Monday, February 20, 2012

What is webmaking?

Mozilla is building a generation of webmakers. We are defining webmaker literacies. We are building pathways for people to learn webmaking by webmaking. But what the heck is webmaking? What is our vision really all about?

The initial list of webmaker skills starts to pave the way for our definition of webmaking, but I think there needs more context and nuance here. Lots of smart people are working on a more public facing brand/definition around webmaking so there’s that to look forward to, but in the meantime I wanted to log my thoughts on what (I think) it is and what it isn’t.  

Webmaking is not just coding. 

We are seeing a number of teach-to-code initiatives popping up which are certainly compelling and we hope to work closely with many of them moving forward. But when we say webmaking, I think we are talking more broadly, more at the literacy level. Our ultimate webmaker curriculum suite will have coding in it in some capacity (or again, we’ll point people to all the great stuff emerging), but it will have a much broader set of skills as well. Even just glancing back at the current iteration of the webmaker skills, we can see some of the foundations of coding in the Building column (and some HTML-y stuff in one chunk of Authoring) - but there are 4 OTHER COLUMNS! Even with this 101 content, we are aiming at higher level competencies and literacies that people can use to shape their pathway forward, not dictate one path for them to go down. If they decide to be coders - great! - but they will hopefully be better coders because of the full range of skills they’ve developed and honed along the way.

(NOTE: MichelleL dives further this as well on her blog

Webmaking is not a static thing.

Webmaking is made up of a set of hard skills like HTML, CSS, etc., but a host of ‘softer’ skills like collaborative making, awareness of the open web, etc. The softer skills, as evidenced by the controversial category name, are fluid and personal. We know they are not static. But with webmaking, even the hard skills are not static. Things evolve fast, new technologies and standards come out everyday. So its important to teach people enough of the hard skills to know enough to build what they want to build but we also need to teach them how to refresh those skills, stay up on current developments, contribute to the evolution. 

Webmaking is (can be) about jobs.

Webmaking skills are real, job relevant skills and not just for future web developers, but people across many disciplines. Journalists, filmmakers, scientists, business professionals, doctors, teachers…most of these skills are relevant. Through the Open Badges work, we’ve talked to a lot of employers about what they are looking for and in addition to the basic digital skills, they want people that know how to collaborate, innovate and think critically. All webmaking skills! Again, its about arming people with the range of skills needed so that they can shape their own pathway and excel.

Webmaking is understanding, building and innovating. 

We want to help webmakers not only learn basic skills, but use those skills to build things that matter to them (in fact, we’d prefer it if they learned the skills BY building the things), and by actually innovating around the initial skills so that they are leaving their mark and making the web better for webmakers to follow.

Webmaking is about capitalizing on the affordances of the Web.

Personally I think webmaking should include being prepared for and able to capitalize on the affordances of the web. When you look at things like learning - the Web opens up the possibilities for learning (open ed courses, learning games, collaborative discussions, wikipedia, etc.) but simply having an internet connection is not going to necessarily help people take advantage of these options and learn more. They need to understand how to find and evaluate these opportunities, how to participate and share information, etc. This is a hugely important piece of webmaking to me. 

Webmaking is about empowerment.

It is a high-paced, information-saturated world out there and it is very easy for people to just be consumers - to simply take things in and accept everything at face value. Part of webmaking is empowering them to take control, to realize that things (the Web for one) are not immutable, to develop and assert their own voice, to question information, to remix things and channel inner creativity, etc. 

Webmaking is a way of life.

We want to prepare people for participation and contribution in today’s (and tomorrow’s) digital society and global economy. Webmaking skills can set up an approach to life in general that fosters not only looking-under-the-hood, embracing failure, tinkering and remixing, but also participation, citizenship and action. These are not just life skills but ultimately a way of approaching life. 

Again, this is my personal opinion of webmaking. While I know that many Mozilla colleagues would agree with a lot of the above, we also need to scope it to a clear and concise definition that we can all get behind. As I mentioned, that work is in progress so more to come on that.

I am also not trying to imply that we think we can teach everyone all of this, but I think our concept of webmaking should be this far reaching. We should want to change the world (or more to the point, give people the tools to change their own worlds) and with that as a guiding principle, we will build more thoughtful, powerful and holistic learning experiences. 

-E

Notes

  1. worldofe posted this