Feedback on the Web Literacy Map from the LRA conference

Last week, leaving midway through the Mozilla coincidental workweek, I headed to Florida for the Literacy Research Association conference. Mozilla was invited by contributor Ian O'Byrne to lead a session on Web Literacy Map v1.1 and our plans for v2.0.


You can find what I talked about in this post: Toward The Development of a Web Literacy Map: Exploring, Building, and Connecting Online.

We received some great feedback from the following discussants:

It was difficult to capture it all, so I’m just going to list my takeaways. Special thanks to Amy who sent me her notes!

What’s the theory of learning driving the Web Literacy Map? #

We talk about Mozilla’s approach to learning in the Webmaker whitepaper, but this isn’t tied closely enough to the Web Literacy Map as it currently stands.

We can do a better job around recontextualisation #

According to Wikipedia:

Recontextualisation is a process that extracts text, signs or meaning from its original context (decontextualisation) in order to introduce it into another context. Since the meaning of texts and signs depend on their context, recontextualisation implies a change of meaning, and often of the communicative purpose too.

That’s a pretty academic way to say that we can do a better job of explaining how memes and other (what Henry Jenkins would call) spreadable media work.

We’re doing well at practising what we’re preaching #

Discussants liked the openness and transparency of the Web Literacy Map work, leading to multiple diverse perspectives and voices. They appreciated the way it was fed back for anyone to be able to read and then jump in on. They also liked the apprenticeship model, with ‘mentoring’ explicitly called out through things like Webmaker Mentors.

‘Reading, Writing and Participating’ is a problematic approach #

This approach along with the ‘grid’ approach of the Web Literacy Map’s competency layer is outdated from a new literacies point of view. Talking of ‘web literacy’ in a singular way is also reflective of a traditional understanding of the field and invokes a ‘deficit’ model. As Mozilla has influence we should think carefully about what we’re amplifying and what we’re foregrounding. This has implications for how people are measured, ranked and sorted.

How and where does criticality emerge in the Web Literacy Map? #

There should be a recognition in the map that, as we make the web, the web makes us. The Web Literacy Map implies a neutral process of acquiring skills that lead unproblematically to particular outcomes. Instead, we should move to a practice-oriented approach. Using this approach, practices are situated in activities in relation to other people and things.

Where does the notion of ‘critical internet literacy’ fit into the Web Literacy Map?

It’s not good enough just to say that learning pathways are not linear #

There’s a particular logic in the Web Literacy Map as it currently stands – in the way that it’s represented and is framed – that there is a ‘correct’ way to become an expert. This constrains the way people in fact learn and make sense of the web (despite what we say by way of contextualisation).

It may be called a ‘map’ but it looks like a standard #

The three columns imply a linearity and separation for progressing in particular skills. Where are the relationships and connections between skills and competencies? There’s plans to focus on cross-cutting themes, but how can we go further? Reading, writing and participating are not separate activities in practice so it makes little sense for them to be separate on the Web Literacy Map.

Having each individually articulated in helpful for teaching and learning but as a whole, it mitigates against fluency. A ‘competency grid’ fits an older, outdated model of learning that doesn’t recognise multiple pathways to learning and participating.

Why can’t we have multiple views of the Web Literacy Map? #

Having just one representation of the skills and competencies of the Web Literacy Map limits creativity and leads to a ‘recipes’ based approach. A ‘stories’ based approach might be better, perhaps using a Universal Design for Learning approach. This would lead to greater learner agency and freedom. We should design for difference.

Using the web is an aesthetic expression #

I didn’t make good enough notes here, but a couple of discussants talked about how using the web is an aesthetic expression. As a result we should do a better job of expressing this in the Web Literacy Map.

Producing/consuming as an alternative frame #

Web 1.0 was monologic, whereas Web 2.0 onwards is dialogic:

The dialogic work carries on a continual dialogue with other works of literature and other authors. It does not merely answer, correct, silence, or extend a previous work, but informs and is continually informed by the previous work. Dialogic literature is in communication with multiple works. This is not merely a matter of influence, for the dialogue extends in both directions, and the previous work of literature is as altered by the dialogue as the present one is. (Wikipedia)

We should connect to other groups doing similar work #

There are people like Media Smarts (“Canada’s Centre for Digital and Media Literacy”) doing similar work here. To what extent are they aware and involved with our work?

Where does user/consumer protection fit into the Web Literacy Map? #

We include production and navigation in the map, but to what extent are we educating people about organisations that want to use their data for their own purposes?

Conclusion #

I really enjoyed the session and, later, it made me think about some research I’d re-read recently about the importance of building up in the learner a ‘three-dimensional’ model of the focus are:

Cognitive flexibility theory (Jacobson & Spiro, 1995; Spiro & Jehng, 1990), for instance, suggests that learning about a complex, ill-structured domain requires numerous carefully designed traversals (i.e., paths) across the terrain that defines that domain, and that different traversals yield different insights and understandings. Flexibility is thought to arise from the appreciation learners acquire for variability within the domain and their capacity to use this understanding to reconceptualize knowledge.“ (McEneaney, J. E. (2000). Learning on the Web: A Content Literacy Perspective.

We’ve got lots to think about on the upcoming community calls. As well as thanking the discussants, I’d like to thank Ian O'Byrne and Greg McVerry for making me feel so welcome. They introduced me to lots of fascinating and inspiring people with whom I look forward to following-up. :-)

Questions? Comments? Email me: or add your thoughts to this thread on the #TeachTheWeb discussion forum.


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