What is Missing from the Mozilla Web Literacy Standards?
Last week it was announced that I was selected as one of the Mozilla Network 50. This initiative seeks to identify the 50 people that made the Internet a better place in 2016. Let me first say that I’m honored by this opportunity and I’ll believe that there are many others that are far more deserving of this distinction, but I’ll digress. The final write-up of my interview for the initiative should come out soon online.
Much of the rationale for my selection had to do with my role as a contributor on the web literacy work. I’ve been a member of that initiative from the beginning up until the current versions. I still remember the excitement I had in the initial community calls when I had the opportunity to collaborate with brilliant people like Doug Belshaw, Carla Casilli, & Laura Hilliger. This is not meant to be a slight to all of the other incredibly brilliant people on those calls as well…I still ❤ you.
Much of the original work on the web literacy initiative is available on in this white paper, and this wiki. As the web literacy work moved from version 1.5 to 2.0, a number of changes occurred and the work on this project changed hands. After banging on some doors, I was given the opportunity to get back to work on this project and have had the honor of working with An-Me Chung and Iris Bond Gill on the white paper for Version 2.0.
During the interview process for the Network 50 recognition, I spent some time reflecting about the work we’ve completed up to this point. I’ve thought about what we’ve built, and wondered about how this work can continue.
Much of the value of the web literacy standards is captured in a post by An-Me and Iris in which they conduct a crosswalk of the current web literacy learning standards, and compare it to the other current learning, technology, and employability standards. In their final assessment, they conclude something I’ve been suggesting since we first starting working on this project. I believe the web literacy work presents the most comprehensive set of standards and competencies needed to read, write, communicate, and socialize.
The web literacy standards embed many (if not all) of the skills and practices included in the other major learning frameworks. I think our work is much more comprehensive than the other frameworks and is more attuned to what it means to be fully literate now and in the future. There are several areas in which I believe the web literacy standards are more comprehensive than the others listed in the crosswalk.
Most importantly, the web literacy standards place an emphasis on privacy, security, remix, infrastructure, and open practice. Privacy and security (IMHO) are mandatory lessons in an age where information hacks will routinely exist. Remix and mashup culture is an invaluable representation of critical literacy, evaluation, and voice in times where individuals need to speak truth to power. Designing, composing, and revising your digital infrastructure is a fundamental piece of empowerment as corporations seek to lock learners in silos. Open practice is still often misunderstood and still developing, yet I believe it is a linchpin of literacy practices in online and blended spaces.
The thesis of the post by An-Me and Iris is a question about what is missing from the current web literacy work. They examine these competencies and skills and compare them against the other work the world is using for reference points. From the experience I have in working with and shaping this work from the beginning until now, I think there is one characteristic the web literacy standards are missing.
To let the web literacy standards grow and become truly representative of what it could be, Mozilla needs to set it free. The community needs to fully take over ownership of the efforts necessary to develop, promote, and advocate for this work.
This work has been conducted in the open since the beginning and has (for the most part) been licensed as open source. A key component in the development of the web literacy standards has been the community involvement. Some of the contents and inertia and behind the web literacy work has clearly changed and this progression should be captured particularly for future iterations. This process began as open to, and developed by the community. In its next iteration, we need to open is further by facilitating full community ownership as opposed to Mozilla driving it with community input.
As an example of this, I went back into the history of the web literacy work to prepare for my Network50 interview. Many of the links shared about earlier versions of the web literacy work, and links that ultimately directed to the Webmaker.org/standard page now result in an error. Some of these links now redirect to the Webmaker app, or the Thimble and X-Ray Googles pages. I know that four years is an eternity in Internet years, but it does cause the general reader and educator on the Internet some concern about the veracity, credibility, and validity of this work if the pages are disappearing. We must also wonder how long the other links on the Webmaker site will last as well.
I believe this work presents a valid and useful foray into what it means to be a citizen of the web. In this work, we have strived to create a topographical map of the world of the digital citizen and describe the literacy practices contained therein.
This work represents an important element of Internet history and is quickly being lost into the dark network of EtherPads, Google Docs, and pages in the Internet Archive’s Wayback Machine. This work needs to be salvaged and the history archived before the parties involved fully move on, or their hard drives crash.
As my interview for the Network50 concluded, I was asked what I would do if I was given the resources to work on any project. If given the opportunity, I would conduct work that I envisioned as we shipped Version 1.5 of the web literacy map. I would create a wiki outside of Mozilla and open it up to the community. This public wiki contain all of the historical materials for the community to use and iterate on. I would invite back in the individual responsible for the trajectory of the web literacy work.
This wiki would dig up all of the materials from the web literacy work from the very beginning to the current point. Each standard, theme, and competency would have its own canonical URL that can be used to reference the individual elements.
Each page would include a discussion page to allow for the commentary and understanding that came from our regular community calls. This would also provide opportunities to expand the internationalization and localization of this work to make it more accessible for individuals around the globe. I would also include in pages for the community to share assignments, work, and materials that link to the web literacies we describe. This site would become the home for all of this work. A domain of its own that will not disappear.
We should give the web literacy standards the freedom that it deserves.
Originally published at W. Ian O’Byrne.