retention communications and expanding support for community and partner initiatives.

Cool Things People Have Made with Webmaker This Week

The most fun part of the first week has been seeing the incredible things people are creating with the app. We’ve seen wonderful, diverse and creative examples of what’s possible with the app:

This list is just a small sampling of what we’ve seen to-date and we’ll be featuring more of this great content in the weeks to come. Spread the word about Webmaker by sharing this graphic on your favorite social network:


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Volunteer Spotlight: Indonesia’s Amazing Webmaker Team


Over the past several months, Webmaker has made a grand entrance in Indonesia. The app has been shared in schools in Makassar, translated by community members in Semarang, tested by users in Jakarta, and so much more. The Mozilla community in Indonesia is constantly buzzing on Telegram, GitHub and Skype with creative ideas.

What’s even more impressive: this work is done by Mozillians, volunteers who share their time and talent to make Webmaker a success.

Mozillians at a Webmaker event in Jakarta, Indonesia. Credit: Yofie Setiawan

Mozillians at a Webmaker event in Jakarta, Indonesia. Credit: Yofie Setiawan

A small team — just 23 Mozillians, Firefox Student Ambassadors (FSAs) and Mozilla Reps — have accomplished amazing things. They’ve given Webmaker an unforgettable introduction. Indeed, volunteers have brought Webmaker to thousands of users in 13 different Indonesian cities.

Volunteers in Indonesia divided into seven teams to launch Webmaker, organizing based on skills and expertise. Teams included Content, Tutorials and School Presentations, Partnerships and Celebrity Endorsements, Localization, Social Media and Communications, Mozilla Clubs, and Events.

Indonesia has always played a special role with Webmaker. Before launching, volunteers led by Mozillian Rizki Dwi Kelimutu not only localized the app, but also blogs, tutorials, teaching kits and press releases. Often, lengthy translations would be completed in just hours.

Volunteers also traveled around to share Webmaker with Indonesia. The Tutorials and School Presentations team initially planned to visit five schools in five different cities during launch. But by the end of September, the team will have visited more than 40 schools. Playing a major role in the school visits are Ahmad Munif, a teacher and Mozillian, and Muhammad Fachrul Razy, a Mozillian who will visit 16 different schools. So far, the team has held workshops in Makassar, Surabaya, Madura, Gresik, Semarang, Batang, Kendal, Cikarang, Bekasi, Wonosobo, Salatiga, Purwokerto and Bandung.

Mozillians in Bandung, Indonesia supporting Webmaker. Credit: Fauzan Alfi

Mozillians in Bandung, Indonesia supporting Webmaker. Credit: Fauzan Alfi

A school visit is intended to reach about 30 students, but often up to 100 students end up attending workshops. These students have created a range of projects with Webmaker, from holiday cards and tips for going green to exercise guides and comic strips. Outside of schools, users all around the country have been creating Webmaker projects with the help of Deryan Everestha Maured, the Mozillian leading the Content Team.

When Webmaker launched on August 17, hundreds of people around Indonesia were talking about the app on social media. Mozillian Nhie Wardiani led the Social Media and Communications team and created enormous amounts of buzz, also placing Webmaker in major Indonesian news outlets.

The Indonesia team has also hosted larger Webmaker events, public gatherings in cities where anyone can attend and try out the app. At the Jakarta and Bandung events earlier this month, volunteers had planned for 75 attendees — but many more signed up, and were placed on a digital waiting list.

                       Mozillians in Indonesia making Webmaker a success. Credit: Yofie Setiawan

Mozillians in Indonesia making Webmaker a success. Credit: Yofie Setiawan

There are far more events planned for August and September, from Makassar to Surabaya. The largest Webmaker event — to be held in September in Jakarta — will announce the winner of Indonesia’s two Webmaker contests. The first contest will reward the most interesting project in three categories: student, Android community and public. Each category will have a winner and runner up. The second contest will focus on people blogging about Webmaker.

Mozilla thanks all our community members in Indonesia for their outstanding work!

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Pledge to Teach–Preliminary Survey Results

Lainie Decoursy

Screen Shot 2015-08-20 at 11.47.10 AMAt the very end of June, we added a “Pledge to Teach” action to After people complete the pledge, they are able to take a survey that allows us to find out more about their particular context for teaching the Web, and their needs.

Below are the preliminary results from the first month, during which 77 people completed the survey, out of 263 users who took the pledge (a 29% response rate).


First, we asked about people’s interests in terms of teaching the Web, and provided a few options to choose from (respondents could choose as many as they liked).

  • Starting a Mozilla Club: 57%
  • Getting access to Digital Literacy curriculum: 79%
  • Running learning events (Maker Party, Hive Pop-Ups, etc.): 61%
  • Professional Development to help me get better at teaching digital skills: 81%
  • Connecting with a network of peers: 77%
  • Exploring tools to make the Web: 66%

The results align with our strategic plans to develop more curriculum, provide more professional development offerings, and build tools to help people connect with one another.

We also asked about the age range of the learners people reach:

  • 6-13: 40%
  • 14-24: 78%
  • 25-34: 44%
  • 35-44: 26%
  • 45-54: 17%
  • 55+: 19%

These findings align with the age-range that most of our existing curriculum is optimized for (14-24). That said, we know our audience is broader, and that content can be adapted for different ages and contexts. Certainly we have community members that work in the K-12 space, in higher education, with seniors, etc. Given the numbers for learners over 24, we may consider more intermediate/advanced web literacy content, and/or address this audience with more in-depth Teach Like Mozilla and MDN content.

We asked how many learners people expect to reach this year:

  • 0-50: 32%
  • 51-100: 22%
  • 101-200: 26%
  • 201-500: 5%
  • More than 500: 14%

This data speaks to the fact that survey participants are more likely individuals who have direct interactions with learners, vs larger partners with wider networks. The survey was intended to reach individual educators/mentors, but we might consider a similar survey directed to partners, too.

Note: we’ve since added a question to the survey that will allow us to know how many learners people reach at any one time. This will inform our curricular design process.

We asked about the contexts in which people teach (again, respondents were able to choose multiple answers):

  • At standalone events (for example, a one-day workshop, hackathon or Maker Party event):  51%
  • In a classroom during the school day: 52%
  • As part of an afterschool or summer program: 31%
  • With my friends and family at home: 56%
  • At professional meet-ups or training events with other adults/mentors/educators: 51%
  • At a college or university: 27%
  • At a library or other community space: 26%

Some of these results were surprising. For example, the responses for teaching at home and with friends were higher than we’d expected, as were the number of people teaching at professional meet-ups. If these trends continue, they will inform our curricular and professional development content offerings. We are also having a Web Literacy Training Fellow join us later in the year, and she will specifically address these contexts.

These findings also show that people are teaching across various contexts, which may speak to some leadership pathways (e.g. classroom teachers also hosting standalone events to reach more people).

Finally, we asked people about their motivations for teaching the Web. Here is a sample of those responses from a range of geographic regions:

The Internet is a place where any information is available, and people ought to know how to access the best of the information they seek, and know how to protect themselves beyond anti-virus programs. I want the opportunity to teach and engage with learners and peers outside of the classroom. (Canada)

I always believe that I should never wait for opportunities to help other people rather I should let myself open doors to help others. I want to share a part of what I know to people who wants to learn more about the digital world. (Philippines)

I think technology especially the Web could be a wonderful facility to awaken and support children being creative and using free thought as a positive means of fully participating in communities, society and the world. (UK)

Am driven by the passion to make the world a better place. I want students from my school to have extra skills apart from the normal curriculum taught in school. (Kenya)

We know this is a small sample so far, but we’ll look at results for the second month soon and see if trends continue. If you’d like to participate, please fill out the survey here.

In the meantime, the results of the survey will inform several of our next steps, including:

  • Consider iterations on site information hierarchy and calls-to-action
  • Create a content strategy that reflects community needs—including everything from site copy to blog content to curricular content to social media
  • Advance partner strategy given these insights

We will also soon be starting a new research effort with support from the Webmaker product team, to complement this survey, and to help us dig deeper into questions about our community’s assets, needs, and contexts.

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Welcome new Hive Learning Communities

Simona Ramkisson

The Mozilla Learning Network is excited to welcome Cascadia, Manchester, Vizag and Waterloo as the newest Hive Learning Communities in our global network. Each city brings a unique opportunity to support local leaders at organizations working to empower youth to read, write and participate on the Web. The teams spearheading Hive efforts in these cities have been working over the past few 6-12 months to build their communities, identify challenges and opportunities to address, and host launch events to drive local interest and participation.

They join a constellation of Hive communities–currently in 15 cities–that serve as innovation hubs working to build web literacy leadership and to disrupt and evolve learning possibilities for youth, educators and organizations within a city. Hive cities work locally and connect globally to test, spread and sustain best practices that mobilize practitioners, create exemplary resources, and catalyze city ecosystems.

Here are more details about our four newest Hive Learning Communities:

Hive Cascadia:

In December 2014, representatives from the Portland Art Museum, PDX Education and the Portland Public Library came together to discuss how to best to engage their community in a collaborative format. They discovered the Hive model and began the work of launching an 8-month community program that combined an art exhibit and gaming education with youth development opportunities. On July 23, they officially launched Hive Cascadia, which covers Portland, Salem and Eugene, Oregon. This youth-focused event was an effort to formally introduce the Hive and spark outreach to potential organizations to join their first cohort of community members.

Screen Shot 2015-08-19 at 8.22.14 PM

Hive Manchester: 

The Hive Manchester team has been engaged with Mozilla since 2011, beginning with participation at MozFest, later bringing the first-ever Young Rewired State event to the US in 2013 in partnership with Hive NYC, then re-activating conversations last year at MozFest during our first-ever Global Hive Meet-Up. Since then, this team has helped prototype and develop curriculum for Mozilla Clubs, built a committed team of volunteers, and hosted community meet-ups to officially launch their Hive efforts. Hive Manchester will focus on events outside of the traditional classroom and inside creative spaces across the city, that generate exciting learning opportunities for the diverse youth population of Manchester!

Hive Vizag:

Led by a team of long-time Mozillians, Hive Vizag has been over a year in the making. They brought Hive to their city through a series of pop-up and Maker Party events focused on exposing more people to digital and web literacy activities. After several years of successful Maker Party and pop-up events under the Hive India monkier, the team in Vizag have moved their focus to a more city-specific, local approach to have a more meaningful impact across Vizag.  Hive Vizag is currently working on developing an application process that allows them to recruit their first cohort of collaborative community members.

Hive Waterloo:

The team in Canada’s “Sillicon Valley” has been planning for the official launch of Hive Waterloo through the summer, and in conjunction with their involvement in the Year of Code Waterloo program. Specifically, Hive Waterloo will  work to support their goal of educating 250,000 people in coding and digital literacy throughout the Waterloo-Kitchener region. Since it’s launch on July 4th, 2015 Hive Waterloo has run coding workshops for youth and adults, held information sessions with community partners and supported local community festivals in their region.


We’re thrilled about the newest Hive Learning Communities and some of their early examples of bridging local efforts to a global initiative for broader impact. Follow #hivebuzz on Twitter for updates from across Hive cities, or visit for more information about how to bring the Hive model to your city.

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Mozilla Webmaker, Meet the World


Mozilla is excited to announce that Webmaker for Android emerges from beta today. You can download the new version of our free, open source app from Google Play at

Mozilla built Webmaker to empower first-time smartphone users and mobile-first Web users as active participants on the Web. Too often, individuals around the world experience a “read-only” mobile Web, passively consuming content and unable to actively contribute. But when consumers become creators, they’re introduced to social and economic opportunity. And when everyone can contribute equally, the Web becomes a better place.


Webmaker is Mozilla’s way of addressing the lack of local content in mobile-first markets. Initially available in four languages (Bengali, Brazilian Portuguese, English and Indonesian) and with more coming soon, the app allows individuals across the globe to create original content in their language and relevant to their community. We built Webmaker after extensive research around the world, and it’s informed by hundreds of volunteers. Webmaker belongs as much to these communities as it does Mozilla.

Webmaker’s hallmark is simplicity: there’s no know-how required, no steep learning curve, and no complex toolbars. Users can create a range of content in minutes — from scrapbooks and art portfolios to games and memes. The intuitive design lets users iterate on the Web’s basic building blocks: text, images and links. With these three fundamentals, our community has already built wonderful creations: how-to manuals, photo albums, digital sketchbooks and wardrobes, exercise handbooks and more. Users are also free to remix and tinker with each other’s Webmaker projects in order to start slowly and steadily expand their creative potential.

Teenagers in Bangladesh using Webmaker

Teenagers in Bangladesh using Webmaker

How is this version different from the Webmaker beta we released in June? In addition to better performance and a more optimal user experience, shared projects can now be viewed on any platform (mobile or desktop), and users with poor connectivity will experience better performance while offline. Also, content discovery is now location-based — you can see what others in your community are creating and remixing.

Ready to discover, create and share local content, and learn the basics of the Web along the way? Download Webmaker today at You can find ideas for your first project here.

We’re looking forward to seeing what you make! You can reach us anytime @Webmaker or at

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Product Update for Appmaker and Popcorn Maker


As Webmaker for Android nears the end of its time in beta and prepares for official launch, we wanted to share an update on Mozilla’s other tools for teaching the Web: Appmaker, Popcorn Maker, Thimble and X-Ray Goggles. We discussed the future of these tools in a May blog post, but after further discussion with the community we have updated our plans.

As previously mentioned, Thimble and X-Ray Goggles are powerful and popular tools among educators for teaching web literacy skills, and can now be found at Later this summer, we’ll be releasing an updated version of Thimble with improved capabilities, so stay tuned!

As our tools evolve, we will no longer support Appmaker and Popcorn Maker. Instead, we’re focusing our efforts on Webmaker for Android, which empowers smartphone users to create local content and read, write and participate online.

Both Appmaker and Popcorn Maker will remain available until Wednesday, Sept. 30, after which they will be inaccessible. We are no longer able to provide bug fixes and user support for these tools. However, users will still be able to access makes created with these tools in a read-only capacity, even after Sept. 30. To do so, visit and sign in. And as open source projects, the code for these tools will continue to be available for reuse at and

If you have any questions, email us at, or reach us on Twitter @Webmaker.


Maker Party 2015: Our Best Party Yet

Amira Dhalla

At a recent event hosted in Nashik, India, Mayur Patil asked participants to raise their hands if they were enjoying Maker Party. With smiles on their faces and two hands in the air, their response was nothing short of inspiring:

MP 1

Raising our hands in Nashik, India. Credit: Mehul Patel

It’s been an amazing two weeks. During our global celebration of teaching and learning on the Web, the community engaged in a range of hands-on activities: we built robotic hummingbirds, sketched HTML on chalkboards, created music apps, tinkered with 3D printers and more. And people in England, India, Nigeria, Spain, Sweden, China, the US and beyond came together to learn how to read, write and participate online.

Creating circuits at a Maker Party in Stockholm, Sweden. Credit: Åke Nygren

Creating circuits at a Maker Party in Stockholm, Sweden. Credit: Åke Nygren

Every Maker Party event had its own flair and personality. Here’s a recap of just a few great happenings from around the globe:

In Canada: Mozilla Hive Toronto brought together young women ages 7-18 from the local YWCA and neighborhood library. The group hacked and remixed their favorite websites and built creations using Makey Makey kits. Special guests included folks from STEAM Labs and the Royal Ontario Museum.

In Stockholm, Montreal and Chattanooga: Maker Parties from three different countries connected online for a truly international event. Young learners created content using their smartphones; built insects using arts and crafts; and may have picked up some foreign vocabulary, too. “[Maker Party] is a way of introducing open web thinking and tinkering,” an event host in Stockholm told us.  

In Nashik, India: Dozens of educators and students came together to teach the Web. They learned about IPs, HTML, virtual reality and more. For a closer look, check out their excellent video.  

The community hosted hundreds of Maker Parties like these world-wide. And they made a difference: when people can meaningfully participate on the Web, they unlock all sorts of opportunities. And the Web becomes a better place.

Writing HTML on chalkboards at a lo-fi Maker Party in India. Credit: Arun Kuppusamy Shanmugam

Writing HTML on chalkboards at a lo-fi Maker Party in India. Credit: Arun Kuppusamy Shanmugam

So, what’s next? The fun doesn’t have to stop: Maker Parties can be hosted anytime, anywhere. They are a unique and celebratory way to get communities activated and working together to experience the full potential of the Web. We’ve also seen how they can serve as a catalyst for further engagement and impact, like hosting a series of events throughout the year. More Maker Party events are already planned over the next few months in Bangladesh, Uganda, Indonesia, Brazil, Canada and Egypt.

You can join in! To get started, visit our activities page to find fun, interactive lessons to teach the Web. With Mozilla’s curriculum, you can teach the basics of online privacy, coding, design, remixing and more. You can also use Mozilla’s tools for teaching the Web, which help learners create their own content online. And remember to tell us about your event by using the hashtag #MakerParty.

Thanks for making this year’s Maker Party — and all the ones to come — so special! We can’t wait to hear what you do and make next. Reach us anytime on Twitter @MozTeach, or by emailing

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Mozilla Learning Strategy Slides

Mark Surman

Developing a long term Mozilla Learning strategy has been my big focus over the last three months. Working closely with people across our community, we’ve come up with a clear, simple goal for our work: universal web literacy. We’ve also defined ‘leadership’ and ‘advocacy’ as our two top level strategies for pursuing this goal. The use of ‘partnerships and networks’ will also be key to our efforts. These are the core elements that will make up the Mozilla Learning strategy.

Over the last month, I’ve summarized our thinking on Mozilla Learning for the Mozilla Board and a number of other internal audiences. This video is based on these presentations:

As you’ll see in the slides, our goal for Mozilla Learning is an ambitious one: make sure everyone knows how to read, write and participate on the web. In this case, everyone = the five billion people who will be online by 2025.

Our top level thinking on how to do this includes:

1. Develop leaders who teach and advocate for web literacy.

Concretely, we will integrate our Clubs, Hive and Fellows initiatives into a single, world class learning and leadership program.

2. Shift thinking: everyone understands the web / internet.

Concretely, this means we will invest more in advocacy, thought leadership and user education. We may also design ways to encourage web literacy more aggressively in our products.

3. Build a global web literacy network.

Mozilla can’t create universal web literacy on its own. All of our leadership and advocacy work will involve ‘open source’ partners with whom we’ll create a global network committed to universal web literacy.

Process-wise: we arrived at this high level strategy by looking at our existing programs and assets. We’ve been working on web literacy, leadership development and open internet advocacy for about five years now. So, we already have a lot in play. What’s needed right now is a way to focus all of our efforts in a way that will increase their impact — and that will build a real snowball of people, organizations and governments working on the web literacy agenda.

The next phase of Mozilla Learning strategy development will dig deeper on ‘how’ we will do this. I’ll provide a quick intro post on that next step in the coming days.

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Building a Big Tent (for Web Literacy)

Mark Surman

Building a global network of partners will be key to the success of our Mozilla Learning initiative. A network like this will give us the energy, reach and diversity we need to truly scale our web literacy agenda. And, more important, it will demonstrate the kind of distributed leadership and creativity at the heart of Mozilla’s vision of the web.


As I said in my last two posts, leadership development and advocacy will be the two core strategies we employ to promote universal web literacy. Presumably, Mozilla could do these things on its own. However, a distributed, networked approach to these strategies is more likely to scale and succeed.

Luckily, partners and networks are already central to many of our programs. What we need to do at this stage of the Mozilla Learning strategy process is determine how to leverage and refine the best aspects of these networks into something that can be bigger and higher impact over time. This post is meant to frame the discussion on this topic.

The basics

As a part of the Mozilla Learning strategy process, we’ve looked at how we’re currently working with partners and using networks. There are three key things we’ve noticed:

  1. Partners and networks are a part of almost all of our current programs. We’ve designed networks into our work from early on.
  1. Partners fuel our work: they produce learning content; they host fellows; they run campaigns with us. In a very real way, partners are huge contributors (a la open source) to our work.
  1. Many of our partners specialize in learning and advocacy ‘on the ground’. We shouldn’t compete with them in this space — we should support them.

With these things in mind, we’ve agreed we need to hold all of our program designs up to this principle:

Design principle = build partners and networks into everything.

We are committed to integrating partners and networks into all Mozilla Learning leadership and advocacy programs. By design, we will both draw from these networks and provide value back to our partners. This last point is especially important: partnerships need to provide value to everyone involved. As we go into the next phase of the strategy process, we’re going to engage in a set of deep conversations with our partners to ensure the programs we’re building provide real value and support to their work.

Minimum viable partnership

Over the past few years, a variety of network and partner models have developed through Mozilla’s learning and leadership work. Hives are closely knit city-wide networks of educators and orgs. Maker Party is a loose network of people and orgs around the globe working on a common campaign. Open News and Mozilla Science sit within communities of practice with a shared ethos. Mozilla Clubs are much more like a global network of local chapters. And so on.

As we develop our Mozilla Learning strategy, we need to find a way to both: a) build on the strengths of these networks; and b) develop a common architecture that makes it possible for the overall network to grow and scale.

Striking this balance starts with a simple set of categories for Mozilla Learning partners and networks. For example:

  • Member: any org participating in Mozilla Learning.
  • Partner: any org contributing to Mozilla Learning.
  • Club: a locally-run node in the Mozilla Learning network.
  • Affiliate network: group of orgs aligned with Moz Learning.
  • Core network: group of orgs coordinated by Mozilla staff.

This may not be the exact way to think about it, but it is certain that we will need some sort of common network architecture if we want to build partners and networks into everything. Working through this model will be an important part of the next phase of Mozilla Learning strategy work.

Partners = open source

In theory, one of the benefits of networks is that the people and organizations inside them can build things together in an open source-y way. For example, one set of partners could build a piece of software that they need for an immediate project. Another partner might hear about this software through the network, improve it for their own project and then give it back. The fact that the network has a common purpose means it’s more likely that this kind of open source creativity and value creation takes place.

This theory is already a reality in projects like Open News and Hive. In the news example, fellows and other members of the community post their code and documentation on the Source web page. This attracts the attention of other news developers who can leverage their work. Similarly, curriculum and practices developed by Hive members are shared on local Hive websites for others to pick up and run with. In both cases, the networks include a strong social component: you are likely to already know, or can quickly meet, the person who created a thing you’re interested in. This means it’s easy to get help or start a collaboration around a tool or idea that someone else has created.

One question that we have for Mozilla Learning overall is: can we better leverage this open source production aspect of networks in a more serious, instrumental and high impact way as we move forward? For example, could we: a) work on leadership development with partners in the internet advocacy space; b) have the fellows / leaders involved produce high quality curriculum or media; and c) use these outputs to fuel high impact global campaigns? Presumably, the answer can be ‘yes’. But we would first need to design a much more robust system of identifying priorities, providing feedback and deploying results across the network.


Whatever the specifics of our Mozilla Learning programs, it is clear that building in partnerships and networks will be a core design principle. At the very least, such networks provide us diversity, scale and a ground game. They may also be able to provide a genuine ‘open source’ style production engine for things like curriculum and campaign materials.

In order to design the partnership elements of Mozilla Learning, there are a number of questions we’ll need to dig into:

  • Who are current and desired partners? (make a map)
  • What value do they seek from us? What do they offer?
  • Specifically, do they see value in our leadership and advocacy programs?
  • What do partners want to contribute? What do they want in return?
  • What is the right network / partner architecture?

A key piece of work over the coming months will be to talk to partners about all of this. I will play a central role here, convening a set of high level discussions. People leading the different working groups will also: a) open up the overall Mozilla Learning process to partners and b) integrate partner input into their plans. And, hopefully, Laura de Reynal and others will be able to design a user research process that lets us get info from our partners in a detailed and meaningful way. More on all this in coming weeks as we develop next steps for the Mozilla Learning process.

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