Category: New Literacies (page 3 of 14)

Reading books in front of kids is not enough.

TL;DR version: Patrick Rhone wrote a post recently about the importance of his children seeing people reading physical books. While I agree with the sentiment, it’s not enough in and of itself. They need to see us reading screens as well. Most importantly we need to have conversations with our kids about everything we’re reading.


Last month a post by Patrick Rhone was +1’d into my Google+ stream. Entitled A Time For Books it was, like most of Rhone’s posts, a thoughtful and heartfelt look at something important to him. While I have no beef with his general thinking here, I just think what he says doesn’t go far enough:

I’ve decided that I want to start being very conscious of making sure to read real books as much as possible around her [his daughter]. That she not only see them closed and on shelves but also open and on tables and desks and their places being kept over the arm of a chair. I want to ensure that we have family reading time as much as possible and while one of us is reading a book to her the other is enjoying a physical book of their own.

The idea of a ‘family reading time’ is great and should definitely be encouraged. My wife and I have, on occasion, done something similar with our son. However, what I find problematic in Rhone’s piece is his privileging physical books over things that are read on a screen:

I mean, we could be doing anything on the screen. And she knows it. She knows the Internet is sometimes on that screen. She knows that movies are sometimes on that screen. She knows that games and music are on that screen.

And, while she does know we can read books on that screen, even books for her, how is she to know the difference? How is she to pick up the physical cues that Mommy and Daddy read a lot of books? That this is what people should do. That it is something we believe passionately in. That it matters. That we believe she should read a lot of books too. Even when she is as old as we are.

Let me tell you how Rhone Junior can find out about what Daddy reads. By engaging her in conversation. Books are social objects.

I read a lot of books, but fully 75% of what I read is on some kind of screen – a Kindle, my Nexus 7, my MacBook Pro, or one of the plethora of devices we have lying around. It would be impossible for me to replace what I read on screens with physical books.

Instead of a futile attempt to turn the clock back, I suggest that parents looking to model appropriate behaviours enter into conversations with their kids about what they’re reading and thinking. I find one of the best places to do this with my son is in the car on the way to some activity like swimming or football. I’ll ask what he’s enjoyed reading and let him know what I’ve found interesting recently. Even better than that is sharing something you’re reading at the time you read it, of course. But that’s not always possible.

Tangentially related to this, I feel, is learning how to work in a distributed way. And, let’s face it, that’s almost definitely how my son’s generation will be working. In my work for Mozilla it’s imperative that I make my thinking as tangible and visible as possible – either through conversations, blog posts like this one, or physical/digital artefacts. This allows my colleagues to riff off what I’m doing and I can do likewise.

Sharing is caring. Enthusiasm and curiosity is infectious. Just seeing Daddy read a newspaper or a book means absolutely nothing in and of itself. We need to model the behaviours we want to see. I’m all for encouraging children to read – let’s just not kid ourselves that letting them see us read physical books is enough.

Image CC BY Wiertz Sébastien

Thinking through helping my kids learn Web concepts.

TL;DR version:  I’ve been thinking of the best ways to help my six year-old son understand some of the concepts behind the Web. I’ve settled on a non-linear, interest-based approach that sparks his interest through ‘hooks’. These should build on his curiosity from other areas. He should also get to just ‘mess about’ a lot with some just-in-time intervention.


I went on a walk down to Druridge Bay and back today. It’s my headspace – not just the beach itself, but the whole act of walking on my own without any stimulii but the environment. It gives me a chance to think, and today I was thinking about the Web.

Specifically, I’ve been thinking about how to introduce the fundamental concepts of the Web to my kids. My daughter is two, so she’s probably slightly too young at the moment, but my son is six which is definitely old enough for him to start understanding some of the concepts behind the Web. While the browser is not completely foreign to him his digital life is funnelled predominantly through iPad apps and games platforms like the Wii and PS3. I want to show him the vast expanse of the Web, to begin to help him understand how it’s structured.

While I was walking I was thinking about how best to start introducing Web concepts to my son. The classroom teacher in me made me think about formal, linear structures – about concepts that were fundamental to grasp before he even looked at a Web browser. But then I realised just how disingenuous such a pathway would be; no-one I know who is ‘Web literate’ learned this way. They learned based on their interest and curiosity, they learned just enough to get done what they wanted to do, they learned almost by accident.

When you’re a parent, it’s very difficult to let go of the reins sometimes. It’s hard not to make everything into a learning moment for your child, into an intentional activity with a particular outcome.  And yet, an unstructured, slightly chaotic approach is how I and millions of other people have learned how not only to read but write the Web. At the same time, it’s important not to fetishise such a free-flowing approach: some people understand the Web better than others. Indeed, some misunderstand the Web, some use it in sub-optimal ways, and some don’t understand the basic concepts behind it. I’m trying to avoid that.

So, what to do? I want to list the things I think my son should know about the Web but I don’t necessarily want to place these into any kind of linear order. What I need are ‘hooks’ to sustain his interest long enough to be able to explain concepts that, at times, can be fairly nuanced for someone in their first year at school. Those hooks will, of course, be different for every individual but one good place to start is to find Web-based resources that lend themselves to peeking under the bonnet.

I work for Mozilla and my colleagues are building some fantastic Webmaker tools. One such tool that might be really worth using with a six year-old (and their associated reading level) might be something like Popcorn Maker. This is a video tool to ‘enhance, remix and share Web video’ that relies primarily on visual clues to get started. Basing a project around this tool would, for example, allow for the teaching of concepts like URLs (copying and pasting from YouTube/Vimeo), staying safe online, and fair use/copyright.

Despite their protestations, I’ve found people to be fundamentally creative. It’s the reason why showing users how to change their background, theme or avatar usually gives them so much satisfaction. Indeed, even much more advanced users tend to set up their digital environment before getting on with doing something with a tool. Putting your mark on something makes it yours. The last thing people want when they’re learning about the Web for the first time is to sit through a lot of theory before they get going; they want to tinker, they want to customise, they want to ‘see what this button does’.

One thing that six year-olds (thankfully) haven’t yet had crushed out of them is a fear that ‘they might break something’. Such apprehension isn’t natural, but a learned behaviour that tends to affect technophobic adults. Indeed, it’s a significant reason for such people being technophobes in the first place. Although with my son I won’t have to tell him it’s OK just to mess about with the Web, if this was an adult I may well have to do that. It’s something to bear in mind when introducing new digital concepts, I think. Horses for courses, and always start where the learner is at.

Finally, a word on measurement. It might seem like what I’ve said so far about providing ‘hooks’ to the user and going with their interests would preclude assessing their progress. But, actually, I think feedback – so long as it’s useful to the user – is extremely beneficial. Indeed, it’s the essence of video games, where you get pretty much instantaneous feedback on what you’re doing. These games tend to throw you right in from the start, without a ‘manual’. You learn how to play the game not by reading about them, but by playing the first few levels. Games designers scaffold the experience for players both in terms of them learning the controls and giving them feedback on their performance. A common way to do this is through some kind of in-game achievements or trophies that signal a player’s progress. These can be expected or can be surprises. The can be easy to acheive or fiendishly difficult.

I intend to follow up this post at some point with a list of the concepts I think my son as a six year-old should understand. Feel free to chip in with some suggestions in the comments below!

Image taken from the iA Web Trends map

v0.5 of ‘The Essential Elements of Digital Literacies’ now available! [E-BOOK]

The Essential Elements of Digital Literacies

I’m pleased to announce the latest iteration of my e-book The Essential Elements of Digital Literacies is now available. This takes it to v0.5!

Those who invested in previous versions have already received their free update, according to the OpenBeta process I devised. I’ve decided that all profits from this book will go to the #LettingGrow campaign.

You can invest in v0.5 and then get every update to v1.0 by clicking below:


This book has now reached v0.6 – click here


What’s included in this version?

  • Preface
  • Contents page
  • Chapter 2 – What’s the problem?
  • Chapter 3 – Everything is ambiguous
  • Chapter 4 – Why existing models of digital literacy don’t wory (*NEW!*)
  • Chapter 5 – The Essential Elements of Digital Literacies

If you buy into the book now, you’ll receive the rest of the chapters as I write them – free!

Got questions? I probably answered them in this post announcing the e-book!

Image CC BY pranav

v0.4 of ‘The Essential Elements of Digital Literacies’ now available! [E-BOOK]

The Essential Elements of Digital LiteraciesI’m pretty much on schedule with the writing of my new e-book The Essential Elements of Digital Literacies. This post it to announce that v0.4 is now available!

Those who invested in previous versions have already received their free update, according to the OpenBeta process I devised.

You can invest in v0.4 and then get every update to v1.0 by clicking below:

 


[click through to v0.5 to purchase!]


What’s included in this version?

  • Preface
  • Contents page
  • Chapter 2 – What’s the problem?
  • Chapter 3 – Everything is ambiguous (*NEW!*)
  • Chapter 5 – The Essential Elements of Digital Literacies

If you buy into the book now, you’ll receive the rest of the chapters as I write them – free!

Got questions? I probably answered them in this post announcing the e-book!

Digital literacies and why they’re important… for everyone!

(can’t see the video? click here!)

Nigel Robertson (@easegill) works at the University of Waikato in Hamilton, New Zealand. A few weeks back he asked if I’d have time to put together a short video about digital literacies for Digital Literacy @ Waikato Awareness Week.

He asked very nicely, so I looked at my calendar and carved out some time yesterday to put the above video together. It only took about 45 minutes from beginning (shooting the video) to end (starting upload to YouTube). My wife thinks it’s OK so it can’t be too bad!

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Did you know you can subscribe to my videos on Youtube? Just click on the button above or hit ‘Subscribe’ when visiting my channel!

On the relationship between Digital Literacies and Web Literacies. [VIDEO]

Can’t see the video? Click here!

Building on the back of my recent DMLcentral post entitled Digital Literacies and Web Literacies: What’s the Difference? I’ve had a go at a more visual explanation of the relationship.

Here’s hoping it makes some sense! I’d love some feedback, if you have any. 🙂

v0.3 of ‘The Essential Elements of Digital Literacies’ now available! [E-BOOK]

Version 0.4 is now available! Click here


The Essential Elements of Digital LiteraciesAs promised, I’ve finished version 0.3 of my e-book The Essential Elements of Digital Literacies before the end of July!

Those who invested in v0.2 have already received their update, according to the OpenBeta process I devised.

You can invest in v0.3 and then get every update to v1.0 by clicking below:

 


 

 

 

 


What’s included in this version?

  • Contents page
  • Chapter 2 – What’s the problem? (*NEW!*)
  • Chapter 5 – The Essential Elements of Digital Literacies

If you buy into the book now, you’ll receive the rest of the chapters as I write them – free!

More questions? I probably answered them in this post announcing the e-book!

Reconfiguring Mozilla’s Web Literacies (v0.1 alpha)

Reconfiguring Mozilla's web literacies using post-its

Click image to enlarge!

I’ve been thinking about web literacy (or web literacies) on and off since I posted a diagram version of Michelle Levesque’s helpful first efforts.

The post-it note arrangement above is the result of a burst of creativity following a migraine earlier. The structure was prompted by some things mentioned by Helen Beetham at a couple of JISC events earlier this week.

I’d love some feedback!

v0.2 of ‘The Essential Elements of Digital Literacies’ now available!

***Version 0.3 now available!***

The Essential Elements of Digital LiteraciesRight on schedule, I’m delighted to announce that version 0.2 of my e-book The Essential Elements of Digital Literacies is now available!

Those who invested in v0.1 have already received their update, according to the OpenBeta process I devised.

You can invest in v0.2 and then get every update to v1.0 by clicking below:

 


 

Invest now (£2) and get each chapter as it’s completed FREE!

 


More questions? I probably answered them in this post announcing the e-book!

100 people have now bought in to my e-book on digital literacies!

The Essential Elements of Digital Literacies

Wow.

100 people. One hundred people. Every one of them has parted with money on the promise that by the end of the year I’ll deliver an e-book to them about digital literacies.

They’ve bought in to v0.1 which consists of little more than an explanation of the project. It’s all part of the OpenBeta publishing model explained here.

What are ‘digital literacies’? Why are they important? How can I develop them both personally and in other people? These are some of the questions that ‘The Essential Elements of Digital Literacies by Doug Belshaw seeks to address.

I’m going to be working on finishing v0.2 over Easter weekend. So if you were thinking of buying into it, better be quick before the price doubles!

More here: http://dougbelshaw.com/ebooks/digilit

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