Literacies

by Doug Belshaw

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

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How to create a sustainable web presence

Sustainability

In the preface to his 2002 book, Small Pieces Loosely Joined Dave Weinberger writes:

What the Web has done to documents it is doing to just about every institution it touches. The Web isn’t primarily about replacing atoms with bits so that we can, for example, shop on line or make our supply chains more efficient. The Web isn’t even simply empowering groups, such as consumers, that have traditionally had the short end of the stick. Rather, the Web is changing our understanding of what puts things together in the first place. We live in a world that works well if the pieces are stable and have predictable effects on one another. We think of complex institutions and organizations as being like well-oiled machines that work reliably and almost serenely so long as their subordinate pieces perform their designated tasks. Then we go on the Web, and the pieces are so loosely joined that

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How to use a VPN to ensure good ‘digital hygiene’ while travelling

I travel reasonably often as part of my work. One trend I’ve noticed recently is for hotels to provide unsecured wifi, without even so much as a landing page. While this means a ‘frictionless’ experience for guests connecting to the internet, it’s also extremely bad practice from a security point of view.

Unsecured network

Unless you know and trust the person or organisation providing your internet connection, you should proceed with caution. Your data are valuable - the business model of Facebook is testament to that! Protect your digital identity.

A Virtual Private Network (VPN) is a way to route your traffic through a trusted server. You could run your own, but the usual way is to pay for this kind of service to ensure there are no bandwidth bottlenecks. A nice little bonus to using VPNs is the ability to make it look like you are based in another country, meaning you get access to content that

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Digital literacies have a civic element

My ‘Essential Elements of Digital Literacies’ (thesis / book) looks like this:

The Essential Elements of Digital Literacies

Unlike some other people who seemed to need a subject for their latest blog post or journal article, this wasn’t something I just sat down and thought about for half an hour. This was the result of a few years worth of work, and a large meta-analysis of theory and practice.

The elements that most people seem to take issue with when looking at the above diagram are 'Confident’ and 'Civic’. The top row, the four 'skillsets’ seem to pose no problem, but people wonder how they can teach the bottom four 'mindsets’ - particularly the two just highlighted.

The latest episode of the Techgypsies podcast by Audrey Watters and Kin Lane does a great job of explaining the Civic element of digital literacies. I’ve embedded the player below, or click here. Listen to the whole thing as it’s fascinating, but the bit that

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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

algorithm.jpg

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’)

weblitmap2.png

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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