I have survived my first Mozfest.
It was exciting, energizing and exhausting. Having hosted 3 sessions throughout the 2 days; Designing Open Badges in the Wild with colleagues Doug Belshaw and Emily Goligoski, and 2 different office hours/sessions called, Make Open Badges Better with Emily, and played wingwoman for the Hackable Games floor one afternoon, I want to jot down some reflections:
- Be well prepared: For all the sessions I took part in, my teammates and I erred on the side of over-preparing. For Designing Open Badges in the Wild, we contacted nearly a dozen participants ahead of time to first ensure their attendance, but also to make sure we understood what they wanted to learn and discuss in greater detail.
- This helped us in the following areas:
- We had a base level idea of who and how many participants to expect,
- We had an idea of the major themes they wanted to discuss,
- We had an idea of the range in the level of experience and familiarity with Open Badges,
- We had an idea of who should connect with whom to continue the discussion beyond the session prepared.
- Empower the participants, share real examples: Prior to the session, we reached out to several UK-based badge issuers that were ahead of their peers in the sense that they had gone through the process of designing a badge system and associated assessment thinking, and asked if they’d be willing to share their process with their peers. Many folks are already quite familiar with Open or digital Badges and its intended purpose. In fact, there are many issuers already integrated with the Open Badges standard and infrastructure who have learned lessons along the way and are eager to share. By empowering members of the community, we give a voice and face to those that are doing the actual work i.e. the practitioners, enabling opportunities for peer connection and collaboration. During our session, Cliff Manning and Lucy Neale of MakeWaves shared their work with S2R badges as well as Zoe Ross who has empowered her students to design badges of their own. The differing approach to badge system design provided quite a nice contrast and a bit of food for thought.
- Break out into smaller groups: While we had a decent idea of who and how many to expect at the session, the reality is, you never really know how it’s going to turn out. Honestly, we thought we’d have about 20 people and were delighted with the dozens more that showed up. Limited space was a bit of an issue but we made it work. With a large number of people, it’s easy to stop paying attention, not even deliberately, but more likely due to logistical matters like difficulty hearing, etc. After the initial icebreaker and introductions, we quickly broke the session out into smaller teams so that participants got to know one another better, be more actively engaged, and have a voice among a smaller pool of people.
- Icebreakers; have a couple in your back pocket: Speaking of icebreakers, we had several different ones lined up. While they can be predictable and hackneyed, they can also be a lot of fun. The couple icebreakers we did were as follows:
- Draw each other’s portrait: We broke the participants off into pairs, had them introduce each other and answer 4 basic questions; 1) name, 2) affiliation 3) what do they want to learn more about wrt badges and 4) favorite dessert. After that, we had them draw each other on a post-it note to the best of their artistic capability and stick it up on a communal wall. This provided a nice recess wall that participants could go to casually and actually get a few chuckles guessing who the portrait was intending to depict.
- Hack the robot dance: After the conclusion of the first hour, we wanted to provide session participants an opportunity to stretch, stand up and perhaps do something physical. We had participants break out into groups of 5 - 7. From their, we taught them how to hack the robot dance; first person to start does a robot dance move, the next person does that exact move and adds his own move to it, until you go around the full circle.
- Connect People, get out of the way: Each time I’ve done sessions of these nature, I come away with my mind blown with all the knowledge and experience already embedded within the session participants. I think the best thing we can do as session moderators/facilitators, is ignite the conversation and get out of the way such that participants can connect and share their expertise amongst one another.
- Meet people: Doing our job, that is making sure our sessions run smoothly, facilitating, going to sessions, helping colleagues, all of this is important. However, it is crucial at events like these to meet those that we don’t get the chance to meet in person on a regular basis. Meeting, talking, networking, connecting with people are essential at such events. Being able to put a face, voice, and character behind a name and email and personalizing one another, is what these events are all about.
- Be flexible: No matter how much planning and preparation you do, something will go wrong. Expected printouts will not be printed, material will be missing, schedules will change last minute. But! some flexibility, thinking on your toes, and ingenuity will go a long way.
- Be a team player: We are a team, all of Mozilla and all of the participants at the event. If someone needs a helping hand, we should provide it. I had a wonderful time helping out where I could in small ways, at the Hackable Games floor, run by Chloe Varelidi and I know I’m indebted to those that helped me and our Open Badges program throughout the festival as well.
As much work as Mozfest was, I can’t wait to do it all over again next year. :)