Open Thinkering


Month: October 2014

#BelshawBlackOps14 has started – see you in January!

Short link:

As I mentioned a couple of weeks ago, as of tonight I’m on ‘Belshaw Black Ops’ until 2015. This personal digital hiatus means that until January I won’t be composing new blog posts, newsletters, or tweets. As far as possible, I’m switching to read-only mode.

If you really need to get in touch, I’ll still be available on my Mozilla email address. But use it sparingly, please.

Here’s what I’m planning to do during November and December:

I realised recently that for around the last 13 years I’ve been thinking on-and-off about something I read in one of Iris Murdoch’s books. I’m pretty sure it was in a philosophical work such as Metaphysics as a Guide to Morals but it may have been in one of her novels. Murdoch talked about not really ever having had a ‘strong sense of self’. I really wish I could find the quotation. Putting my own gloss on it, I’ve come to believe that those who don’t have a strong sense of self are more empathetic than others, but may also have more problems with self-actualisation.

As a result, if I had to sum up the aim of the next couple of months, it would probably be to develop a stronger sense of self. To those people who see me as confident it may surprise them to learn that, for at least five months of the year, I struggle with imposter syndrome and social anxiety. Turning in on myself during some of the winter period allows me to emerge more confident about who I am and what I believe.

Apart from a panel session during the first week of November, co-hosting Maker Party North East, and speaking at a conference in December I’ll be as publicly incognito as possible. I can’t tell you how much I’m looking forward to that. Thanks for reading what I’ve written this year, and I look forward to resuming normal service after my hiatus.

* My father-in-law kindly bought this for me. Thanks, Malcolm!

Image CC BY-SA spatz_2011

Curate or Be Curated: Why Our Information Environment is Crucial to a Flourishing Democracy, Civil Society [DMLcentral]

Curate or Be Curated: Why Our Information Environment is Crucial to a Flourishing Democracy, Civil Society | DMLcentral 2014-10-24 08-02-37

My latest post for DMLcentral is up. Entitled Curate or Be Curated: Why Our Information Environment is Crucial to a Flourishing Democracy, Civil Society it’s a slightly longer post than usual. My aim is to get educators to think about their own information environment and that which they’re promoting to their students:

The problem with social networks as news platforms is that they are not neutral spaces. Perhaps the easiest way to get quickly to the nub of the issue is to ask how they are funded. The answer is clear and unequivocal: through advertising. The two biggest social networks, Twitter and Facebook (which also owns Instagram and WhatsApp), are effectively “services with shareholders.” Your interactions with other people, with media, and with adverts, are what provide shareholder value. Lest we forget, CEOs of publicly-listed companies have a legal obligation to provide shareholder value. In an advertising-fueled online world this means continually increasing the number of eyeballs looking at (and fingers clicking on) content.

Click here to read the post. (link updated)

I’ve closed comments here to encourage you to leave them on the original post. I look forward to your feedback!

PS You might also be interested in Ian O’Byrne’s response to the post.

What I’m doing at #MozFest 2014

It’s the Mozilla Festival this weekend. If you’re going and it’s your first time, then you might find my 10 survival tips for MozFest useful.

I’m co-leading three sessions this year. I’ll update this post when I know when and where they all are! (Done!) Here’s an overview of what to expect in each session.

Prototypes and Pathways for Web Literacy

Saturday, 2-3pm, Track: Build and Teach the Web

Learning pathways are either prescriptive or descriptive sequences of learning experiences. These often have a particular goal in mind.

This session will involve the creation of a privacy badge pathway. We will draw on the Web Literacy Map, Open Badges, Webmaker personas, and a document created by a Badge Alliance working group. By the end of the session we should have completed pathways to share, built to work in a particular context.


What we’ll be doing:

  • Sharing our experiences of high-quality learning pathways
  • Thinking through privacy from the point of view of one of eight Webmaker personas
  • Exploring the badges created by the Badge Alliance working group on Digital & Web Literacies
  • Creating a learning pathway based on the above contexts and badges

I’m looking forward to seeing what people come up with in this session. Preparing for it has involved much cutting out of colourful hexagons… 😉

Learning Analytics for good in the age of Big Data

Saturday, 3-4pm, Track: Science and the Web

According to the current Wikipedia definition, “Learning analytics is the measurement, collection and reporting of data about learners and their contexts, for purposes of understanding and optimising learning and the environments in which it occurs.” In other words, using data to improve learning outcomes. At the moment, this is often done without the consent of users, so we want to build a better, more open, way to do it.


What we’ll be doing:

  • Identifying the challenges and opportunities in this space
  • Making connections between one another
  • Building a shared list of questions

It’s early days for this, but there’s potential to form a working group as an output of this session.

Toward v2 of Mozilla’s Web Literacy Map

Sunday, 12.30-1.30pm, Track: Build and Teach the Web

At the end of August we started the ball rolling for v2.0 of the Web Literacy Map. It’s not that there’s lots wrong with v1.1, it’s just that there’s ways we could improve it. Plus, we’ve committed to update it as the web evolves.

We began by interviewing stakeholders. This informed a community survey (still active – and now available in more languages). We’ve also just begun a series of community calls that will end in December. This session will give us extra data to help inform development the Web Literacy Map.


What we’ll be doing:

  • Answering any questions people may already have
  • Spotting any gaps in v1.1 of the Web Literacy Map
  • Grouping competencies (existing and new) in various ways
  • Discussing what should be in/out of scope for v2.0

This will be an interesting session to lead, so I’m glad I’ve got such experienced co-facilitators. There’s likely to be both people well-versed in the Web Literacy Map as well as those coming to it for the first time.

Are you coming to MozFest? Please do come and say hello – or even better, come to one of the above sessions!