Another one in the can

Yesterday was the last day for another group of students in our Seneca Mozilla courses, and today I'm marking all this awesome work (and blogging about it in order find productive outlets for my procrastination!).  Surman came up for the afternoon to watch final presentations, along with some folks from Red Hat Toronto, and OCE.  Despite the fact that it takes an entire day to get through them all, I always enjoy seeing all the presentations: the students are engaged in such a wide variety of work (build system, Fennec, Songbird, Thunderbird, Firefox, front-end, back-end, XULRunner, Buildbot, JS, XUL, C++, etc.).

Aside from the work on Mozilla itself, a number of themes emerged from the presentations:

  • Importance of learning to work incrementatlly and in the open
  • Not being afraid to just try something, fail, and try again: "Dive in, get messy, make mistakes."
  • Importance of having a mature and open code base for learning and doing work
    More important than any of these, however, was that every single student took time to call out people in the community that had mentored them, reviewed code, offered support on irc, and generally made their Mozilla experience a great one.  At the risk of missing people, I'm going to name some names of those who really stood out this time:

    Ted Mielczarek, Jason Orendorff, Mark Finkle, Gavin Sharp, Ben Hearsum, Joe Drew, Benjamin Smedberg, Brad Lassey, Gary Kwong, Clint Talbert, Dan Mosedale, Doug Turner, Johnny Stenback, Mark Banner, Siddharth Agarwal, Vladimir Vukićević, Megnus Melin, Bryan Clark, Dirkjan Ochtman
    A huge "thank you" to all of you, and to the hundreds of others on irc and in bugzilla that got involved too.  It's give and take for sure, as students can eat up as much time as you're willing to give, but if you invest something, they can also fix a lot of bugs--this group proved that once again.  I'm also pleased to see five of them heading off to do Mozilla internships this summer, and a couple more starting full time with MoCo.  Give students an environment where hacking on Mozilla is an accepted part of their course work, and amazing things will happen.

For myself, I've continued to learn more about what works and what doesn't in terms of bringing students and educational institutions into the Mozilla context.  My goals over the summer are to channel that knowledge into educational resources for other instructors and students and to develop even more partnerships with educational institutions wanting to work on and with Mozilla.  I'm also getting ready to go and lead POSSE with Chris Tyler at Red Hat in July, which will provide an excellent opportunity to pilot test this material.

I'd encourage you to think about getting involved with our efforts to engage more students and educational partners with Mozilla.  There are lots of things you can do:
  • Flag bugs that would be good for student projects using the bugzilla keyword student-project
  • Join and (and stay) in the #education irc channel on moznet, which is where we encourage all new students and educators to go first with questions about development, Mozilla process, etc.  The #education channel is a safe place to ask questions that we want to keep out of the main development channels.  It's also the best place for new people to connect with the community, so the community needs to be there.
  • Talk to your old/current school about offering a course, working on projects, etc. with the knowledge that you don't have to take them on alone: Mozilla Education will support you through this
  • Let us know if you'd be interested in doing some teaching at a school, or becoming more involved in mentoring of one kind or another.
    If my most recent group proves anything it's that students can become effective contributors to Mozilla.  This is something that we (Mozilla) have known for a long time--there are so many amazing student contributors in the project!  Now we need to get this message out to the schools where they attend: this needs to be something more students have a chance to do while they are in school.  Help us make it happen.