Tag: web literacy (page 1 of 2)

An important day for the Internet

As I’ve just been explaining to my son, when he’s my age and looks back at the history of the Internet, 26 February 2015 will be seen as a very important day.

Why? The Mozilla blog summarises it well:

We just accomplished something very important together. Today, the U.S. Federal Communications Commission voted for strong net neutrality protections. This happened because millions of people — including many hundreds of thousands in Mozilla’s community — joined together as citizens of the Web to demand those strong protections.

Net Neutrality can be a difficult thing to understand and, especially if you’re not based in the USA, it can feel like something that doesn’t affect you. However, it is extremely important, and it impacts everyone.

Last year we put together a Webmaker training module on Net Neutrality. I’d like to think it helped towards what was achieved today. As Mitchell Baker stated, this victory was far from inevitable, and the success will benefit all of humankind.

It’s worth finding out more about Net Neutrality, for the next time it’s threatened. Forewarned is forearmed.

Image CC BY Kendrick Erickson

HOWTO: use GitHub Pages to host a bootstrap-themed website

Last week I mentioned in a blog post and my weekly newsletter the pre-launch website of my new (part-time) consultancy Dynamic Skillset. I had an enquiry as to how the site put together, so I put together this screencast:

The great thing about being shown how to do something via video is that, if you get stuck, you can pause, rewind and watch parts again. In this one, I go through the process of downloading a responsive website theme and hosting it for free using GitHub Pages.

Remember, the way to increase your digital and web literacies is to tinker about and try new things. You can’t break anything here and all you have to lose is your GitHub virginity. 😉

PS If you’re interested in using GitHub to ‘fork’ (i.e. remix) someone else’s repository, you may find this video playlist helpful.

Web Literacy: More than just coding; an enabling education for our times [EdTech Digest]

Web Literacy | edtechdigest.com 2014-09-08 14-03-43

Last week, my colleague Lainie Decoursy got in touch wondering if I could write a piece about web literacy. It was a pretty tight turnaround, but given pretty much all I think about during my working hours is web literacy, it wasn’t too much of a big ask!

The result is a piece in EdTech Digest entitled Web Literacy: More than just coding; an enabling education for our times. It’s an overview of Mozilla’s work around Webmaker and, although most of the words are mine, I have to credit my colleagues for some useful edits.

Click here to read the post

I’ve closed comments here to encourage you to add your thoughts on the original post.

Mozilla Webmaker training starts Monday 12th May!

Excitingly, Mozilla’s Webmaker training starts on Monday. Join us (free!) to learn creative ways to teach web literacy, digital skills and open practices with fellow educators, technologists and mentors around the world.

Sign up here: http://training.webmakerprototypes.org

Each of the four weeks is a separate topic, but if you decide to do all of them, they build upon one another:

Webmaker Training  Teach the Web

The brains behind the operation is Laura Hilliger, our Training & Curriculum Lead. Several of us from the Webmaker Community team are going to be helping out with running sessions.

Laura’s put together a really nice ‘how to participate’ Thimble resource that’s worth checking out:

How to participate

Week 1: Exploring

Week beginning 12th May. Learn about the theoretical frameworks and pedagogies (teaching methods) behind Webmaker. This module helps you understand the web as an ecosystem and why an open web is so important.

Week 2: Building

Week beginning 19th May. Develop open educational resources that embed web literacy and making with other topics that you might already be teaching. Using open practices, you’ll make learning materials that are designed for others to use and remix.

Week 3: Facilitating

Week beginning 26th May. Put theory into practice. In this module, you’ll learn how to use open and participatory learning techniques to teach digital and web literacy skills in your classroom, during workshops or at events.

Week 4: Connecting

Week beginning 2nd June. Amplify your work by making connections in your local community as well as within Webmaker’s global community. In this module, you’ll learn how building relationships can help you achieve greater impact.

Getting involved

There’ll be three main places to pay attention to:

  1. The Webmaker Training site: this has links to the content and will have a calendar of all the live events. It’s easiest to think of this as the ‘hub’. Suggestion: bookmark this link.
  2. The discussion area: using great new forum 2.0 software called Discourse we’ll be discussing and debating the theory and practice of teaching web literacy.
  3. Social media: we’ll be using the #TeachTheWeb hashtag on both Twitter (mainly) and Google+.

If you’ve always wanted to improve your web skills so that you can teach the web to others, this is your perfect opportunity – so sign up!

Rethinking Literacy for the Web [Educating Modern Learners]

Educating Modern Learners, a new subscription site from Will Richardson and Bruce Dixon, is now live. Excitingly, the editor of the site is none other than Audrey Watters, whose blog and newsletter I’m sure you already subscribe to.

They commissioned me to write one of the first articles to appear on the site, a process that meant I benefitted from the editorial eye of Audrey. The post is currently available via the free subscription tier for the site, so you’ll need to sign up to access it.

The article is entitled Rethinking Literacy for the Web. In it, I provide an introduction to what the web means for literate practices, the challenge for educators, and ways we can respond.

The time has come to move beyond discussions of whether the web, social networks, and mobile devices are inherently “good” or “bad.” Debates about whether such things can (or should) be used for learning drag on while the next generation cobble together their own understanding of an increasingly blended online/offline world. It’s time we as educators stepped up and taught more than just “e-safety.” It’s time we started facilitating learning experiences around reading, writing, and participation on the web.

Once you’ve had a read I’d be interested in your comments here (I don’t think they’re turned on over there!)

Image CC BY-SA Alberto Garcia

Bad Parenting (or, On The Meditative Nature of Screens)

TL;DR: Screens are enticing, but as parents we should be modelling better behaviours in front of our children than the ‘stare and scroll’.

Last year I wrote a post in response to one by Patrick Rhone entitled Reading books in front of kids is not enough. In the concluding paragraph I wrote:

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.

I’m increasingly concerned about the behaviour of parents while using technology (specifically mobile devices) in front of their young children. And before I start to throw stones around this glasshouse, let me say that this is something I struggle with as a parent too.

The reason for not saying anything before now is because I thought it would be a fad: people get new, shiny smartphones and can’t keep their hands off them. But I see it turning into something a bit more worrying and sinister. As someone who works for a technology company that’s started work on creating mobile devices I don’t take this at all lightly.

Today, for example, I went out for breakfast. On a table near me a young couple sat down with their son, who must have been about 18 months old. Without saying anything to him, they pulled out their smartphones and started the ‘stare and scroll’ I’ve seen so often amongst parents recently. Unlike his mother and father, the child was provided with no form of entertainment while they were waiting for breakfast to arrive. Predictably, after five minutes he got down from his chair and started making noise to get the attention he craved. To pacify him, his mother handed over her phone and he started the now-familiar ‘toddler swipe’ through photos.

Parenting is hard. We all know that. But this kind of thing is happening all over the developed world. Catherine Steiner-Adair is a clinical and consulting psychologist who interviewed 1,000 children about the role of screens in their lives. The quotations below by her a taken from a New York Times article:

“Children of all ages — 2, 15, 18, 22 — used the same phrases to talk about how hard it is for them to get their parents’ attention when they need it: sad, angry, mad, frustrated,” she said. They were complaining that their parents were focused on screens, she continued, “like a child’s chorus of all ages, talking about this new sibling rivalry, only it’s not a new member of the family — it’s a new screen, it’s a device.”

Amongst the five web literacies Howard Rheingold identifies is attention literacy. To me, that not only applies to the attention you pay on the web, but also decisions you make about the relative value of the things around you. While it’s absolutely OK to check your social stream in front of children, in their eyes you doing so for a protracted amount of time makes them seem second-best.

Paying more attention to your screen than your child is also dangerous. Although there’s currently no proof of causation, it’s certainly odd that the dawn of smartphones is correlated with a rise in childhood injuries – bucking a longstanding downward trend. This certainly meshes with my experience: the number of parents I’ve seen pushing their kids on the swing in a park with one hand while scrolling through their Facebook feed with the other is staggering.

Finally, it worth saying that neglect isn’t just a physical phenomenon, it’s an emotional one too. I wonder what we’re going to reap as a society in twenty years’ time from what we’re currently collectively sowing?

As parents we can do better than this. We must do better than this.

Image CC BY-SA Paul Boxley

What’s new with Open Badges?

Those keeping track will know that last year I moved teams within the Mozilla Foundation. I moved away from the Open Badges team to focus on (what is now) the Web Literacy Map. Despite this, I still have close ties to the Open Badges team. In fact, I’m currently helping design Webmaker and Web Literacy badges.

The big news at the start of 2014 on the Open Badges front is that there’s a new Badge Alliance to grow and develop the wider ecosystem. The Badge Alliance is a non-profit organisation to be led by Erin Knight, co-founder of the Open Badges Infrastructure (OBI). Over the next few months she’ll be joined at the Badge Alliance with a few members of the current Open Badges team. There’s more detail in Erin’s blog post.

Happily, Mozilla will continue to develop and nurture the open source technical stack behind the OBI. The next milestone is the release of BadgeKit in the next few months. This should remove any remaining friction from issuing Open Badges. For more on BadgeKit be sure to follow the blogs of Sunny Lee and Chris McAvoy. And, as ever, you should also follow Carla Casilli’s posts on badge system design.

If you want to keep up with what’s going on with Open Badges in general, the easiest thing to do is to keep tabs on the Open Badges blog. The weekly ‘Badger Beats’ in particular is a useful round-up of news from the world of badges. There’s also a good deal of conversation within the Open Badges discussion group. This is a friendly forum for those planning to dip their toes into the water for the first time.

Having joined Mozilla in 2012 to work both on the Open Badges project and (what’s grown into) the Web Literacy Map. I’m delighted that the former has been incubated with such success. I’m also pleased that the latter is to underpin both the next iteration of Webmaker and Mozilla’s aims to create a more web literate planet.

If you’d like to get involved with Mozilla’s work to create a better web then we’d love to have you onboard! The easiest way to get involved with the two projects I’ve mentioned is to join their respective weekly calls. The Open Badges community call is every Wednesday, and you can join us for the new #TeachTheWeb community call every Thursday.

Questions? I’ll do my best to respond to them in the comments below.

Image CC BY-NC-SA RSC Scotland

The Web Literacy Standard is dead (long live the Web Literacy Map!)

I spent a good chunk of 2013 working with colleagues and a community of stakeholders creating a Web Literacy Standard. The result is testament to the way Mozilla, as a global non-profit, can innovate on behalf of users. I’m delighted with what we created.

Until recently, the literature and language in the field of Web Literacy has been relatively undeveloped. This is important, because although it doesn’t always seem like it, words are hard:

This seems to be a problem for anyone trying to explain the unfamiliar. If you invent new words, few people will know what you’re talking about, but if you make analogies using existing words, you bring along all their context, whether you want to or not.

In early 2013 we wanted to avoid creating just another ‘framework’. Why? Although we wanted to be more descriptive than prescriptive, we still didn’t want people to just pick-and-choose the bits they liked. Instead, we wanted to co-create something more holistic. That’s we chose to call what we were creating a ‘Standard’. The idea was for the community to come together to build something they felt they could align with.

And that’s exactly what we did. We created something that, while not perfect, we can feel a justifiable pride about.

A problem we’ve encountered is that because words are hard and dependent upon context, ‘Standard’ can have negative connotations – especially in North America. So after announcing the first version of the Standard at MozFest we, as a community, started to have a discussion as to whether ‘Standard’ was a word we wanted to keep.

The result of that consultation is that we’ve decided to move away from ‘Standard’ to describe what we’re doing here. While we could fight a valiant crusade on behalf of the term, it doesn’t seem like a battle that’s worth our time and effort. It’s better to focus on winning the war. In this case, that’s ensuring the newly re-titled Web Literacy Map underpins the work we do around Mozilla Webmaker. After all, we want 2014 to be the year we move beyond the ‘learn to code’ movement and focus on a more holistic understanding of web literacy.

We decided on Web Literacy ‘Map’ because we found that most of the language we used to describe what we’re doing was cartographic in nature. Also, it means that our designers have a lot more scope around visual metaphors! It’s going to be (and, importantly, look) – amazing!

Announcing the Web Literacy Standard (specification)

On-stage at the Mozilla Festival on Saturday, Brett Gaylor and Chris Lawrence announced a number of updates and additional features of webmaker.org.

One of these, I’m delighted to report, was the Web Literacy Standard specification – something I’ve been working on since the beginning of the year with Carla Casilli and an awesome community of stakeholders.
Web Literacy Standard specification

Here’s the short (not-quite-tweet-length) description:

The Web Literacy Standard: a map of the territory for the skills and competencies Mozilla and community think are important to get better at to more effectively read, write & participate on the Web.

So what can you do with it in practice?

  • Issue Open Badges that align with it (using the ‘alignment’ metadata field)
  • Tag stuff with headings from the competency grid
  • Write curricula influenced by it.

If you know other languages, please do help with the localisation work for this and other parts of Webmaker. Finally, please do join us every other Monday as we seek to improve this. Further details here.

PS I wrote up MozFest.

Mozilla needs your help with a final push for the Web Literacy Standard (beta)!

TL;DR: Mozilla is launching a new, open learning standard for Web Literacy. We need your help in finalising the skills involved and providing examples. You can jump in and help here: http://bit.ly/weblitstd-skills

I’ve been a bit quieter on this blog recently. There’s two reasons for that. The first is that I started a new, additional blog at http://literaci.es.

But there’s another reason: we’re reasonably close to a beta release for Mozilla’s new, open learning standard for Web Literacy.

By ‘we’ I mean the close to 50 people who have joined us at various points since February; they’ve helped Carla and me think through the many (and sometimes quite thorny) issues involved. The Mozilla Foundation is a non-profit, community-focused organisation: we need contributions from poeple like those who have volunteered their time and effort so far!

We’re aiming to launching the beta on July 26th. There’s a number of things that need to happen before then that are internal – things like graphic design, press releases and the like. But you can help, too! Here’s how.

Help us define skills

We’ve already got a competency grid (that’s in need of some Design TLC). Right now, though, we’re working on the skills underpinning those competencies. We also need at least a couple of examples of those skills.

You can dive in using the Google Docs and styleguide available from the link below. Please make sure you add/comment rather than delete!


We’ve got a weekly community call every Monday that you’re very welcome to join. Further details of that can be found here.

Image CC BY marc faladeau