The COVID-19 pandemic made the challenges and opportunities of the digital age monumentally visible. Access to the internet and digital devices mediated basic needs around health, education, work, care, and many more. As we transition out of the pandemic, we look back to decode what we value, want, and need for equitable digital societies. These issues are highly connected dimensions such as affordable access to technology, privacy, and security by design, and a quality education for everyone to fully develop throughout their lives. The Mozilla Festival has been dedicated to these intersections and beyond, through the experiences of technologists, researchers, artists, librarians, educators, and youth. MozFest’s 2023 Education & Access Space Call for Proposals (CfP) resonated particularly loudly, having by far the most submissions among the 7 other Spaces dedicated to topics such as privacy, environment, inclusion, and accessibility.
The 2023 Education & Access Space Wranglers have continued their collaboration and are excited to share their thoughts, experiences, and work with the MozFest community! Read on to be a fly on the wall during one of their conversations…
[Soledad] As a researcher of digital education and participatory action research, I was stuck like chewing gum to the strength that the Education & Access Space channeled. I wanted to learn from this impactful experience first hand and share it with the broader community. In conversation with the Education and Access Wranglers, Lewis, Tushar, Chamin and Mar we mapped key milestones from the Space. In this blog, they walk us through their MozFest 2023 journey: from brainstorming the Space, building a movement around the culture of learning, and their inclusion and accessibility approach, to the power of making friends across the universe to overcome life setbacks.
We hope that this article inspires you to join our global movement for quality education and better digital societies.
[Soledad] I am always curious about personal stories. What brought you to Wrangle the Education & Access Space?
[Chamin] As a former educator who has worked in both developed and developing countries, I have witnessed major gaps between these two regions in different aspects; quality of resources, access to the resources, support for marginalized groups, etc. I wanted to co-create a space that serves as a stage for people who are passionate about bridging these gaps. During MozRetreat, our Wrangler team brainstormed and designed the MozFest 2023 Spaces where there was a lot of support for having education as the theme of one of them. “Education & Access Space” was enriched by ideas, suggestions and feedback from many MozFest Wranglers, mentors, and the Mozilla team!
[Lewis] I have always been passionate about teaching and education from a very early age. As a software engineer who works with user data on a day-to-day basis, MozFest provided a unique opportunity for me to address a huge problem in my country. Through this Space, I was able to meet and interact with people from across the world with this similar interest and exchange ideas on how to best address the disinformation and misinformation problem. Plus the Wranglers in this space were amazing to work with!
[Soledad] I like how you showcase the importance of a collective effort to bridge gaps in education, regardless of your discipline, geographies, and community. Which were the main topics addressed by the Space, from the Call for Proposals (CFP) to the process of curating these?
[Mar] Until the CFP, the Space’s main focus was on Data Literacy and Access to Education. These two topics were discussed in detail during the retreat. However, the CFP was worded to be as inclusive as possible so that prospective Facilitators could bring in topics that are important to their own communities.
With a rolling curation process, it was possible to see other topics emerging from the submitted proposals. There was a high interest in algorithmic literacy, too. Online safety was another topic that received a lot of attention. We also received proposals on innovative solutions that can be used for education and increased awareness such as digital rights and security in the digital sphere for LGBTQ+ communities.
[Soledad] This shows how MozFest is co created with a global community. Wranglers open a Space invitation, this is then iterated by the Facilitators’ session proposals, which eventually come to life in dialogue with participants from around the world.
[Mar] The Education and Access Space at MozFest 2023 served as a dynamic space that united participants from diverse regions and communities, including México, Perú, El Salvador, Belgium, Venezuela, Sri Lanka, Argentina, Colombia, Chile, Australia, España, Nepal, Italy, Nigeria, the United Kingdom, Kenya, Zimbabwe, Canada, the United States of America, India, and South Africa.
This inclusive gathering encompassed a wide range of individuals and organizations, such as grassroots activists, communicators, educators, youth workers, young leaders, tech influencers, and innovators, representing various communities from around the world.
Notably, a prominent group at MozFest was composed of Latin American participants who organized their first session in Spanish, catering to civil society, academia, and international organizations like Hiperderecho, Escuela de Datos, Global Voices, Open Knowledge Foundation, TEDIC, and others. Additionally, the LGBTQ+ communities played a vital role as both Facilitators and audience members, focusing on raising awareness about digital resistance tools and strategies to combat online violence and intersectional hate speech.
[Soledad] That is an impressive landscape of viewpoints over different educational perspectives and overview of missing links. Your efforts for language inclusion are highly necessary to level up conversations often dismissed in global debates because of non-English language.
[Chamin] My favorite session was “Inclusion Drives Innovation - The Value of "By and For" Product Design”, by Alyah Thomas and her team. The session was great in multiple ways. The primary focus of the session was on designing useful and usable tools (educational or otherwise) for users with accessibility requirements, by including and involving them during the product design process. With actual products as examples, they explained how this works much better than merely user-testing the accessibility of products after design.
Some of the Facilitators themselves had accessibility requirements, and they organized their session very well so that participants with accessibility requirements could benefit from it. The Facilitators showed up early, and tested their equipment to ensure that the audio and visual quality was excellent. Even the introductions were designed to accommodate people with accessibility requirements: “I am a light-skinned female in her 20’s, today my hair is up with a tight bun, I am wearing a striped shirt and my background is blurred”. It was an eye-opening session for me; I am still thinking about ways to make MozFest 2024 more accessible, if I get to wrangle next year.
[Mar] My favorite session was 'Towards a More Diverse and Inclusive Open Definition' facilitated by the Open Knowledge Foundation Team. In the Education and Access Space, it was crucial to have a collaborative session where a diverse range of voices and cultural contexts could converge to discuss and review the Open Definition, exploring the what, why, and how of it. The chat was truly fascinating, as we delved into the present meaning of "open" and the future direction of the movement. To top it off, this session was conducted simultaneously in three languages: Spanish, English, and Portuguese.
[Soledad] As much as language justice is fundamental, accessibility takes digital education to a next level of impact, especially experimenting on ways in which teaching with digital technologies can facilitate this!
[Mar] At MozFest, we actively promote the motto of "arrive with an idea and leave with a community" by fostering an environment where meaningful connections and friendships are formed. These collaborations often extend beyond the festival itself, leading to lasting relationships. Personally, I have experienced the power of these connections, having formed deep professional and personal bonds with Wranglers and Facilitators I met at MozFest.
The connections made at MozFest transcend geographical, cultural, and disciplinary boundaries, providing everyone with a broader perspective and exposure to new ideas, approaches, and practices. This diverse and supportive community acts as a source of ongoing support and inspiration, even after the event concludes. It helps individuals overcome setbacks and stay motivated in their efforts to build a more equitable and just digital society.
[Soledad] I have also personally experienced the power of the MozFest community to seed and grow ideas. It is such a great platform to experiment ideas with the MozFest team and Wranglers as co-pilots and a global network of peers figuring out digital technologies for better worlds.
[Tushar & Lewis] After attending MozFest, we are inspired to bring the learnings to our communities in a variety of impactful ways. First and foremost, we are committed to organize engaging workshops to empower individuals and cultivate a vibrant culture of learning and sharing unique experiences. These workshops will cover a range of topics, including the basics of data protection. To ensure the workshops are informative and effective, we will be personally leading them or inviting knowledgeable experts to share their insights.
In addition to workshops, we believe in the power of accessible education. By sharing tutorials and resources, community members can learn at their own pace and explore areas of interest independently. Self-guided learning also fosters continuous improvement. We want to create an environment encouraging to continuously enhance knowledge and skills, pushing the boundaries of capabilities.
To further support the growth and development of the community, we plan to offer mentoring opportunities. Through one-on-one guidance and support, helping community members navigate their learning journey and overcome challenges. By offering personalized advice and constructive feedback, we empower individuals to reach their full potential and excel in their chosen areas of expertise.
In conclusion, by implementing these initiatives, we’ll create a dynamic ecosystem where knowledge is shared, celebrated, and expanded upon. Together, we can build a community that values education and embraces the transformative power of technology and the internet. By empowering individuals with knowledge and skills, we can create a community that thrives in the digital age and paves the way for a brighter future.
Take part and touch base again with MozFest’s brilliant global movement fostering a vibrant community of learning and shared knowledge:
- Watch virtual MozFest recorded sessions on demand until June 30th.
- Join MozFest on Discord!We have watch parties, thematic channels beyond the festival and more!
- Are you around Europe between June 19 - 21st? Don’t miss the MozFest Amsterdam House.
- Wherever you are in the world, more amazing virtual sessions are taking place between June 19 -21st. Secure your ticket today!
MozFest@23 - Wrangler & Software Developer
MozFest Wrangler 2021-2023 :sparkles: Working around the intersection of tech and social studies. Now: Comms Lead at Code for All & WTM Ambassador.
Chamin is MozFest wrangler who is interested in Education and Privacy. He also volunteers in activities related to trustworthy AI.
Uruguayan sociologist dedicated to the intersections between digital technologies, education and human rights, with a special focus on youth.