MDN/Learning Area/Tree of knowledge

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During the MDN Work Week-end in March 2014, a group of Mozilla employees and volunteers organized a workshop to start drafting a web technologies "tree of knowledge"

What is a "tree of knowledge"

A tree of knowledge is a representation of all the knowledge someone must acquire to complete a given task. It's a useful tool to build teaching courses or tutorials that are task oriented.

The workshop

The organization of the workshop was roughly a card sorting exercise.

The workshop was set as follow:

  • All the attendee was ask to answer two questions:
    • What do I need to know to build a web site?
    • What should I learn first?

In order to answer those questions the organizer was acting like the person asking the questions: It was assuming that the character played by the organizer knows how to use a computer and browse the web and that he wants to know how it works under the hood rather than just setting up a web site with a preexisting CMS or tool like that.

The workshop was divide into 3 steps:

  1. Each attendee used stickers to write each knowledge that was necessary to answer the first question (pink/purple stickers for theoretical knowledge, yellow stickers for practical knowledge) and stick them all on a wall
  2. All attendee pushed all those knowledge into three buckets:
    • Required : For the knowledge imperative to learn by the character to be able to build a web site
    • Nice to have : For the knowledge that are not imperative but allow the character to produce a pretty web site and become what we could call a regular web developer.
    • Optional : Knowledge that are completely optional to answer the first question but could turn the character into a kick ass web developer.
  3. Once this first sorting was done, All attendees were asked to sort the knowledge of each buckets into layers (from top to bottom) following this rule: Knowledge in a layer can be learned in any order, but to learn a knowledge in a layer, at least one knowledge from the top layer must be learned first.


After 2 hours of work we came to the following results:

Resulting tree of knowledge

NOTE: Exact wording was kept intact

It worth noting the big shift between the required and nice to have' buckets where, all of a sudden, a students must seriously know what he wants to be able to move forward.