by Doug Belshaw

Dr. Doug Belshaw consults around digital literacies, Open Badges, and educational technology.

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5 steps to creating a sustainable digital literacies curriculum

Steps by Jake Hills via Unsplash

The following is based on my doctoral thesis, my experience as Web Literacy Lead at the Mozilla Foundation, and the work that I’ve done as an independent consultant, identifying, developing, and credentialing digital skills and literacies.

To go into more depth on this topic, check out my book, The Essential Elements of Digital Literacies.

 1. Take people on the journey with you

The quotation below, illustrated by Bryan Mathers, is an African proverb that I’ve learned to be true.

African proverb

The easiest thing to do, especially if you’re short of time, is to take a definition - or even a whole curriculum / scheme of work - and use it off-the-shelf. This rarely works, for a couple of reasons.

First, every context is different. Everything can look great, but the devil really is in the details of translating even very practical resources into your particular situation.

Second, because the

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Web Literacy badges in GitHub

I’m delighted to see that Mozilla have worked with Digitalme to create new Open Badges based on their Web Literacy Map. Not only that, but the badges themselves are platform-agnostic, with a GitHub repository containing the details that can be used under an open license.

Web Literacy Badges

As Matt Rogers from Digitalme documents in A journey into the open, there’s several levels to working open:

In a recent collaboration with the Mozilla Learning team – I got to understand how I can take our work to the next level of openness. Creating publicly available badge projects is one thing, but it’s another when they’re confined to one platform – even if that is your own. What truly makes a badge project open is its ability to be taken, maybe remixed, and utilised anywhere across the web. Be that on a different badging platform, or via a completely different delivery means entirely.

This is exactly the right

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Curriculum as algorithm


Way back in Episode 39 of Today In Digital Education, the podcast I record every week with Dai Barnes, we discussed the concept of ‘curriculum as algorithm’. If I remember correctly, it was Dai who introduced the idea.

The first couple of things that pop into my mind when considering curricula through an algorithmic lens are:

  • The work of Ira Socol
  • Skill trees in video games (example)

But let’s rewind and define our terms, including their etymology. First up, curriculum:

In education, a curriculum… is broadly defined as the totality of student experiences that occur in the educational process. The term often refers specifically to a planned sequence of instruction, or to a view of the student’s experiences in terms of the educator’s or school’s instructional goals.
The word “curriculum” began as a Latin word which means “a race” or “the course of a race” (which in turn

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Why we need ‘view source’ for digital literacy frameworks

Apologies if this post comes across as a little jaded, but as someone who wrote their doctoral thesis on this topic, I had to stifle a yawn when I saw that the World Economic Forum have defined 8 digital skills we must teach our children.

World Economic Forum - digital skills

In a move so unsurprising that it’s beyond pastiche, they’ve also coined a new term:

Digital intelligence or “DQ” is the set of social, emotional and cognitive abilities that enable individuals to face the challenges and adapt to the demands of digital life.

I don’t mean to demean what is obviously thoughtful and important work, but I do wonder how (and who!) came up with this. They’ve got an online platform which helps develop the skills they’ve identified as important, but it’s difficult to fathom why some things were included and others left out.

An audit-trail of decision-making is important, as it reveals both the explicit and implicit biases

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What does it mean to be a digitally literate school leader?

As part of the work I’m doing with London CLC, their Director, Sarah Horrocks, asked me to write something on what it means to be a digitally literate school leader. I’d like to thank her for agreeing to me writing this for public consumption.

Image CC BY K.W. Barrett

Image CC BY K.W. Barrett

Before I start, I think it’s important to say why I might be in a good position to be able to answer this question. First off, I’m a former teacher and senior leader. I used to be Director of E-Learning of a large (3,000 student), all-age, multi-site Academy. I worked for Jisc on their digital literacies programme, writing my thesis on the same topic. I’ve written a book entitled The Essential Elements of Digital Literacies. I also worked for the Mozilla Foundation on their Web Literacy Map, taking it from preliminary work through to version 1.5. I now consult with clients around identifying, developing, and

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Mozilla releases Web Literacy Map v2.0 (with ‘21st century skills’)


Yesterday, Mozilla announced the launch of v2.0 of their Web Literacy Map. You can read about this in a post entitled Introducing Mozilla’s Web Literacy Map, Our New Blueprint for Teaching People About the Web.

The map is visually different from version 1.5, as it’s represented in a wheel rather than as a table. Another difference is that the Explore / Build / Connect strands are replaced with Read / Write / Participate (which was present in the subtitles of the previous version). The 16 competencies around the outside of the circle are verb-based (good!) and aren’t too much of a departure from the 15 competencies of the previous version.

Perhaps the most important departure, however, is the 21st century skills that are layered on top of the wheel. These skills are identified as:

  • Problem solving
  • Communication
  • Creativity
  • Collaboration

Version 2.0 of the Web Literacy Map is

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3 things to consider when designing a digital skills framework

Learning to credential

The image above was created by Bryan Mathers for our presentation at BETT last week. It shows the way that, in broad brushstrokes, learning design should happen. Before microcredentials such as Open Badges this was a difficult thing to do as both the credential and the assessment are usually given to educators. The flow tends to go backwards from credentials instead of forwards from what we want people to learn.

But what if you really were starting from scratch? How could you design a digital skills framework that contains knowledge, skills, and behaviours worth learning? Having written my thesis on digital literacies and led Mozilla’s Web Literacy Map for a couple of years, I’ve got some suggestions.

 1. Define your audience

One of the most important things to define is who your audience is for your digital skills framework. Is it for learners to read? Who are they? How old are

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Digital Skills and Digital Literacy: knowing the difference and teaching both


I was delighted to be notified on Twitter that a recent Literacy Today article heavily features my work around digital literacies. The main article by Baha Mali is accompanied by a ‘sidebar’ by Ian O'Byrne (a friend and valuable contributor to the Web Literacy Map work I led at Mozilla).

The focus of the article is on the Eight Essential Elements of Digital Literacies that I outline in my thesis, TEDx talk, and ebook.

Update (8th January 2016): I’ve been asked by the editor of Literacy Today to remove the link to the PDF. However, it’s been selected as one of the articles which will become open-access in February 2016. The link will appear via the magazine website.

Update (3rd February 2016): These articles are now freely available online:

  • Knowing the Difference Between Digital Skills and Digital Literacies, and Teaching Both
  • Perspectives of Digital Literacies


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How I’ve achieved notification nirvana with a smartphone / smartband combo

TL;DR I’m using a cheap Sony SmartBand SWR10 to get selective vibrating notifications on my wrist from my Android phone. I never miss anything important, and I’m not constantly checking my devices.

Sony SmartBand SWR10 - image via Digital Trends

Every year I take between one and two months away from social media and blogging. I call this period Belshaw Black Ops. One of the things I’ve really enjoyed during these periods is not being constantly interrupted by notifications.

The problem with notifications systems on smartphones is that they’re still reasonably immature. You’re never really sure which ones are unmissable and which ones are just fairly meaningless social updates. When a pre-requisite of your job is ‘keeping up to date’ it’s difficult to flick the binary switch to off.

Thankfully, I’ve come across a cheap and easy way to simplify all of this. After finding out about the existence of Sony smartbands via HotUKDeals

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Web Literacy Map v2.0

I’m delighted to see that development of Mozilla’s Web Literacy Map is still continuing after my departure a few months ago.

Read, Write, Participate

Mark Surman, Executive Director of the Mozilla Foundation, wrote a blog post outlining the way forward and a working group has been put together to drive forward further activity. It’s great to see Mark Lesser being used as a bridge to previous iterations.

Another thing I’m excited to see is the commitment to use Open Badges to credential Web Literacy skills. We tinkered with badges a little last year, but hopefully there’ll be a new impetus around this.

The approach to take the Web Literacy Map from version 1.5 to version 2.0 is going to be different from the past few years. It’s going to be a ‘task force’ approach with people brought in to lend their expertise rather than a fully open community approach. That’s probably what’s needed at this point.


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