21 emerging themes for Web Literacy Map 2.0

Over the past few weeks I’ve interviewed various people to gain their feedback on the current version of Mozilla’s Web Literacy Map. There was a mix of academics, educational practitioners, industry professionals and community members.* I’ve written up the interviews on a tumblr blog and the audio repository can be found at archive.org.

I wanted to start highlighting some of the things a good number of them talked about in terms of the Web Literacy Map and its relationship with Webmaker (and the wider Mozilla mission)

Cat eating popcorn

Introduction #

I used five questions to loosely structure the interviews:

  1. Are you currently using the Web Literacy Map (v1.1)? In what kind of context?
  2. What does the Web Literacy Map do well?
  3. What’s missing from the Web Literacy Map?
  4. What kinds of contexts would you like to use an updated (v2.0) version of the Web Literacy Map?
  5. Who would you like to see use/adopt the Web Literacy Map?

How much we stuck to the questions in this order depended on the interviewee. Some really wanted to talk about their context. Others wanted to dwell on more conceptual aspects. Either way, it was interesting to see some themes emerge.

Emerging themes #

I’m still synthesizing the thoughts contained within 18+ hours of audio, but here are the headlines so far…

1. The ‘three strands’ approach works well #

The strands currently named Exploring / Building / Connecting seem to resonate with lots of people. Many called it out specifically as a strength of the Web Literacy Map, saying that it enables people to orient themselves reasonably quickly.

2. Without context, newbies can be overwhelmed #

While many people talked about how useful the Web Literacy Map is as a ‘map of the territory’ giving an at-a-glance overview, some interviewees mentioned that the Web Literacy Map should really be aimed at mentors, educators, and other people who have already got some kind of mental model. We should be meeting end users where they are with interesting activities rather than immediately presenting them with a map that reinforces their lack of skills/knowledge.

3. Shared vocabulary is important #

New literacies can be a contested area. One interviewee in particular talked about how draining it can be to have endless discussions and debates about definitions and scope. Several people, especially those using it in workshops, talked about how useful the Web Literacy Map is in developing a shared vocabulary and getting down to skill/knowledge development.

4. The ‘Connecting’ strand has some issues #

Although interviewees agreed there were no ‘giant gaping holes’ in the Web Literacy Map, many commented on the third, ‘Connecting’ strand. Some mentioned that it seemed a bit too surface-level. Some wanted a more in-depth treatment of licensing issues under ‘Open Practices’. Others thought that the name ‘Connecting’ didn’t really capture what the competencies in that column are really about. Realistically, most people will be meeting the competencies in this strand through social media. There isn’t enough focus on this, nor on ‘personal branding’, thought some people.

5. Clear focus on learning through making/doing #

Those interested in the pedagogical side of things zeroed in on the verb-based approach to the Web Literacy Map. They appreciated that, along with the Discover / Make / Teach flow on each competency page, users of webmaker.org are encouraged to learn through making and doing, rather than simply being tested on facts.

6. Allows other organizations to see how their work relates to Mozilla’s mission #

Those using this out ‘in the field’ (especially those involved in Hive Learning Networks talked about how the Web Literacy Map is a good conversation-starter. They mentioned the ease with which most other organizations they work with can map their work onto ours, once they’ve seen it. These organizations can then use it as a sense-check to see how they fit into a wider ecosystem. It allows them to quickly understand the difference between the ‘learn to code’ movement and the more nuanced, holistic approach advocated by Mozilla.

7. It doesn’t really look like a ‘map’ #

Although interviewees were happy with the word ‘Map’ (much more so than the previous ‘Standard’), many thought we may have missed a trick by not actually presenting it as a map. Some thought that the Web Literacy Map is currently presented in a too clear-cut way, and that we should highlight some of the complexity. There were a few ideas how to do so, although one UX designer warned against surfacing this too much, lest we end up with a ‘plate of spaghetti’. Nevertheless, there was a feeling that riffing on the ‘map’ metaphor could lead to more of an ‘exploratory’ approach.

8. Lacking audience definition #

There was a generally-positive sentiment about the Web Literacy Map structuring the Webmaker Resource section, although interviewees were a bit unsure about audience definition. The Web Literacy Map seems to be more of a teaching tool rather than a learning tool. It was suggested that we might want to give Mentors and Learners a different view. Mentors could start with the more abstract competencies, whereas the Learners could start with specific, concrete, interest-based activities. Laura Hilliger’s Web Literacy Learning Pathways prototype was mentioned on multiple occasions.

9. Why is this important? #

Although the Web Literacy Map makes sense to westerners in developed countries, there was a feeling among some interviewees that we don’t currently ‘make the case’ for the web. Why is it important? Why should people pay to get online? What benefits does it bring? We need to address this question before, or perhaps during, their introduction to the competencies included in the Web Literacy Map.

10. Arbitrary separation of ‘Security’ and ‘Privacy’ competencies #

At present, ‘Privacy’ is a competency under the ‘Exploring’ strand, and ‘Security’ is a competency under the ‘Connecting’ strand. However, there’s a lot of interplay, overlap, and connections between the two. Although interviewees thought that they should be addressed explicitly, there was a level of dissatisfaction with the way it’s currently approached in the Web Literacy Map.

11. Better localization required #

Those I interviewed from outside North America and the UK expressed some frustration at the lack of transparency around localization. One in particular had tried to get involved, but became demotivated by a lack of response when posing suggestions and questions via Transifex. Another mentioned that it was important not to focus on translation from English to other languages, but to generate local content. The idea of badges for localization work was mentioned on more than one occasion.

12. The Web Literacy Map should be remixable #

Although many interviewees approached it from different angles, there was a distinct feeling that the Web Literacy Map should somehow be remixable. Some used a GitHub metaphor to talk of the ‘main branch’ and ‘forks’. Others wanted a ‘Remix’ button next to the map in a similar vein to Thimble and Popcorn Maker resources. This would allow for multiple versions of the map that could be contextualized and localized while still maintaining a shared vocabulary and single point of reference.

13. Tie more closely to the Mozilla Mission #

One of the things I wanted to find out through gentle probing during this series of interviews was whether we should consider re-including the fourth ‘Protecting’ strand we jettisoned before reaching v1.0. At the time, we thought that ‘protecting the web’ was too political and Mozilla-specific to include in what was then a Web Literacy ‘Standard’. However, a lot has changed in a year - both with Mozilla and with the web. Although I got the feeling that interviewees were happy to tie the Web Literacy Map more closely to the Mozilla Mission, there wasn’t overall an appetite for an additional column. Instead, people talked about ‘weaving’ it throughout the other competencies.

14. Use cross-cutting themes to connect news events to web literacy #

When we developed the first version of the Web Literacy Map, we didn’t include ‘meta-level’ things such as ‘Identity’ and ‘storytelling’. Along with ‘mobile’, these ideas seem too large or nebulous to be distinct competencies. It was interesting, therefore, to hear some interviewees talk of hooking people’s interest via news items or the zeitgeist. The topical example given the timing of the interviewees tended to be interesting people in ‘Privacy’ and ‘Security’ via the iCloud celebrity photo leaks.

15. Develop user stories #

Some interviewees felt that the Web Literacy Map currently lacks a ‘human’ dimension that we could rectify through the inclusion of some case studies showing real people who have learned a particular skill or competency. These could look similar to the UX Personas work.

16. Improve the ‘flow’ of webmaker.org for users #

This is slightly outside the purview of the Web Literacy Map per se, but enough interviewees brought it up to surface it here. The feeling is that the connection between Webmaker Tools, the Web Literacy Map, and Webmaker badges isn’t clear. There should be a direct and obvious link between them. For instance, web literacy badges should be included in each competency page. Some even suggested a learner dashboard similar to the one Jess Klein proposed back in 2012.

17. Bake web literacy into Firefox #

This, again, is veering away from the Web Literacy Map itself, but many interviewees mentioned how Mozilla should ‘differentiate’ Firefox within the market by allowing you to develop your web literacy skills ‘in the wild’. Some had specific examples of how this could work (“Hey, you just connected to a website using HTTPS, want to learn more?”) while others just had a feeling we should join things up a bit better.

18. Identify ‘foundational’ competencies #

Although we explicitly avoided doing this with the first version of the Web Literacy Map, for some interviewees, having a set of ‘foundational’ competencies would be a plus point. It would give a starting point for those new to the area, and allow us to assume a baseline level from which the other competencies could be developed. We could also save the ‘darker’ aspects of the web for later to avoid scaring people off.

19. Avoid scope creep #

Many interviewees warned against ‘scope creep’, or trying to cram too much into the Web Literacy Map. On the whole, there were lots of people I spoke to who like it just the way it is, with one saying that it would be relevant for a ‘good few years yet’. One of the valuable things about the Web Literacy Map is that it has a clear focus and scope. We should ensure we maintain that, was the general feeling. There’s also a feeling that it has a ‘strong understanding of technology’ that should be watered-down.

20. Version control #

If we’re updating the Web Literacy Map, users need to know which version they’re viewing - and how to access previous versions. This is so they can know how up-to-date the current version is. We should also allow them to view previous iterations that they may have used to build a curriculum still being used by other organizations.

21. Use as a funnel to wider Mozilla projects #

We currently have mozilla.org/contribute and webmaker.org/getinvolved, but some interviewees thought that we could guide people who keep selecting certain competencies towards different Mozilla areas - for example OpenNews or Open Science. The latter is also developing its own version of the Web Literacy Map, so that could be a good link. Also, even more widely, Open Hatch provide Open Source ‘missions’ that we could make use of.

*Although I was limited by my language and geographic location, I’m pretty happy with the range of views collected. Instead of a dry, laboratory-like study looking for statistical significance, I decided to focus on people I knew would have good insights, and with whom I could have meaningful conversations. Over the next couple of weeks I’m going to create a survey for community members to get their thoughts on some of the more concrete proposals I’ll make for Web Literacy Map 2.0.

Comments? Feedback? I’m @dajbelshaw on Twitter, or you can email me: doug@mozillafoundation.org.


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