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Why we need 'view source' for digital literacy frameworks

Doug Belshaw

Wed Jun 15 2016 18:01:09 GMT+0000 (UTC)

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 of those involved in the work, as well as lazy shortcuts they may have taken. I attempted to do this in my work as lead of Mozilla’s Web Literacy Map project through the use of a wiki, but even that could have been clearer.

What we need is the equivalent of ‘view source’ for digital literacy frameworks. Specifically, I’m interested in answers to the following 10 questions:

  1. Who worked on this?
  2. What’s the goal of the organisation(s) behind this?
  3. How long did you spend researching this area?
  4. What are you trying to achieve through the creation of this framework?
  5. Why do you need to invent a new term? Why do very similar (and established) words and phrases not work well in this context?
  6. How long is this project going to be supported for?
  7. Is your digital literacy framework versioned?
  8. If you’ve included skills, literacies,and habits of mind that aren’t obviously 'digital’, why is that?
  9. What were the tough decisions that you made? Why did you come down on the side you did?
  10. What further work do you need to do to improve this framework?

I’d be interested in your thoughts and feedback around this post. Have you seen a digital literacy framework that does this well? What other questions would you add?

Note: I haven’t dived into the visual representation of digital literacy frameworks. That’s a whole other can of worms…

Get in touch! I’m @dajbelshaw and you can email me:

Making the open internet a mainstream issue

Mark Surman

Thu Jun 09 2016 17:35:16 GMT+0000 (UTC)

The Internet as a global public resource is at risk. How do we grow the movement to protect it? Thoughts from PDF

Today I’m in New York City at the 13th-annual Personal Democracy Forum, where the theme is “The Tech We Need.” A lot of bright minds are here tackling big issues, like civic tech, data privacy, Internet policy and the sharing economy. PDF is one of the world’s best spaces for exploring the intersection of the Internet and society — and we need events like this now more than ever.

This afternoon I’ll be speaking about the open Internet movement: its genesis, its ebb and why it needs a renaissance. I’ll discuss how the open Internet is much like the environment: a resource that’s delicate and finite. And a resource that, without a strong movement, is spoiled by bad laws and consolidation of power by a few companies.

At its core, the open Internet movement is about more than just technology. It’s about free expression and democracy. That’s why members of the movement are so diverse: Activists and academics. Journalists and hackers.

photo via Flickr/ Stacie Isabella Turk/Ribbonhead
photo via Flickr/ Stacie Isabella Turk/Ribbonhead

Today, this movement is at an inflection point. The open Internet is increasingly at risk. Openness and freedom online are being eroded by governments creating bad or uninformed policy, and by tech companies that are creating monopolies and walled gardens. This is all compounded by a second problem: Many people still don’t perceive the health of the Internet as a mainstream issue.

In order to really demonstrate the importance of the open Internet movement, I like to use an analogue: The environmental movement. The two have a lot in common. Environmentalists are all about preserving the health of the planet. Forests, not clearcutting. Habitats, not smokestacks. Open Internet activists are all about preserving the health of the Internet. Open source code, not proprietary software. Hyperlinks, not walled gardens.

The open Internet is also like the environmental movement in that it has rhythm. Public support ebbs and flows — there are crescendos and diminuendos. Look at the cadence of the environmental movement: It became a number of times in a number of places. For example, an early  crescendo in the US came in the late 19th century. On the heels of the Industrial Revolution, there’s resistance. Think of Thoreau, of “Walden.” Soon after, Theodore Roosevelt and John Muir emerge as champions of the environment, creating the Sierra Club and the first national parks. Both national parks and a conservation movement filled with hikers who use them both become mainstream — it’s a major victory.

But movements ebb. In the mid-20th century, environmental destruction continues. We build nuclear and chemical plants. We pollute rivers and air space. We coat our food and children with DDT. It’s ugly — and we did irreparable damage while most people just went about their lives. In many ways, this is where we’re at with the Internet today. There is reason to worry that we’re doing damage and that we might even lose what we built without even knowing it. .

In reaction, the US environmental movement experiences a second mainstream moment. It starts in the 60s: Rachel Carson releases “Silent Spring,” exposing the dangers of DDT and other pesticides. This is a big deal: Citizens start becoming suspicious of big companies and their impact on the environment. Governments begin appointing environmental ministers. Organizations like Greenpeace emerge and flourish.

For a second time, the environment becomes an issue worthy of policy and public debate. Resting on the foundations built by 1960s environmentalism, things like recycling are a civic duty today. And green business practices are the expectation, not the exception.

The open Internet movement has had a similar tempo. It’s first crescendo — its “Walden” moment — was in the 90s. Users carved out and shaped their own spaces online — digital homesteading. No two web pages were the same, and open was the standard. A rough analogue to Thoreau’s “Walden” is John Perry Barlow’s manifesto “A Declaration of the Independence of Cyberspace.” Barlow boldly wrote that governments and centralized power have no place in the digital world.

It’s during this time that the open Internet faces its first major threat: centralization at the hands of Internet Explorer. Suddenly, it seems the whole Web may fall into the hands of Microsoft technology. But there was also a push back and  crescendo — hackers and users rallied to create open alternatives like Firefox. Quickly, non-proprietary web standards re-emerge. Interoperability and accessibility become driving principles behind building the Web. The Browser Wars are won: Microsoft as monopoly over web technology is thwarted.

But then comes inertia. We could be in the open Internet movement’s DDT moment. Increasingly, the Internet is becoming a place of centralization. The Internet is increasingly shaped by a tiny handful of companies, not individuals. Users are transforming from creators into consumers. In the global south, millions of users equate the Internet with Facebook. These developments crystallize as a handful of threats: Centralization. Loss of privacy. Digital exclusion.

Screen Shot 2016-06-09 at 1.35.12 PM

It’s a bit scary: Like the environment, the open Internet is fragile. There may be a point of no return. What we want to do — what we need to do — is make the health of the open Internet a mainstream issue. We need to make the health of the Internet an indelible issue, something that spurs on better policy and better products. And we need a movement to make this happen.

This is on us: everyone who uses the internet needs to take notice. Not just the technologists — also the activists, academics, journalists and everyday Internet users who treasure freedom of expression and inclusivity online.

There’s good news: This is already happening. Starting with SOPA and ACTA a citizen movement for an open Internet started accelerating. We got organized, we rallyied citizens and we took stands on issues that mattered. Think of the recent headlines. When Edward Snowden revealed the extent of mass surveillance, people listened. Privacy and freedom from surveillance online were quickly enshrined as rights worth fighting for. The issue gained momentum among policymakers — and in 2015, the USA Freedom Act was passed.

Then there is 2015’s net neutrality victory: Over 3 million comments flooded the FCC protesting fast lanes and slow lanes. Most recently, Apple and the FBI clashed fiercely over encryption. Apple refused to concede, standing up for users’ privacy and security. Tim Cook was applauded, and encryption became a word spoken at kitchen tables and coffee shops.

Of course, this is just the beginning. These victories are heartening, for sure. But even as this new wave of internet activism builds, the threats are becoming worse, more widespread. We need to fuel the movement with concrete action — if we don’t, we may lose the open Web for good. Today, upholding the health of the planet is an urgent and enduring enterprise. So too should upholding the health of the Internet.

A small PS, I also gave a talk on this topic at re:publica in Berlin last month. If you want to watch that talk, the video is on the re:publica site.

The post Making the open internet a mainstream issue appeared first on Mark Surman.

My Last Week at Mozilla / Moving Out (At Last)

Adam Lofting

Tue Jun 07 2016 12:38:48 GMT+0000 (UTC)

To those I haven’t yet had a chance to speak to one-to-one (there have been a lot of you!), this is my last week as a paid contributor to the Mozilla project. It’s also the week I finished and published a board game I’ve been working on for a year or so, called Moving Out (At Last).

It’s a misleading naming combo for this blog post title, but it made me chuckle, so I’m sticking with it 🙂


To say my time at Mozilla has been ‘an experience’ would be an understatement. I will miss climbing mountains with friends and breakfast meetings where all participants are battling with remnants of glitter painted faces and recovering from wonderful conversations that had run on into the early hours of the same morning. Saying goodbye has been hard as this place is full of friends, but I also like change, and am excited about what’s ahead.

homeTo keep doing my job well at Mozilla, I would need to keep travelling, and probably travel even more. And while I miss my colleagues when I’m working remotely, I miss my family and my little kids even more when I’m travelling for work. For me, right now, I want to be in my own locale. In a part of the world I call home, and where I feel totally privileged to be raising my family.

There’s never a ‘good’ time to leave an organization you care about, but this is probably as good as any. The Foundation are gearing up to implement a new strategy that I think will make their work even more impactful and which makes the role of the Foundation within the overall Mozilla project clearer than it’s ever been. It’s been an honour to contribute to that strategy, and I’m excited for the work ahead. The nice thing about stepping out of an open-source org is no-one shuts the door behind you (I hope not anyway!?).

“Have your heart be where your feet are” (h/t to CLAW who shared this article with MoFo colleagues last week). This quote perfectly captures what I’m excited about for the next phase of life.

As of next week, I’m joining the wonderful agency Kyan in my home town of Guildford. I’ve known Kyan for a long time through their work, and their efforts to bring together the local developer community. I’m excited to be working with new colleagues in the same physical location and the same timezone. And excited to be learning some new programming skills while getting to grips with new development projects. I’m endlessly grateful for the things I’ve learnt travelling around the world with Mozilla, but I’m happy to be swapping planes for trains.

Rather than taking time off between roles, I’ve overfilled my upcoming weekend by signing up for Awesome Sports Jam. By this time next week, I may have shipped a bad sports game to compliment that board game. Mostly though, I’m enjoying being a part of this community.

Just as I finished writing this post, this song came on Spotify. I wasn’t looking for a song to include, but it fits. To my friends and Mozilla “thank you for the records”:

Mozilla Club Leadership Training in Nairobi and Cape Town

Amira Dhalla

Thu Jun 02 2016 08:05:22 GMT+0000 (UTC)

As part of our work with UN Women to teach key digital skills to young women we’ve been busy launching Mozilla Clubs in Nairobi and Cape Town and I recently had the opportunity to visit both communities and run a Mozilla Club Leadership Training in each city. Though the experiences were different in each city, both trainings were key to the launch of Mozilla Clubs and development of the club participates. For quick viewing you can see the Cape Town report here and pictures here. As well as the Nairobi report here and pictures here. 



Trip Objectives

As a follow-up to hiring our Regional Coordinators in March and launching Mozilla Clubs for women in Nairobi and Cape Town in April, we set out with the objective of running local trainings in each city in May.

The goals of the trips were to:

  • Kickstart the creation and launch of 10 clubs in each city
  • Visit Clubs and talk to local Club Captains to understand how to better support them
  • Train Club Captains how to teach Web Literacy in engaging and inclusive ways
  • Work with each Regional Coordinator to assess needs and priorities (while doing some team bonding!)
  • Bring together a community to support and encourage the program on the ground
  • Bring local UN Women subsidiaries into the program, as well as other close partners

Local Mozilla Clubs

In Nairobi I was able to visit Mozilla Club Web Titans (case study here) in a local community empowerment center. The club is in the early stages of launching but doing a great job of engaging the young women who attended and taking our popular activities like Craken the Code offline. Unfortunately due to the heavy rain storms in Nairobi the other clubs we wanted to visit were flooded. We did manage to spend a lot of time visiting local co-working and community spaces which allowed us to share the program and bring in additional stakeholders to the work.

In Cape Town we’ve developed a great partnership with the University of Western Cape where 5 of their IT students are facilitating their learning in the classroom with young girls in nearby high schools. We did get to spend a lot of time at The Barn which is a co-working space for technology entrepreneurs and also host to Mozilla Club Lookout Hill (case study here) which is a club focusing on connecting older women who own small businesses and helping them learn what the web can do for their businesses. We also visited COSAT High School where our youngest Club Captain, Asisipho, is running a club for her classmates during their weekly study time (case study here).

Mozilla Clubs in Nairobi

Mozilla Club Leadership Training

In both cities, I designed a schedule for the day-long trainings that would allow attendees to see and understand how to teach Web Literacy components in ways that are engaging, participatory and fun while also understanding what it means to create safe spaces online/offline and how to tackle local issues that were relevant to women in their communities while using the web. The full schedule can be viewed here and includes a facilitation guide that helps support Club Captains, or others, to run similar activities or trainings in the future. Here are reports from both trainings and pictures of all the clubs and trainings:

Read what happened at the Cape Town training here.

And see what happened in the pictures from Cape Town.

Read what happened at the Nairobi training here.

And see what happened in the pictures from Nairobi.

Post-Event Survey

After the training events we sent attendees a survey to gauge their learning and confidence taking the material forward. We learned that,

  • Attendees strongly agreed that they now understand what it means to read, write and participate on the web and how to teach it.
  • They have many new ideas on how they want to change their learning environments (ex. Introduce spectograms, create safer spaces using tips they learned, sitting in circles, using activities that engage their participants).
  • The strongly agreed that they now understand the full scope of issues facing women in their country and have ideas on how to bring them into their clubs (ex. “I’ll use the web to highlight differnt types of women and how they’ve suceeded in life despite their obstacles.” or “I will use the x-ray goggles to remix sites that we can use to create more awareness and generate content that helps victims protect themselves”)
  • On a scale of 1-5, 5 being very effective, all participants ranked the event a 4 or 5. They particularly liked the facilitation, the activities, learning how teaching methods can be fun, understanding how to teach both online and offline, how interactive the event was and the energy that their fellow participants brought to the day/work.
  • They want more training opportunities, more guides and the opportunity to learn from other clubs going forward.

Though this picture is really what makes me smile:

Screen Shot 2016-06-01 at 9.30.20 AMQuick Reflections

  • The trainings and club visits wildly exceeded my expectations. The value to spending time with the community, Club Captains and Regional Coordinators helps us continue to build a better framework for the program.
  • I really enjoyed bringing in local community members and organizations into the work as it helps us build a network in the city and support systems for those on the ground. It makes me feel like we’re building a movement, rather than just a one-off program.
  • It was great to get closer to the local UN Women subsidiaries and after spending time with Japheth, UN Women in Nairobi, and Anne, UN Women in Cape Town, we’re in a better position to learn how to support their work. With Japheth we are going to work on training programs and resources that can be placed on Empower Women for all of their champions to access. With Anne, we are going to work on Web Literacy curriculum that integrated some of the issues UN Women Cape Town are focused on and share them with the local clubs.
  • The program is growing. After the training, more individuals have asked to join the program and run their own clubs.
  • We will continue to work on case studies and capture the stories of the teachers and learners in the program.


Filed under: Technology, Work Tagged: Mozilla, Mozilla Clubs, UN Women, Women, Women and Web Literacy

Creating Storytellers Through Agency as we #TeachTheWeb

Greg McVerry

Wed May 25 2016 12:46:47 GMT+0000 (UTC)

This summer we hope to unleash a new wave of webmakers on the Elm City. For the first time our 11th grade Gear Up students will take college level credit bearing classes. We will start with EDU 106: New Literacies for Life Long Learning.


The hybrid class will focus on telling the story of us. I have a syllabus, but I am not a fan. I want our learning to unfold in real-time…to be user driven. In July we will have three days a week together for three and a half hours a day. The other two days students will attend college visits and arts based field trips. They will have to choose some digital documentation tools.

The Curriculum

I want to create and curate curriculum with the class. Last fall in our Gear Up Academy we focused on Beyonce and Formation. Students learned about the local history of the Black Panther Party in New Haven and wrote letters to the Miami Fraternal Order of Police who called for a boycott of Beyonce.

The readings will be based on what I have chosen but I hope to add , or better yet have the class upvote, a reading each module. I am toying with just picking something from Medium each week.

For the activities I am going to focus on the web literacy curriculum we created at Mozilla. Specificall, Web Literacy Basics II, and the new javascript storytelling curriculum.

I am most excited for storytelling and scripting as I have spent the last year upping my Javascript skills in order to teach these basic lessons.

I want to tell the story of us. More importantly I want our GearUp stories to share their story. Last year we worked on college essays for the common app. Each story was unique. A tail of trials and triumphs. Many shared stories of being first generation college students, or of trying to make it through high school while being the primary breadwinner and caregiver to their siblings. There were stories of surviving abuse and the horrors of growing up in the system.

Yet everyone endured. They have made it this far. They have taught me so much.

The WorkFlow

We will be using our new collaborative learning space at Southern. Our Dean Stephen Hegedus, came to campus and immediatley ripped out the computer lab. He replaced it with individual networked stations and a state of the art 360 camera system.

I also purchased a Tricaster mini and a few black magic cameras. Be awesome to get some podcasting going.

Every student will maintain a domain of their own. We have used Known as our basic platform. I think I will stick with the tool.

Elm City Webmakers

Unnamed image (3)

Leveling up the digital skills of the youth in New Haven is a passion of mine. If diversity in tech is an HR problem it is already too late. We have been learning basic html/css skills for the past three years as a Mozilla Club.

I recognize not everyone is a maker, especially a webmaker (Students can also choose a music production class to fill the technology fluency component). So the tech doesn’t really matter. I want the web to be the paintbrush students can use to paint their world.

If anyone in tech in the Greater New Haven area would like to get involved please reach out. Urban education is not a school thing. It is not a parent thing. It belongs to the community. We must work to make the city our campus.


What does it mean to be a digitally literate school leader?

Doug Belshaw

Fri May 20 2016 10:32:36 GMT+0000 (UTC)

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 credentialing digital skills.

That being said, it’s now been a little over six years since I last worked in a school, and literacy practices change quickly. So I’d appreciate comments and pushback on what follows.

Let me begin by saying that, as Allan Martin (2006) pointed out, “Digital literacy is a condition, not a threshold.” That’s why, as I pointed out in my 2012 TEDx talk, we shouldn’t talk about ‘digital literacy’ as a binary. People are not either digitally literate or digitally illiterate - instead literacy practices in a given domain exist on a spectrum.

In the context of a school and other educational institutions, we should be aware that that there are several cultures at play. As a result, there are multiple, overlapping literacy practices. For this reason we should talk of digital literacies in their plurality. As I found in the years spent researching my thesis, there is no one, single, definition of digital literacy that is adequate in capturing the complexity of human experience when using digital devices.

In addition, I think that it’s important to note that digital literacies are highly context dependent. This is perhaps most evident when addressing the dangerous myth of the 'digital native’. We see young people confidently using smartphones, tablets, and other devices and therefore we assume that their skillsets in one domain are matched by the requisite mindsets from another.

So to recap so far, I think it’s important to note that digital literacies are plural and context-dependent. Although it’s tempting to attempt to do so, it’s impossible to impose a one-size-fits-all digital literacy programme on students, teachers, or leaders and meet with success. Instead, and this is the third 'pillar’ one which my approach rests, I’d suggest that definitions of digital literacies need to be co-created.

By 'co-created’ I mean that there are so many ways in which one can understand both the 'digital’ and 'literacies’ aspects of the term 'digital literacies’ that it can be unproductively ambiguous. Instead, a dialogic approach to teasing out what this means in your particular context is much more useful. In my thesis and book I came up with eight elements of digital literacies from the research literature which prove useful to scaffold these conversations:

  1. Cultural
  2. Cognitive
  3. Constructive
  4. Communicative
  5. Confident
  6. Creative
  7. Critical
  8. Civic

In order not to make this post any longer than it needs to be, I’ll encourage you to look at my book and thesis for more details on this. Suffice to say, it’s important both to collaboratively define the above eight terms and define then what you mean by 'digital literacies’ in a particular context.

All of this means that the job of the school leader is not to reach a predetermined threshold laid down by a governing body or professional body. Instead, the role of the school leader is to be always learning, questioning their practice, and encouraging colleagues and students in all eight of the 'essential elements’ listed above.

As with any area of interest and focus, school leaders should model the kinds of knowledge, skills, and behaviours they want to see develop in those around them. Just as we help people learn that being punctual is important by always turning up on time ourselves, so the importance of developing digital literacies can be demonstrated by sharing learning experiences and revelations.

There is much more on this in my thesis, book, and presentations but I’ll finish with some recommendations as to what school leaders can do to ensure they are constantly improving their practices around digital literacies:

  • Seek out new people: it’s easy for us to become trapped in what are known as filter bubbles, either through the choices we make as a result of confirmation bias, or algorithmically-curated newsfeeds. Why not find people and organisations who you wouldn’t usually follow, and add them to your daily reading habits?
  • Share what you learn: why not create a regular way to update those in your school community about issues relating to the considered use of technology? This could be a discussion forum, a newsletter pointing to the work of people like the Electronic Frontier Foundation or Common Sense Media, or 'clubs’ that help staff and students get to grips with new technologies.
  • Find other ways: the danger of 'best practices’ or established workflows is that they can make you blind to new, better ways of doing things. As Clay Shirky notes in this interview it can be liberating to jettison existing working practices in favour of new ones. What other ways can you find to write documents, collaborate with others, be creative, and/or keep people informed?

Comments? Questions? I’m @dajbelshaw or you can get in touch with me at: I consult around identifying, developing, and credentialing digital skills.