Open Thinkering



Weeknote 25/2013

This week I’ve been:

  • Hosting the Web Literacy Standard community call. Audio and etherpad here.
  • Communicating with the people behind Grimwire and +PeerServer about potentially contributing towards Firecloud.
  • Interviewed for a potential upcoming piece in PandoDaily about the Web Literacy Standard.
  • Talking to Sara Mörtsell about Open Badges for her upcoming MOOC.
  • Presenting at the Learning & Skills Group conference in London. Slides here.
  • Moderating a session – and feeding back from it to the EC Digital Agenda Assembly in Dublin.
  • Messing about with, and getting used to, my new Geeksphone Keon running Firefox OS. It’s a developer preview but I’ve got it on the expectation that I’ll be ‘dogfooding’ – i.e. using it as my ‘daily driver’.
  • Trying (and failing) to set up my new 24″ Dell monitor. The different digital display technologies are confusing (e.g. Thunderbolt and Mini-DisplayPort same physical size but are incompatible?)
  • Answering questions from the community about Open Badges and the Web Literacy Standard.
  • Talking to Erin Knight about a potential new role for me at Mozilla.
  • Tidied up and added questions to the Web Literacy Standard FAQ wiki page.
  • Meeting for coffee with someone who is thinking of joining Mozilla and wanted to know what it’s like working inside the belly of the beast.
  • Putting together a short slidedeck on Firecloud with Vinay Gupta.
  • Enquiring about the possibility of running another Maker Party (as I did last year) at the Centre for Life.
  • Meeting up with a teacher at my wife’s school to talk through how they can use Webmaker tools to deliver part of the new Primary Computing curriculum.
  • Checking out some books that MIT sent me in their Essential Knowledge series. They’ve asked me to put together a proposal for one on digital/web literacy.

Next week I’ve got a bit of a three-day tour of the UK. I’m in Sheffield to run an Open Badges workshop for the White Rose Learning Technologists’ Forum on Monday. On Tuesday I’m in Glasgow to speak at an SQA event entitled Innovations in Assessment for Schools before an epic train journey to Bath to speak at IWMW13 on Open Badges and the Web Literacy Standard. I’ve another three events the week after next as well…

Weeknote 19/2013

This week I’ve been:

  • Taking a day off. It was Bank Holiday on Monday – a national holiday in the UK. I still however spent 4pm-5pm… <drumroll>
  • Hosting the weekly Web Literacy standard call. We motored through our first pass of defining the skills under the competencies in the ‘Connecting’ strand.
  • Writing a post for Week 1 of the Mozilla #teachtheweb MOOC: How transferable are coding skills to other domains? Why is learning a little code important?
  • Responding to enquiries by people and organisations about integrating with the OBI.
  • Travelling to and from London to meet with Lord Jim Knight and STiR education about using Open Badges for teacher education in India.
  • Enjoying a conversation over lunch London with the ever-enthusiastic Eugenie Teasley from Spark + Mettle.
  • Collating questions about Open Badges and then answering them in this blog post.
  • Suffering from a migraine on Thursday. I couldn’t see much due to the aura so I called it a day about 10:30am. I lay down and listened to podcasts. The Moral Maze episode on The Ring of Gyges was fascinating.
  • Travelling to BBC North in Salford to deliver a session on Open Badges. It went pretty well, but I felt like I wasn’t getting my words out properly or explaining things as well as I usually do. It’s often an issue post-migraine. Slides here.

Next week, after five straight weeks of travelling and hotels, I’m home for the entire week. Woohoo! The week after I’m in Toronto for the Mozilla All-Hands meeting, so plenty to psych myself up for…

How transferable are coding skills to other domains? Why is learning a little code important? (#teachtheweb)

This is a post for the Mozilla Webmaker MOOC called #teachtheweb. You can get involved here!

There’s a tendency that we all at various times either demonstrate or resist. In ascertaining the value of other people’s thoughts, innovations or opinions we ask for evidence of impact. But when it comes to our own thoughts, innovations or opinions, we believe evidence to be unnecessary because it’s self-evident.

So it is with learning new skills. Those without the skills ask questions about the value of obtaining them (“where’s the evidence?”), while to those with the skills it just seems obvious. And then there’s the perennial question about ‘transferability’. Just what counts as something being a ‘transferable skill’ anyway?*

To me, innovation comes at the overlap of two or more circles of a Venn diagram. It stands to reason, therefore, that the more circles there are on your Venn diagram, the more chances there are for overlap.

Learning a new language is like making your Venn diagram of skills three-dimensional. And by ‘a new language’ I mean things like HTML, JavaScript and Python just as much as French, Spanish and Chinese. These languages are new conceptual tools, new ways of looking at the world. Learning to play a musical instrument and understand mathematical abstraction/notation also falls into this camp, I reckon.

As a Pragmatist, I like the description William James gives of the world as a “bloomin’ buzzin’ confusion”. There is no way that we can have an objective or neutral view of the world, so the more lenses we can use to view it, the better.**

I’m (at best) currently an average wrangler of HTML and CSS, and a beginner with JavaScript. But the computational thinking I’ve developed through learning these from a reasonably young age (and before that messing about with a BBC Micro) have stood me in good stead for seeing the world differently.***

Why do we need to see the world differently? Well, because the problems that we face as a society are increasingly complex. We need people who speak many languages – including those of machines – to be able to solve them. We don’t need a society of pure programmers any more than we need a society of pure linguists or musicians. What we do need are people who know a bit of each.

That’s why I think learning a little code is important.

* I kind of discussed this in this blog post.

** I love the HTML Hunting in the World Around You challenge in P2PU’s School of Webcraft as an example of this.

*** I’m currently re-learning French through Duolingo.

Weeknote 18/2013

This week I’ve been:

Next week it’s Bank Holiday (woo!) then I’m in London on Tuesday night/Wednesday morning for a meeting with Lord Jim Knight. Then on Friday I’m in Salford to talk to the BBC about Open Badges for their CPD programme(s).

Mozilla Webmaker MOOC kicking off May 2nd for 9 weeks!

I’m delighted to announce that there’s going to be a Mozilla MOOC! The Massive Open Online Course starts on the May 2nd for 9 weeks with the focus being upon learning how to teach digital literacy and HTML/CSS/JavaScript skills. Happily you don’t have to know anything about the topic(s) before you start. 🙂

>>>SIGN UP HERE! <<<

While I’m not one of the organisers of the Mozilla MOOC I’m excited to be involved as a Super Mentor! Further details (kindly provided by my colleague Laura Hilliger) can be found below:

As part of our non-profit mission, Mozilla believes that web literacy—the understanding of how digital things work—is an essential life skill for the 21st century. We want to empower users of the web to become makers of the web.

So we’re kicking-off a free online course called Teach the Web: a Mozilla Open Online Collaboration, where we’ll explore new ways of teaching digital literacies through making and learning together.

The #teachtheweb course will run from May 2 – June 30. You can participate in weekly guided discussions, tackle hands-on activities, develop and remix teaching resources, and compare notes with a global community of makers, mentors and educators.

Find more details or sign up and get started at

Participants will learn how to:

  • teach digital literacies through making, remixing and sharing
  • incorporate openness and online innovation into teaching practices
  • adapt educational resources to meet your learners’ interests and needs
  • receive feedback from peers on your own resources and lessons

We hope you’ll join us!

If you have any questions, please feel free to reach out via Twitter @mozteach or the G+ Webmaker community at

Be sure to sign up and I look forward to learning together!

T3S1: Digital Literacies with Dr. Doug Belshaw (#etmooc)

I’m running my first-ever MOOC (Massive Open Online Course) session on digital literacies as part of #etmooc. Anyone can join in at 8pm GMT on Monday 18th February 2013. The link you need is at Point 4 here. Slides below or on Slideshare!

[slideshare id=16552231&style=border: 1px solid #CCC; border-width: 1px 1px 0; margin-bottom: 5px;&sc=no]

Weeknote 02/2013

Weeknotes are updates about what your business has been doing over the past seven days or so.

I used to write weeknotes (see here). I’m not entirely sure why I stopped, to be honest. All the cool kids do it: BERG London, the Helsinki Design Lab, the UK Government’s Digital Service and the BBC R&D – to name but a few.

As it’s supposedly a business-focused thing to do, weeknotes are usually counted from the birth of your business – regardless of when you start actually writing them. Given that I’m an individual and I’ve already written some in previous years, I’m going to do something slightly different. As you can see in the title of this post, I’ll give the week number (this is the second week of the year) and the year. Hopefully that’ll work.

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

  • Tidying up the Web Literacies white paper that I’ve been working on since joining Mozilla. It’s still not completely finished (nor is the framework) but it’s getting there. I’m quite pleased with the interest-based learning diagram that I inserted in there.
  • Turning down invitations to run workshops and speak at events. Much as I enjoy getting out there and meeting people and evangelising stuff around Mozilla’s mission, it both takes me away from my family and doing longer-term things. I don’t like saying ‘no’ (apart from BETT) so this is hard.
  • Booking travel to go to the few events that I am going to. I’m in Leicester next week spending time advising them on some digital literacy work that involves badges. More on that next week! Then, in a couple of weeks, I’m heading to California to meet up with my Mozilla colleagues and the winners of the DML competition to talk all things badges.
  • Recording videos. Given that I’m not going to be darting around the place running workshops, I felt it was important that those who do want to run Open Badges workshops had as many relevant resources as possible. To that end this week I recorded a couple of videos that hopefully will be of help.
  • Running an Open Badges workshop. Despite what I’ve said above, I couldn’t really turn down Stevie Flower’s invitation to Madlab in Manchester. We had a great time on Thursday designing badges. I issued participants this badge.
  • Writing an article on digital literacies for the inaugural issue of the ILTA’s journal. I keynoted their conference last year and they asked very nicely if I’d write a 2,000-word article. I’m basically plagiarising my own thesis, which I think (and people on Twitter seem to think) is OK.
  • Keeping an eye on developments around #ETMOOC, a new Massive Open Online Course about educational technology and media that starts next week.
  • Procrastinating over getting started with the Coursera Game Theory MOOC that I signed up for a while ago and began this week.
  • Messing about with my new phone – a Motorola Atrix 4G. It’s not ‘new’ as in just-come-out, but it met my criteria of being at least dual-core, having a user-replaceable battery, running Android, and accepting microSD cards. I don’t actually care that it doesn’t run the latest version of Android and love the fact that I can unlock my phone with a swipe of my fingerprint.

Next week I’m looking forward to talking to Audrey Watters about the Mozilla web literacies framework, recording some more Open Badges videos, finishing that ILTA article and heading to Leicester. The team formerly known as the Mozilla Learning Team will have re-assembled, Avengers-style by then, so I’ll have other things to think about as well. 🙂

Change MOOC – #change11

After seeing several MOOCs (Massive Open Online Courses) come and go over the past couple of years, I’ve decided to play a part in a new one being facilitated by Dave Cormier, George Siemens and Stephen Downes.

What’s a MOOC?

Allow Dave Cormier to enlighten you:


What do you have to do?

Pretty much anything you like. To paraphrase from

This is an unusual course. It does not consist of a body of content you are supposed to remember. Rather, the learning in the course results from the activities you undertake, and will be different for each person.

This type of course is called a ‘connectivist’ course and is based on four major types of activity:

  1. Aggregate
  2. Remix
  3. Repurpose
  4. Feed Forward

When a connectivist course is working really well, we see this greate cycle of content and creativity begin to feed on itself, people in the course reading, collecting, creating and sharing. It’s a wonderful experience you won’t want to stop when the course is done.

And – because you can share anywhere – you won’t have to. This course can last as long as you want it to.

The schedule consists of people who are pretty much who’s-who in my corner of the digitally-connected world; I’m particularly looking forward to:

  • Week 3 – Martin Weller (Digital Scholarship)
  • Week 9 – Dave Cormier (Rhizomatic Learning)
  • Week 17 – Howard Rheingold ([How] can [using] the web [intelligently] make us smarter?)
  • Week 25 – Stephen Downes (Knowledge, Learning and Community)
  • Week 30 – Alec Couros (Facilitating Networked Learners)
  • Week 33 – George Siemens (Sensemaking, wayfinding, networks, and analytics)
  • Week 34 – Bonnie Stewart (Digital Identities & Subjectivities)

That’s because these are people I know will provide interesting stimulus material and sound guidance. However, I’m also looking forward to being surprised by others!

MOOCs have a structure that allows you to dip in and dip out. This course is running (at least) until 20th May 2012 so there’ll be times when I can pay more or less attention. Given that I’m handing in my thesis in the next 14 days I should, on average, have a whole lot more time on my hands to get involved.

Why don’t YOU take part as well? It’s a great way to meet new people and think through new ideas!

mobiMOOC: 2 April – 14 May 2011

mobiMOOCOne thing I’m working on in my role at JISC infoNet at the moment is a Mobile Learning infoKit. It should be ready in time to complement the launch of JISC’s Emerging Practice in a Digital Age guide at ALT-C 2011.

After the JISC Mobile & Wireless Technologies Review I carried out at the end of 2010, I’m keen to find out out the practice behind the theory and strategy I discussed in that (17,000-word!) review and have been looking for opportunities to do so. Thankfully, I’ve found just the thing.

A MOOC is a Massive Open Online Course, ably explained by Dave Cormier:


A mobiMOOC is running from 2nd April until 14th May 2011 and anyone can take part! There’s a host of well-known names in the mobile learning world running sessions and facilitating, so I’m very much looking forward to it.

The benefit of the MOOC approach, of course, is that you can dip in-and-out at will, set your own learning goals, and (being mainly asynchronous) fit it around the rest of your life.

I hope you’ll join us.