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Embodying the spirit of Mozilla in an ebook creation process

The web doesn't function without the ability to look under the hood, get your hands dirty, and fix what doesn’t work. But these kinds of freedoms weren't born in the 20th century. They are central elements for the flourishing of all intellectual life. And learners, especially, could use a little more freedom.

That's part of the definition of freedom you'll find in Learning, Freedom and the Web, a new book authored by Anya Kamenetz and participants of the launch in an online event next week. It's a definition that reflects the book's exciting portrayal of the messy business of learning in the 21st century: Learning as something you engage with actively, as opposed to something you just receive. Learning as something hands-on as well as intellectual. Learning that happens in rooms full of eager participants, or unfolds in the spaces of the open web.

Mozilla's definition of freedom also provides an excellent description of the process that went into creating the ebook version of this title. In partnership with the Mozilla Foundation, the Social + Interactive Media Centre at Emily Carr undertook the development of an ebook as part of its research into epublishing. Working with Emily Carr design faculty members Jonathan Aitken and Celeste Martin, four Emily Carr students rolled up their sleeves and did everything from imagining what an ebook could look like, to actually coding page after page of the final title.

Both the design and the development process were deeply collaborative, in a way that reflects the way open source teams often work and prepares students for a lifetime of collaboration. During the design phase, student designers Briana Garelli, Justin Alm, Amy Wang and Danielle Hall worked with Kamenetz and the Mozilla team, including Mark Surman, Ben Moskowitz and print book designer Chris Appleton. Together they through the ways in which the print and ebook versions needed to align stylistically, in order to reflect a common project. At the same time, the technical challenges of designing a truly cross-platform ebook structured certain aspects of the design approach.

When it came time to actually build that title, the students did what LFW might suggest: they took the challenge into their own hands by finding online resources that allowed them to learn the basics of HTML5 on their own. Sharing both these resources and their initial code, they helped one another solve design and programming challenges and develop a basic navigation structure and CSS layout. Over the course of a long and intense summer, Justin turned the initial prototype into a fully working title, getting guidance and coding support from Allen Pike at Steam Clock Software. Amy Wang created a set of animated, unfolding "how-tos" that are featured in different parts of the book.

The ebook development project turned out to be such a good example of the kind of learning strategies described in LFW that it made its way into the final title as its own how-to. How to create an ebook walks readers through the steps they can take to build a book just like they one they are reading, including access to the source code itself. When Mozilla defines Freedom as the ability to look under the hood, they really mean it.


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Welcome to the SIM Centre

The Social + Interactive Media Centre is a new research centre that supports a wide range of applied social, interactive and design projects. Funded by a 5-year grant from the Natural Sciences and Engineering Research Council (NSERC), the centre offers BC companies a way to tap the design, creative and technical expertise of Emily Carr faculty and students.