More than just coding; an enabling education for our times.
GUEST COLUMN | by Doug Belshaw
What are the skills and competencies that people need to read, write and participate on the web? Where can they learn these skills? How can they apply them most effectively? These are questions that have been on the mind of progressive educators, both in formal and informal environments, over the past few years. And they have also been on the mind of Mozilla – a global non-profit best known for its Firefox web browser.
Education, whether in a K-12 setting or something less formal, is about the transmission of knowledge as both a means and an end, an idea that squares wholly with Mozilla’s mission to promote openness, innovation and opportunity on the web. Keeping learning at the center of the internet, we are looking to encourage people to move beyond ‘elegant consumption’ and join a growing movement of “webmakers.” These are people who know a bit of code and can tinker with the web, shaping it in their own image. Increasing your web literacy skills means having agency on the web. And given the amount of time we collectively spend online, this is a social justice issue.
The Web Literacy Map
But it’s not just about code. Web Literacy, as Mozilla has defined it with a community of stakeholders through our Web Literacy Map, is an enabler for the development of skills in so many areas. As such, it must be seen as central to any education that aims to equip people for survival and success in the 21st century.
As you can see from the map (pictured), when we use the lens of web literacy a number of competencies become as important as coding. Remixing the web, for example, is a great way to build on the work of others and take your first steps towards becoming a webmaker. Working effectively with others and collaborating on the web is another valuable competency in its own right that can be taught. So is fact checking and learning how to ascertain the credibility of information you come across online. All 15 of the competencies listed on the chart above are focused on real-world knowledge and skills that a cross-section of academics, educators, and industry professionals deemed important.
This is an overview of the landscape, a ‘map of the territory’ to help school teachers, parents, and organisations orient themselves in what can be a confusing world. As the web changes and develops, so we will update the Web Literacy Map. It’s a living document, upon which people and organisations can build tools, resources and community.
Mozilla is an organisation that builds products that compete in a marketplace to win market share. This allows us to influence the hearts and minds of users, and further our non-profit mission. Not only is this true of Firefox, but of Webmaker Tools such as X-Ray Goggles, Thimble, Popcorn Maker and (our newest offering) AppMaker. These free, open-source tools were conceived to serve the teaching and learning process and allow users to peek behind the curtain of the web to see how it all works. X-Ray Goggles, for instance allows you to remix some of your favorite websites, while AppMaker encourages you to create your first smartphone app.
In addition to these tools, we’ve curated the best resources available on the web aligned with each of the web literacy competencies on the Web Literacy Map and, soon, Open Badges will help learners scaffold their learning journey. Maker Party
It’s Mozilla’s belief that people learn best through making and doing. A great deal of that learning happens in a peer environment with other learners. To encourage people to do this within their own community, we have a yearly campaign called Maker Party. So far this year we’ve had over 2,200 events run globally by community members in 400 cities. At the time of writing, this meant 85,000 people learning and teaching the web. You can find live updates here.
As the recent celebrity iCloud leaks showed, understanding how the web works and how we can use it for our own benefit is something that affects everyone. Learning through making and doing in a peer-learning environment is what Maker Party is all about. Although the campaign ends on September 15th, it’s always the right time to use the resources on the site to bring people together to learn and teach the web!
The web is a hugely enabling, democratic platform that can enable human flourishing on a scale never before seen. However, to do this we need the broad set of skills and competencies to read, write and participate on the web effectively. The Web Literacy Map, coupled with Webmaker Tools, resources, and community (especially through Maker Party) is Mozilla’s free, open-source attempt to do just that.
Maker Party image CC BY-NC-SA
Hive Learning NYC
Doug Belshaw is the Web Literacy Lead for the non-profit Mozilla Foundation. A former teacher and senior leader, Doug also has experience of further and higher education as a researcher/analyst. You can find him on twitter @dajbelshaw