Tag: web literacies (page 1 of 3)

Why we need a learning standard for Web Literacy [DMLcentral]

Update: For the latest information on the Web Literacy standard work, head to http://mzl.la/weblitstd

I’m pleased that my latest post for DMLcentral is up. Entitled Why We Need a Learning Standard for Web Literacy I examine how we can best structure ways in which people learn to not only read but write the Web:

When it comes to getting better at using and making the Web the current status quo is problematic for learners. Where do you go if you want to get better at your Web skills? How do you even know what’s important to learn? I would suggest that most of us who count ourselves as ‘Web Literate’ reached that level more by luck than by judgement. I certainly enjoyed the journey, but it’s been an extremely long and meandering path. I think we can do better for learners.

If you’re a regular reader of this blog it’s effectively a repackaged version of what I’ve been banging on about here. Please do add your thoughts on the DMLcentral post – I’ve closed comments here to encourage you to comment over there. 🙂

PS Don’t forget to attend this Thursday’s Web Literacy standard online gathering!

How to ensure your blog posts last forever.

TL;DR version: Register your own domain name, find some server space and install Open Source software. It’s harder than using someone else’s shiny service, but you’re in control. It’s worth it.

I found out today (via Drew Buddie) that Posterous is shutting down at the end of April. While this is a sad state of affairs – I used it with students in the classroom and found it a great email-based blogging platform – it was hardly unexpected. The co-founders moved to Twitter last year and the assumption was that they would close Posterous at some point.

John Johnston, who used Posterous extensively (not least for podcasting) has written about why it was such a great platform. In an update to that post he points towards Posthaven, effectively a subscription-based clone of Posterous started by a couple of other co-founders. It promises to be the ‘safe place for all your posts forever’. Yeah, right.

The only way you can ensure that the stuff you produce online stays online is by owning your own data. It’s as simple as that. So when you’re looking for a blogging platform, by all means have a look at the sexy options like Tumblr and the like, but the most important thing is how easy it is to get your data in and out of the platform. That’s why I like WordPress (both the hosted and self-hosted versions) so much.

Knowing how to own your own data and keep it available online fits right onto the Web Literacies framework I’ve been developing at Mozilla. But it’s not rocket science. It takes effectively three steps:

  1. Buy a domain name (I use 123-reg)
  2. Find some web hosting (I use Hippie Hosting)
  3. Install an Open Source platform (I use WordPress via a one-click CPanel installation process)

The reason the last of these is important is that it’s extremely difficult – if not impossible – to completely shut down an Open Source project. Once the code is out there, it’s out there and anyone can contribute or ‘fork’ the project.

Thankfully, like many people, I could see the writing on the wall with Posterous and moved the blogs I had there (a now-defunct ‘Ideas Garden’, my conference blog, and my FAQ) to WordPress blogs hosted on subfolders of dougbelshaw.com.

This stuff isn’t hard. Trust me. And you’re always better off in control of your own data.

So, be in control of your own domain. Find out how to control the blogging platform you use. And use Open Source software. You’ll thank me for it in the long term! 🙂

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

Towards a new, open learning standard for Web Literacy

Update 2: For the latest information on the Web Literacy standard work, head to http://mzl.la/weblitstd

No slides? Click here!

[archiveorg MozillaWebLitStandardKickOff width=500 height=30]

No audio? Click here!

I’ve written a series of blog posts about Mozilla working with the community on creating a new, open learning standard for Web Literacy. I wanted one place to point people towards featuring all the relevant links, so this is it!

Blog posts

Mozilla wiki

Online gathering (7 Feb 2013)

  • Eventbrite (I’ll update this link with the recording later)

Image CC BY-SA Rubber Dragon

Towards a Web Literacy standard: (3) Who?

Update: For the latest information on the Web Literacy standard work, head to http://mzl.la/weblitstd

TL;DR version:  Mozilla is working with the community to define a new learning standard for Web Literacy. Who should be involved? Anyone that’s interested, but certainly organizations developing learning activities around web skills, as well as those teaching and facilitating in formal or informal education. More here: http://mzl.la/weblitstd

Posts in this series:

  1. Introduction
  2. What? Why?
  3. Who?
  4. How?

In the first post of this series I revealed Mozilla’s intention to work with the community on defining a new, open learning standard for Web Literacy. In the second post of the series I explained what we mean by an ‘open learning standard’ and why, in fact, we need one. In this third post I want to look at who should be involved in this kind of work.

It’s important to say, of course, that anyone can be involved. Even if your job or responsibilities outside of work have nothing to do with teaching and learning the Web, that doesn’t matter. If you’re interested in what we’re doing then you’re definitely welcome and your voice matters. On the flip side, even if standards are your job/thing this might interest you. And that’s OK.

There are some obvious candidates of those who should come along to the kick-off online gathering this Thursday at 11am EST and/or get involved in the discussion group. The first of these would be representatives of organisations producing activities that allow learners to ‘level-up’ in their web skills. The value of being involved for this group of people is that they get to map their work onto a framework that both potentially eases their workload and surfaces their offerings to more learners.

Another group of people who should get involved are those who teach in a formal context. These may be teachers in schools where they want to deliver Web-related learning activities as part of the curriculum; it may mean lecturers in universities who want to ‘break down the walls’ of their classes and enable students to participate from wherever they’re based; it may be mentors in hospitals or prisons where improved Web skills allows learners to connect with others outside of their (fairly static context). We’re interested in a Web Literacy standard informing work in all of these – and other – formal contexts.

A third group of people we think should be involved in helping define a new, open learning standard for Web Literacy are those involved with informal education. This is a wide and diverse group of people including (for example) Scout Leaders, after-school club leaders, and CoderDojo mentors. Instead of the (fantastic) activities already being organised remaining in silos, they can be joined up in meaningful learning pathways or playlists. This can allow learners to go to a wide range of places to level up in their Web Literacy skills.

The great thing about bringing people together as we are around this new, open learning standard for Web Literacy is that it surfaces great work already being done by people. I’m very much looking forward to Thursday and the great conversations that start there.

Join us! 🙂

Image CC BY http://heretakis.com

Towards a learning standard for Web Literacy: (2) What? Why?

Update: For the latest information on the Web Literacy standard work, head to http://mzl.la/weblitstd

TL;DR version:  Mozilla is working with the community to define a new open learning standard for Web Literacy. A standard helps with consistency of approach. We need a standard for three reasons: to mark the area as important, to co-ordinate efforts, and to improve the experience for the learner. You can get involved with this work here: http://mzl.la/weblitstd

Posts in this series:

  1. Introduction
  2. What? Why?
  3. Who?
  4. How?

What is a learning standard? Why do we need one for Web Literacy? Before I answer these two questions, I’d like to invite you to an online gathering next week and a Google Group to discuss this further. The community wants to hear your voice!

What we’re talking about here is an open learning standard. It’s open as the standard will be publicly available. It will also be revisable by the community. It’s a learning standard because it applies to educational activities and resources. It may also become somewhat of a technical standard depending upon the consensus around, for example, metadata. However, we’re interested in the ‘spirit’ rather than the letter of the law.

ISO, the International Organization for Standardization, defines a standard in the following way:

A standard is a document that provides requirements, specifications, guidelines or characteristics that can be used consistently to ensure that materials, products, processes and services are fit for their purpose.

Although this sounds rather draconian, standards are effectively about co-ordination. We fully recognise and value learner choice but recognise much unnecessary duplication and effort. We want to build towards a common goal and hope others will join us.

It might help to parse the ISO definition of a ‘standard’ and drill down a bit further:

“A standard…”

Words are signifiers; we can use whatever we want to represent something so long as we all agree. However, declaring this a ‘standard’ marks out this work as important, as something that a significant number of people believe is important enough to co-ordinate their efforts around.

“…is a document that provides requirements, specifications, guides or characteristics…”

In the case of an open learning standard for Web Literacy this is a canonical framework to which organisations can choose to align. This framework will be the result of consensus within the community and should evolve as the Web evolves. In the first instance it is likely to consist of the areas that learners need to level-up with their skills to work towards becoming web literate.

“…that can be used consistently…”

If this wasn’t a standard, then it is likely that initial work in this area would be adapted, modified and changed by many different people and organisations. Whilst there is no problem with this in and of itself, creating an open learning standard for Web Literacy ensures consistency of experience to the learner. Creating a standard also allows the learner to ascertain their knowlege, skills and understanding in relation to a more objective framework than may otherwise be available.

“…to ensure that materials, products, processes and services are fit for their purpose.”

Mozilla isn’t interested in becoming a regulatory body. This standard is something to which organisations may voluntarily align. However, there is scope through Mozilla’s Open Badges Infrastructure (OBI) for endorsement to provide some kind of endorsement and/or enhanced social proof.

I hope this makes sense. Essentially, we want to create a new, open learning standard for Web Literacy for three reasons:

  1. To mark the area as important
  2. To co-ordinate efforts
  3. To improve the experience for the learner.

In following posts I’ll be exploring how we might get to defining a standard for Web Literacy and who should/could be involved.

Don’t forget to join us for the kick-off online gathering next week!

Image CC BY-NC-SA jakedobkin

Towards a learning standard for Web Literacy: (1) Introduction.

Update: For the latest information on the Web Literacy standard work, head to http://mzl.la/weblitstd

TL;DR version: Mozilla wants to work with the community to create a new learning standard around Web Literacy. There’s an online gathering to kick-off work in this area at 11am EST on Thursday 7th February 2013 to which everyone’s invited.

Posts in this series:

  1. Introduction
  2. What? Why?
  3. Who?
  4. How?

I’m delighted to announce that Mozilla intends to work with the community on defining a learning standard for web literacy.* This builds on the work that Michelle Levesque started, and I have continued, since joining the Mozilla Foundation in July 2012. It’s part of our wider mission to create a generation of Webmakers.

Anyone interested in helping define and maintain the standard is invited to a kick-off online gathering on Thursday 7th February 2013 at 11am EST (what time is that for me?). There’s no need to book, but signing up via either Eventbrite (below) means you’ll get reminders and be able to add it to your calendar. It’s also listed on Lanyrd.

Sign up here

From the overview wiki page:

The Mozilla Foundation has a vision of a web literate planet. We’ve built some tools to help with this and now we’re asking the question: What are the skills, competencies and literacies necessary to read, write and participate in the Web – now and in the future? We’ve already started the thinking but we want to go further and develop a web literacy standard that we can all align with and teach to. And we need your help.

We want to reach people at web scale, and that means lots of different individuals and organizations teaching various skills and competencies – many of you are doing this already – but we need a way for it to roll up to something bigger.

We need a way to ensure we’re teaching the right things, to connect various options and help learners discover pathways, and of course, to find ways for us all to track our impact. That’s where the standard comes in – we can build consensus around the overall learning map and then each chart our course against it. So, let’s develop the standard and do this together.

We’re convening an online gathering to kick-start work towards a learning standard for web literacy and build upon the work we’ve done so far in this area (and with badges). Be sure to to discuss where we want to go and find out ways for you or your organization to get involved. Make a point to get involved; we’re counting on you!

There’s a new Google Group for discussion/debate which you should introduce yourself to ASAP and the hashtag to use on social networks is #weblitstd. Note that http://mzl.la/weblitstd takes you to an overview page on the Mozilla wiki which should always have the latest information from Mozilla and the community in this new area.

Please do join us for the kick-off meeting, we’re excited! :-)

*You’ll notice that I’m using ‘literacy’ in the singular form here. This is for mainly for communication purposes as we’ve found that talking about ‘literacies’ straight off the bat tends to confuse people. The substance of what I’ve been working on remains the same!

Image CC BY-NC-SA Daniel*1977

Some (brief) thoughts about online peer assessment.

When I was a classroom teacher, peer assessment was something I loved to do. Once you’ve shown learners the basics it’s as easy as asking them to swap books with the person next to them. Not only do they get to focus in on writing for a particular purpose, but it’s a decentralised system meaning there’s no single point of failure (or authority).

Online, however, things are a little more problematic. When we go web scale, issues (e.g. around identity, privacy and trust) become foregrounded in ways that they often aren’t in offline settings. This is something I need to think carefully about in terms of the Web Literacies framework I’m working on, as I’m envisaging the following structure:

  • Skills level – granular badges awarded for completing various tasks (most badges will be awarded automatically – as is currently the case with Mozilla Thimble)
  • Competencies level – peer assessment based on a portfolio comprising of the work completed towards the skills badges
  • Literacies level – self- and peer-assessment based on work completed at the competencies level

I’ll figure out (hopefully with the help of many others) what the self-assessment looks like once we’ve sorted out the peer-assessment. The reason we need both is explained in this post.

Some of the xMOOCs such as Coursera have ‘peer-grading’ but I don’t particularly like what they’ve done for the reasons pointed out by Audrey Watters. I do, however, very much like the model that P2PU have been iterating (see this article, co-written by one of the founders of P2PU for example). The (very back-of-an-envelope) way that I see this working for the Web Literacies framework is something like:

  1. A learner complete various activities and earns ‘skills’ badges.
  2. These skills badges are represented on some kind of matrix.
  3. Once the learner has enough badges to ‘level-up’ to a competencies-level badge they are required to complete a public portfolio featuring their skills badges along with some context.
  4. This portfolio is submitted to a number (3? 5? 7? more?) of people who already have the competencies-level badge.
  5. If a certain percentage (75%? 90%?) agree that the portfolio fulfils the criteria for the badge, the learner successfully levels-up.

There’s a lot of work to be done thinking through potential extra mechanisms such as rating-the-raters as well as making the whole UX piece seamless, but I think that could be a fairly solid way to get started.

What do you think? Any suggestions? 🙂

Weeknote 04/2013

Here’s what I’ve been up to this week:

  • Finishing a short article on Zen and the Art of Digital Literacies for the inaugural issue of the ILTA journal.
  • Preparing the invitation text for an upcoming webinar asking for those interested in collaborating around a new Web Literacy standard.
  • Packing for California. Then travelling to Los Angeles via Paris.
  • Meeting my colleagues at UC Irvine and talking to them about badges (as well as life, the world, and everything!)
  • Participating in a ‘Future of Badges’ conversation at UC Irvine with extremely smart people like Cathy Davidson, David Theo Goldberg and John Seely Brown.
  • Lurking in the two-day workshop for winners of the DML competition last year. There’s some great projects producing some awesome stuff (Credly, for instance).
  • Sleeping whenever I get the chance.
  • Editing the Learner Bill of Rights doc.
  • Playing Draw Something with my now six year-old son across timezones. Also, Super Hexagon whenever I get a spare minute! 😀
  • Learning about the awesome work that’s going on around badges by interested parties – like Credly, for instance.
  • Arranging when I’m leading a session on digital literacies for #etmooc (18 February – and Twitter chat on 20th February)

Next week I’ll be back home and marking bids for the Nesta/Nominet Trust/Mozilla Digital Makers fund. I also want to plan out (if not start) changes and updates to the P2PU/Mozilla School of Webcraft. The work around this will probably happen post-DML Conference (March).

Weeknote 03/2013

Here’s what I’ve been up to this week:

  • Talking to Audrey Watters about web literacies. She’s a very smart person and I was impressed by what she had to say. I tried to capture most of what she said in this blog post.
  • As my colleagues are such a talented and productive bunch, an important part of my working day is spent in co-ordination. When you’re not co-located it’s important that you get your thinking out there, which is exactly what Brett Gaylor’s done with his post on New Webmaker Prototypes. Exciting stuff! My response is here.
  • I continue to contribute to both the Mozilla Webmaker list and the Open Badges Google Group. I’m looking forward to the latter splitting into two equally-weighted technical/learning groups!
  • This week I’ve been invited to over 10 events (including Estonia twice!), which is a little insane. I said no to pretty much all of them, as I’m trying to travel less (and be more strategic when I do travel) in 2013.
  • I’m trying to comment on more blog posts, especially when people are sharing the awesome work they’re doing around badges. Most notably, I commented on posts by Chris Sharples, Zoe Ross, Robert Weeks, and Grainne Hamilton. You should go and read them (the posts, not necessarily my comments!)
  • Interestingly, the post by Robert Weeks was stimulated by a virtual presentation to the Bristol ‘weelearning’ group on Wednesday. Formerly a badge skeptic, Robert is now a badge enthusiast. Job done. 🙂
  • My work around web literacies is going to end up as a ‘learning standard’. I’ve been discussing this with Erin and Carla. More on that soon.
  • I spent Thursday in Leicester in the company of Josie Fraser, Lucy Atkins, Richard Hall and David White. I was advising on a new digital literacies framework for teachers in Leicester which should, hopefully, lead to badge-infused CPD. That was a bit of an epic journey: 4.5 hours each way in a day. Except the train was delayed on the way after a suicide on the line. 🙁
  • I’ve done lots of reading this week, including the excellent book A Small Matter of Programming, a new DML Connected Learning report, the Peeragogy Handbook, and a new version of the IDEO Design Thinking for Educators resource.
  • The ILTA invited me to write up my keynote last year into a journal article. I’m about half-way there, I reckon, and should finish it on Monday. It will have the title Zen and the Art of Digital Literacies.
  • Thinking about the way that I and most of the people I know live in the future.
  • When I wasn’t doing the above I was clearing the drive of snow, spending time at the gym (no running this week!), and sledging, snowman-making, and generally spending time with my family before…

Next week I’ll be escaping the snowy hinterland of Northumberland and heading to sunny California to meet my colleagues. We’ll be participating in a DML conversation around, you guessed it, Open Badges. On that note, I’m delighted to have been asked to do more work around learning and assessment related to badges – so look out for more posts of that nature in the near future!

Image uploaded originally by Cory Doctorow on Twitter