Playtesting for MozFest

Today I was down at Bishop Grosseteste University, giving a guest lecture and facilitating a workshop. The module was on digital literacies as part of a course for Early Years students. These are students who may go on to teacher training. Some of the work relating to my thesis and the work I’ve done with Mozilla is on their reading list.


From my point of view it was a useful opportunity to playtest some sessions I’ve got planned for the Mozilla Festival at the end of the month. I’ve travelled a lot less in the year since I moved to the Webmaker team, and so I welcomed this opportunity to refine some of my thinking. It’s also good to get input from as many places as possible about Web Literacy Map v2.0.

I made the lecture as participatory as the logic of the lecture theatre allowed. You can find my slides here. We had a backchannel in the form of a Google Doc which surfaced some interesting questions. On a meta level my aim was to highlight the importance of attention. I’m coming round to Howard Rheingold’s view that it’s key to everything we do, both online and offline. Interestingly, one of the questions was whether a single Web Literacy Map can be relevant to everyone.

For the workshop, I split the students into two groups and swapped over halfway. After an introduction to both workshops, half stayed with the course leaders, and the other half came with me. Those who came with me read a chapter of my book The Essential Elements of Digital Literacies followed by a discussion. Those who stayed behind completed a Web Literacy Map activity on their iPads.

Three things stand out in particular from the discussion I had with students:

  1. Confidence. One student had the insight about the reason she’s always shied away from using technology. She explained that she wasn’t exposed to it at a young age in the same way others had been. As a result, she’s always felt under-confident around anything digital and never wants to do more than she has to with it.

  2. Filtering. As I point out in my book, I’m against filtered internet connections. This presupposes the ability to have a rational conversation instead of just filtering. In Early Years (ages 3-5) this isn’t necessarily the case.

  3. Unintended consequences. We know that people devise workarounds to problems they have. Students talked about the ways in which school filters had prevented them accessing Facebook. As a result, they resorted to ‘dodgy’ websites that had evaded filters. These often featured inappropriate advertising and malware, but promised access to Facebook. User accounts were often hacked. By filtering, the school had driven students towards those things they were trying to prevent them doing or seeing.

I’m still waiting to see all the results of the Web Literacy Map activity I set, but the couple of examples I saw were promising. Students added, renamed and re-arranged the competencies of the Web Literacy Map v1.1. This led to some curious groupings. I wouldn’t necessarily thought of putting together ‘Credibility’ with ‘Security’ and ‘Privacy’, for example. It was also interesting that it wasn’t immediately obvious to them what ‘Infrastructure’ means.

For MozFest, I’m going to:

All in all, it was definitely a worthwhile trip down to Lincoln for me. I hope it was for the students and course leaders, too! Many thanks to Ben Samuels for the invitation, and to Chris Bonfield, Mary-Louise Maynes and team for their warm welcome!


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