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

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Hive Toronto privacy badges

Hive Toronto privacy badges

I really like these badges, part of work carried out by Hive Toronto and funded by the Office of the Privacy Commissioner of Canada.

  • Data Trail Timeline
  • IP Address Tracer
  • Privacy Coach

I’m an advisor to the project, but most of the hard work is being done by Karen Smith. The badges are informed (of course!) by the Privacy competency of Mozilla’s Web Literacy Map.

Each of the badges links to activities that help learners get to grips with the various aspects of privacy. As these have been created using Webmaker’s Thimble tool it’s straightforward to remix them for your own use!

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The final push for Web Literacy Map v1.5 (and how you can get involved!)

By the end of March 2015 we should have a new, localised iteration of Mozilla’s Web Literacy Map. We’re calling this ‘version 1.5’ and it’s important to note that this is a point release rather than a major new version.

Cat with skills

Right now we’re at the point where we’ve locked down the competencies and are now diving into the skills underpinning those competencies. To help, we’ve got a epic spreadsheet with a couple of tabs:


The REVIEW tab contains lots of comments about the suitability of the skills for v1.5. On this week’s community call we copied those skills that had no comments about them to the REFINE tab:


This is where we need your help. We’ve got skills in the REVIEW tab that, with some tweaking, can help round out those skills we’ve already transferred. It would be great if you could help us discuss and debate those. There’s also some new competencies that have no skills defined...

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Help us redefine the skills underpinning three Web Literacy Map competencies!

As Jamie Allen, long-standing contributor reminded me, last week the Web Literacy Map community turned two. Happy Birthday to us! We’ve come a long way (baby). Many thanks to all of the people who have helped us so far.

Happy Birthday

We’re currently hard at work defining Web Literacy Map v1.5 and on track to ship this at the end of Q1 2015 (i.e. end of March). As part of that process we’ve re-scoped three competencies. Specifically:

‘Web Mechanics’ and ‘Infrastructure’ from v1.1 will merge to become Web Mechanics in v1.5. Meanwhile ‘Design & Accessibility’ will separate out into Designing for the Web and Accessibility.

Web Literacy Map competency changes from v1.1 to v1.5

As Linus Torvalds famously stated, “given enough eyes, all bugs are shallow.” That’s why we need your help in nailing down the skills underpinning these newly-defined competencies. The more people involved, the better!

Web Mechanics

The Infrastructure competency under the Bui...

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Digital Literacy and Web Literacy on Wikipedia

Yesterday, from some random internetting, I found that my namesake, Doug Belshaw, was reasonably well-known climber and member of the Rock and Ice Club in the 1950s. So I did what anyone would do and searched Wikipedia for him. That’s when I stumbled on the fact that my own work is cited on the Wikipedia page for Digital Literacy. Nice!

The Core Elements and their educational effects

Literacies can be grouped together in what is known as the Essential Elements of Digital Literacies which expounds the theory that having an understanding of these eight essential elements of digital literacies will enable an individual to be digitally literate. The development of these core skills correlated to the particular contexts in which an individual may develop their skills with a view to ensuring that they align with their needs. The eight elements are Cultural, Cognitive, Constructive...

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Is grunt ‘n’ click getting in the way of web literacy?

I’ve just listening to a fascinating episode of the 99% Invisible podcast. It’s Episode 149: Of Mice and Men and its subject is my much-more-talented namesake Doug Englebart.

Cat and cursor

The episode covered The Mother of All Demos, after which Steve Jobs took some of Englebart’s ideas and ran with them. However, instead of the three-buttoned mouse and ‘keyset’ originally envisioned, we got the single-button Apple mouse. The MacBook Pro I’m typing on this retains this legacy: if I want to ‘right-click’ I have to hold down the Option key.

Christina Englebart explained her father believed that simplicity only gets you so far. We may be in an age where toddlers can intuitively use iPads and smartphones but a relentless focus on this has led to a ceiling on the average user’s technical skills. The analogy used was the difference between a tricycle and a bicycle. Anyone can immediately get on a...

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Considerations when creating a Privacy badge pathway

Between June and October 2014 I chaired the Badge Alliance working group for Digital and Web Literacies. This was an obvious fit for me, having previously been on the Open Badges team at Mozilla, and currently being Web Literacy Lead.


We used a Google Group to organise our meetings. Our Badge Alliance liaison was my former colleague Carla Casilli. The group contained 208 people, although only around 10% of that number were active at any given time.

The deliverable we decided upon was a document detailing considerations individuals/organisations should take into account when creating a Privacy badge pathway.

Access the document here

We used Mozilla’s Web Literacy Map as a starting point for this work, mainly because many of us had been part of the conversations that led to the creation of it. Our discussions moved from monthly, to fortnightly, to weekly. They were wide-ranging and...

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Ontology, mentorship and web literacy

This week’s Web Literacy Map community call was fascinating. They’re usually pretty interesting, but today’s was particularly good. I’m always humbled by the brainpower that comes together and concentrates on something I spend a good chunk of my life thinking about!


I’ll post an overview of the entire call in on the Web Literacy blog tomorrow but I wanted to just quickly zoom out and focus on things that Marc Lesser and Jess Klein were discussing during the call. Others mentioned really useful stuff too, but I don’t want to turn this into an epic post!


Marc reminded us of Clay Shirky’s post entitled Ontology is Overrated: Categories, Links, and Tags. It’s a great read but the point Marc wanted to extract is that pre-defined ontologies (i.e. ways of classifying things) are kind of outdated now we have the Internet:

No filesystem

In the Web 2.0 era (only 10 years ago!) this was called a f...

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How we’re building v1.5 of Mozilla’s Web Literacy Map in Q1 2015

The Web Literacy Map constitutes the skills and competencies required to read, write and participate on the web. It currently stands at version 1.1 and you can see a more graphical overview of the competency layer in the Webmaker resources section.

Minecraft building

In Q1 2015 (January-March) we’ll be working with the community to update the Web Literacy Map to version 1.5. This is the result of a consultation process that initially aimed at a v2.0 but was re-scoped following community input. Find out more about the interviews, survey and calls that were part of that arc on the Mozilla wiki or in this tumblr post.

Some of what we’ll be discussing and working on has already been scoped out, while some will be emergent. We’ll definitely be focusing the following:

  • Reviewing the existing skills and competencies (i.e. names/descriptors)
  • Linking to the Mozilla manifesto (where appropriate)
  • Decide...

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Bittorrent’s Project Maelstrom is ‘Firecloud’ on steroids

Earlier this week, BitTorrent, Inc. announced Project Maelstrom. The idea is to apply the bittorrent technologies and approaches to more of the web.

Project Maelstrom

Note: if you can’t read the text in the image, it says: “This is a webpage powered by 397 people + You. Not a central server.” So. Much. Win.

The blog post announcing the project doesn’t have lots of details, but a follow-up PC World article includes an interview with a couple of the people behind it.

I think the key thing comes in this response from product manager Rob Velasquez:

We support normal web browsing via HTTP/S. We only add the additional support of being able to browse the distributed web via torrents

This excites me for a couple of reasons. First, I’ve thought on-and-off for years about how to build a website that’s untakedownable. I’ve explored DNS based on the technology powering Bitcoin, experimented with the...

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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:

  • Richard Beach, University of Minnesota
  • Amy Stornaiuolo, University of Pennsylvania
  • Bridget Dalton, University of Colorado Boulder
  • Colin Harrison, University of Nottingham

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...

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