Server Dude
Image of P2PU class “Draw the Internet” assignment, via JohnDBritton on Flickr.

In preparation for the Mozilla Drumbeat Festival next month (coming up in just 13 days!! whoo hoo!!) i’ve been conducting preview interviews with participants. The best of these, as well as other Q&As, blog posts, Tweets, speeches, essays, and other contributions, will eventually go into the Festival Report, which I’ve been describing as a “quickbook.” It’s faster, looser, and more open than my normal writing methods–entirely fitting that all these experiments in open learning and teaching should be documented in a way that’s itself an experiment.

A couple of weeks I interviewed John D Britton, a programmer, champion couchsurfer and Bar Camp participant who got pulled into open ed more or less through this blog post.
I also dropped in on his P2PU/Mozilla School of Webcraft class, “Anatomy of A Web Request,” and talked over video chat to students from all over North and South America.

When I asked about his methods for teaching a P2PU class, Britton countered, “I tend not to use the term ‘teach’. I’m a facilitator. Part of the philosophy of P2PU is that everybody is equally responsible for their learning.” Still, he said, breaking out of that old paradigm–and figuring out what to keep from it– is an evolving process. His first P2PU course, “Mashing Up the Open Web,” he said, took far too much time. “I was online holding office hours every Sunday from 10 to noon. I was the single point of failure for the course–it was very top down, very traditional, and hard to keep up with.” In his current class, he’s giving the students more responsibility for discussing amongst themselves and critiquing each other, although as the facilitator he’s still responsible for giving out assignments and, importantly, imposing due dates. The due date, it turns out, is one aspect of the traditional education experience that’s still essential in the peer-to-peer learning world.

Britton, who dropped out of college himself and works for a company called Twilio, loves leading P2PU classes because, “Teaching something is the best way to learn.” For his next P2PU course he’s really putting that philosophy into practice. The topic is window farming, which he describes as “totally out of my knowledge domain… I want to learn how to do it, so I might as well document it and learn it with a bunch of other people.” Right on!

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