Tuesday, December 11, 2012

Open Standard for Web Literacy: A Vision for Webmaker

We’ve been doing a lot of planning and brainstorming and chatting about what Webmaker will look like in 2013. There are lots of good ideas floating around that you can see from a bunch of my colleagues here, here, here and here.

One thing I want to add into the mix is the vision for Webmaker as an open standard for web literacy

That’s a mouthful so let’s work backwards and break that down a bit:

The Web Literacy part…

(Or as Doug reminds me, web literacies)

We’ve been talking for a long time about the skills that we think people need to be a webmaker. To be more producer-minded. To understand and love the Web. To express themselves in a way they can be proud of. To compete in today’s economy. To be an active citizen.

In addition to all of the flashy tools, content and branding we’ve been launching over the last year, we’ve also been doing some considerable ‘underbelly’ work to define the thing we are ultimately after: a generation of web literate people. Doug has been leading a lot of our initial work in this area, which looks something like this in its current iteration:

You can see that there is a mix of ‘hard’ skills like HTML and CSS - very specific skills that people need to know to make things on the web without wysiwygs or forms. But then there are also a lot of the more social or 21st century skills like sharing, collaboration and remixing. 

The Standard part…

I think this is important work for more reasons than just enumerating the things that Mozilla cares about or may provide learning pathways and badges for, but as a definition that we, as in the royal we of the web world, can all get behind and all teach to. One of the issues with the digital literacy work that’s been around for some time, is that there isn’t a commonly agreed upon description of what it actually means from a skill perspective, or when we can draw a line and say, congrats, you are digitally literate! Some of that is beautiful - we want flexibility and room for innovation - but I think there needs to be a core definition that people can build from. I think that’s one thing that Webmaker can offer. You can use our tools if you want, but you can also use your own tools or other options out there - but if we all agree on the basic thing that we’re working towards, we’ve created a web-wide choose your own adventure for learners, with a success story that benefits them and helps us all reach our goals.

The Open part…

This is a loaded word and that’s intentional here. I think in order to be successful, this standard needs to be open in several ways, some of which I’ve already alluded to:

1) Open as in open source:

Mozilla cannot build and maintain this standard alone. In fact, we haven’t been - Michelle and now Doug, have been traveling the world, talking to experts and n00bs and everything in between to get a sense of what skills are important. Lots of people have contributed and we are going to be ensuring that this is even more of a community effort moving forward.

Additionally, this standard needs to be extensible. We should see this as the core and leave room for people to easily hang things off of it (i.e. design skills, game theory, etc.). 

2) Open as in open ecosystem:

Mozilla can’t be the only place you come to learn this stuff. Lots of other people are already teaching people many of these skills and so let’s leverage each other to teach web literacy at web scale. In fact, as you look at that grid above, it’s highly unlikely that any one organization will teach all of those things, so again, it’s together that things become more comprehensive and more powerful.

We also aren’t saying that there are particular ways that people should teach this stuff. We are building some of our own learning pathways which will be very making-forward, but to appeal to everyone, there are a lot of other approaches that should be in the mix (for example, folks like Codecademy, Coder Dojo and Khan Academy), but also including approaches that aren’t even intended to be learning experiences. There is a lot going on through Twitter or Instagram that help people develop web skills like sharing or curating. Again, it will be important to leverage a lot of the work and options that are already out there and find ways to build the learning/recognition layer on top of things people already love to do.

3) Open as in Open Badges:

We are developing a set of badges that are aligned with this definition of web literacy, but again, if Mozilla sites are the only places that you can earn those badges, we’re limiting ourselves, and constraining learners. Recognizing the learning and skill development, and fostering reputation and identity development around web literacy is as huge part of all of this and that necessarily means that we need a solution for a more distributed set of badges. Good news is that our other day job is building and promoting Open Badges, so we have the infrastructure in place, but no one else in that ecosystem is sharing badges across organizations so solving for that will be an important challenge.

What we end up with is a co-designed, shared purpose with a much wider network with much wider reach…and a much higher likelihood of ‘winning’ together.

Lots of work to do on this moving forward - excited to work with all of you on it.



  1. worldofe posted this