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Mozilla and digital literacy

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Digital literacy is gaining recognition and sophistication but the concept currently tends to fragment. For example, Doug Belshaw welcomes the explosion of interest in learning to code but makes the point that on its own it is unlikely to get anybody very far with reading, writing, or participating online. He concludes,

“One thing I’ve learned in my career so far is that it’s always difficult to see how the dots connect together going forward. Looking back over my time as an educator I’ve seen a growing realisation that young people aren’t ‘digital natives’ who should be left to their own devices. Over the next year or so, I predict that the ‘learn to code’ movement will be seen to provide only part of the solution.”

In partnership with others at Mozilla, his response is the Mozilla Foundation’s Webmaker initiative. Released in October 2013 it proposes a map of the web literacy terrain. There are three main areas which provide a helpful overview:


  •     Navigation
  •     Web Mechanics
  •     Search
  •     Credibility
  •     Security


  •     Composing for the web
  •     Remixing
  •     Design and Accessibility
  •     Coding/scripting
  •     Infrastructure


  •     Sharing and Collaborating
  •     Community Participation
  •     Privacy
  •     Open Practices

Mozilla are now scoping a ‘distributed curriculum’ aligned with these different areas and evidenced by the acquisition of OpenBadges. One criticism of OpenBadges is that they disaggregate practices into skills or competencies, promote disjointed acquisitiveness, and interfere with a coherent, sense-making approach. It’s true that many, perhaps most, kinds of knowledge can’t be isolated and captured in a badge. However, badges are particularly helpful where they help to decompose seemingly unattainable areas of expertise into constituent skills, where they provide an immediate graphical impression of which areas need more or less attention, and where they help students and other learners to recognise their own achievements. These are things that most educators are already aiming to do. As such OpenBadges seem to lend themselves to this web literacies initiative.

In short this Mozilla project seems to have a lot of potential. For other holistic approaches to promoting digital literacies in higher education, see the outcomes of Jisc’s Developing Digital Literacies Programme, including UCL’s Digital Department project.


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