The first Webmaker event held on Saturday June 29th in France was a real success although it was only aimed at a limited number of high school pupils due to equipment restrictions. I have planned this event during the wonderful and instructive REMO training days in Athens. It was postponed from May 14th due to exams and the nearing end of school year in France. It was held at Jean Monet high school in a small town called Gruchet-le-Valasse in the heart of the Pays de Caux, the Normandy country.
When I first wrote to the school principal, she already knew that I was a Mozilla volunteer and a rep. So the idea of organizing a Mozilla event immediately pleased her and the go head was granted right away. Before that, I wrote a description of the Webmaker initiative with links to French press articles about Webmaker and more links in English. Actually she was surprised not to be aware of all this Webmaking movement although it was in the news regularly.
We had everything in the school, from large conference room equipped with video projector and wired internet connection to a computer room with 20 computers of good quality, of course all connected to the Internet. And last but not least, we had twenty-four pupils aged 13 to 16 as a target audience, all of them volunteers to participate in the event. They were shortly briefed last week about Webmaker and how the party was going to be organized. All showed real excitement!
On D-day, I woke up earlier than usual and grabbed all the swag and stuff that I needed, and then stuffed everything in my car. I drove quietly through the fields, admiring as usual the beauty of the countryside with flocks of cows looking surprised by the rising sun in their sleep. On Saturday mornings, don’t expect more activity than that on the way east, all normal people are enjoying a well-deserved “grasse matinée”, leaving the country alone to regenerate and again give its best to the lucky people who live in this stunning beauty. I soon stopped dreaming when my GPS sounded the usual warning when within a hundred meters of a speed camera. I was not concerned with the radar since I never exceed the 90 km/h limit, but it is at that point that I should turn left to enter the town, which I did.
By the time I started to get my mind away from the beauty of the morning trip, everything was ready and we were set to start the icebreakers! The idea is simple; I printed the letters WE ARE WEBMAKERS on an A4 sheet, one letter per page and the pupils had to reconstruct the sentence by holding a letter and putting themselves in the correct order. Of course they do not know what the sentence is, they are only told how many words are in the sentence and that they are subject-verb-object! The trick is that they have 30 seconds to rebuild the sentence! Imagine the panic!
The icebreaker was a real laugh although they did not find the hidden sentence*! But a small consolation was that everybody got the answer to the following question: “Would you like to program or be programmed?” Everybody burst out laughing! That was a great answer!
We decided that we were not going to use Popcorn Maker as planned, but thimble because I spend more than half an hour talking to a journalist from “Le Courrier Cauchois” who only got my mail the night before! Wow, that was a real surprise because on Saturdays, it is usually easier to move a mountain than get a reporter attend an event in this part of the countryside. We talked about Webmaker, Mozilla values, projects like Firefox OS and especially why is web making so important to teach to our youth but also to everybody who is interested in the web! She was real enthusiastic about the idea of learning to code to keep the web open, a Web for the people and by the people.
At that time, before I even explained much, many pupils had already started hacking the movie poster project on Thimble. Changing the title of the movie, changing the picture, everything was being done without assistance! Then I helped many change the title of the page with the <title></title> tag. And that was thought to be dead easy and exciting to learn. I was myself so fascinated by the hacks and kept encouraging them to keep hacking. The journalist also had that chance to witness the hands-on “hacktivities” live, which made her understand more than my words could explain.
Then the time came to save everything. That was the tricky part as I had to sign-in to every computer and save the hacks on my account. I am sure there is a better way to do that. But things were so perfect that I was happy something didn’t go as expected! We could only save 12 hacks as the others made too many errors and I was the only mentor. We were also interrupted by other teachers who have heard about the press coming into the school. They wanted to get their pupils join the party but we had no more computers left. Actually, during the break, their pupils have learned about the Webmaker party and wanted to join in. The teachers gave in to the pressure but we could not accept more of them… Maybe next time? I saved everything at https://webmaker.org/me but I have no idea how other can view the pages unless I publish and send them the links. I have to work on that for next events.
The exciting part of the party for the pupils was when I announced that everybody is going home with goodies from Mozilla! “Ouaiisss”, they road with excitement! 3 boys and 3 girls were awarded a Webmaker T-shirt. But all of got a Firefox button and sticker, a Webmaker button, a Firefox pen (from an earlier even)! Oh no I forgot the Webmaker stickers!
It was just fantastic to see how excited people get about Webmaker. It was also a good opportunity to put into practice all the tips and tricks from the training days in Athens. And nothing is better than experiencing hands-on action, and feeling the excitement of learners who now realize making their own web is not out of their reach.
Webmaker Super Mentor
Note: Some of the participants did not want to appear on the pictures.