One of the best moments from last semester, and my course on Mozilla Development, was the first day. I'd done the obligatory 'welcome', gone over the syllabus, discussed the scope and nature of the projects. Everything was like it always is on the first day. And then I told them that Shaver and Vlad were there and wanted to chat with them too. A student in the front row, who up until that point had listened and shown no emotion, turned to another student beside him and quietly mouthed the word, "c-o-o-l."
It was cool; and what made it so was the way in which they surprised the students by saying unexpected things. For example, one student wanted to know if it was OK to code using Visual Studio, and Vlad answered in his typically pragmatic way that you should use "whatever works for you." Later, Shaver tried to convince them that a good patch removes more lines than it adds, and that a good developer knows when not to write code.
The whole term was filled with moments like these, many of which we caught on film. Thanks to some great people in Seneca's AV Services, eLearning department, and the School of Communication Arts, we were able to capture most of the other guest lectures. They are now on-line, and ready for non-Seneca students and other people learning about Mozilla to enjoy.
Here are links to the streaming video, downloadable MP3s, slides, and (thanks to some students who volunteered) talk outlines:
- Mike Beltzner: Mozilla Community
- J. Paul Reed: How the Build Works
- Mike Shaver: Mozilla-Seneca Projects QA
- Mike Connor: The Life-cycle of a Bug
- Rob Helmer: Release Builds: from source tree to exe
I want to thank all the people who came and spoke to the students: Mike Beltzner, Paul Reed, Mike Shaver, Mike Connor, Rob Helmer, Rob Campbell, and Vlad Vukićević. I also want to thank all those people who got involved with the students on IRC in #seneca and elsewhere -- there are too many of you to name, but I appreciate all the time you spent. The generosity of these people is incredible, and their willingness to help new people get started in Mozilla is a wonderful model for the whole community.
If you're thinking of teaching open source, and Mozilla in particular, please feel free to use these materials in your course too. Email me if you need access to the underlying footage. Also, I'd be happy to talk with you about ideas for how to get students involved with Mozilla projects, discuss strategies for bringing open source and Mozilla into the classroom, share my own experiences, etc. It's not always easy or obvious how to do it. I found that in teaching Mozilla properly I had to rethink many of the ideas generally assumed by profs/students. But I can tell you it's certainly worth the work. The experience your students will gain is second to none.
For me the most rewarding part of introducing students to Mozilla is the chance for their school-work to spill over into real life. Too often school projects are nothing more than a "dig a hole and fill it" exercise. How amazing it is to get a student started on something real, and then watch her continue to work on it after the course is over, or have your students coming back to show you patches people are sending **them **for code they've written.
I can't wait to teach it again.
NOTE: if bandwidth becomes an issue, I'll find a mirror for this, but I'm hoping it will be fine where it is now. Be gentle :)