Everyone showed up! We started strong on Monday morning with all 20 of the participants, Kronda, myself, Debbie, and Dino and we got to work first by drafting a final version of the attendance expectations that everyone would feel comfortable signing.
We then did a designed alliance - which means everyone gets to speak out about what they needed from our shared space to be able to learn and feel safe being here. We have those agreements digitized now and they are located in the repo.
Debbie was here in Portland for the first day and a half and she helped run the Strengths Finder portion. This involved having the cohort do an online quiz at the Gallup Strength Finder site and then each person gets a custom list of their top 5 strengths. These were the starting point for our getting to know each other, as our strengths and what they mean to us.
Something I learned was that instead of just telling people why I chose to start us off with this particular exercise, instead I asked the room “Why do you think we started with this?” and amazingly, everything I would have told them came out from them.
At the end of the first day, many expressed their appreciation for the work on strengths and yet several seemed nervous that we hadn’t just dived right in to high level coding. I try to assure them it will happen, we’re not going to rush things. There’s a lot more to this course in terms of preparation and community building with each other that will be needed to make us strong going forward.
After a night of sitting with their newly listed out and described strengths our cohort started day 2 by choosing one of those strengths where they felt the word wasn’t interesting enough or accurately descriptive of their sense of the strength so that they could go and rename it something that was more compelling.
The next activity was to start checking out what Mozilla offers potential contributors coming in from outside. We did two activities around this. The first was to break into groups of 3 or 4 and look into a series of questions about that particular tool/community. (photo upload needed here). Then that afternoon the groups presented back to the room what they’d come to learn about each area. We invited the Portland office folks to join if they were interested. There were some great questions, some useful feedback provided, and everyone got their first presentation to a larger group out of the way. This is useful because we’ll be doing a lot of presentations during the course of this program.
Following the group work, we had a bunch of supposedly 5-10 minute contribution possibilities that had been surfaced from the research. The participants were told they had 10 minutes to go and make an individual contribution to Mozilla. Needless to say, very few people were able to complete a contribution. Creating accounts, finding the task to complete, selecting something that would indeed be a short task, many barriers to doing a quick contribution for the first timer. The most successful project to one-and-done with was MDN. That has a great path for new people to edit or tag articles which is handy for people with previous experience in copy editing, wiki use, and general language proficiency. Second up was the Twitter Army of Awesome that SUMO created. One participant was able to do that as a quickie contribution.
Everyone did a great job presenting yesterday but because it all took more time than anticipated, we moved learning git and some of the basic command line stuff to today. I did a hack on our project site and after we taught how to use terminal, moving around in a text-based environment we moved to git and everyone cloned the ascend project repo and got to work learning how to undo the hack.
Badges! One of the best moments on this day was having each participant create a badge to give all the others - celebrating their successes so far. You can see those badges where some have been tagged with ‘ascend’ to help people find them. We’re going to use badges throughout the program not only from mentor->student but also between students themselves in order to capture the trajectory people find for themselves.
This day was the first day where the energy really dipped. We got in the weeds with git & command lines and having a 2:20 teacher:student ratio. I’m not going to lie - that was the hardest day and I’m learning a lot about how to set up the daily agendas as a result. In preparation for Friday I included a lot more detail to try and help people have more at their fingertips during the day.
Our fifth day together. This day was put aside to be a webmaker events as well as intended to provide time for blogging. We were sort of crash-landing into Friday’s material which will be obvious from the agenda. The days are long and while we’re packing a lot in, it’s understandable that sometimes people max out. So in the morning we got a little bogged down doing command line exercises and that pushed the webmaker stuff into the afternoon. We were planning to end early for a little social with the Portland office and that made our afternoon an hour shorter.
For the Webmaker Maker Party we did two areas of focus. The first was to look at the Web Literacies and break out into pairs that went to find a skill to come back and teach the others. There were great add-ons and recommendations you can see the notes here. I was impressed that with this second time coming up to present everyone had gotten so much better about public speaking. Then we had a little over an hour to play with the Webmaker tools. I asked people to spend 30 minutes with a tool trying to make something about why they were in Ascend. The results vary, people tried all the different options. There are some great starts and some learning happened even if very rapidly. Then there was half an hour left for blogging, pushing, and making a pull request. Ever since the snowperson hack exercise we’ve done daily push/pull requests in order to keep this knowledge fresh in their minds. It’s working, there are now more blog posts up and once I push this one I’m going to go get them attached to people’s bios on the participants page.