What Web Literacy Skills are Missing from Learning Standards?

Are current learning standards addressing the essential web literacy skills everyone should know?

by An-Me Chung and Iris Bond Gill

Our lives — and work — are moving online.

Are current learning standards addressing the essential web literacy skills everyone should know?

Increasingly, every job will become a digital job — whether field worker, designer, engineer or educator. Employers, education, and other institutions are looking for those with the agility, skills and know-how to participate and thrive in the 21st century. Knowing how to read, write, and participate on the web has become essential in our rapidly evolving and interconnected world. Having core web literacy and 21st Century skills empower individuals and communities to shape their own experiences and become citizens of the web and the world in meaningful ways, and expands access and opportunity for more people to learn any time, anywhere and at any pace.

As an organization driven to build a healthy, safe and open internet that is a public resource for all, Mozilla has assembled a set of standards for web literacy and 21st Century (21C) skills. While there are other literacy related standards — from K-12 education to computer science to work-readiness to professional development — all have critical gaps that omit core web literacy skills.

Crosswalk

We examined the following workforce and learning standards to better understand what essential web literacy skills were included or missing.

  • American Library Association’s 2011 (ALA) Digital Literacy definition
  • Common Core State Standards (CCSS) and Next Generation Science Standards (NGSS)
  • International Society for Technology in Education (ISTE) 2016 Standards for Students
  • National Assessment of Educational Progress (NAEP) 2014 Engineering and Technology Literacy Framework
  • European Union’s 2013 Digital Competencies (EU DIGCOMP) Framework
  • United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization’s 2013 Global Media and Information Literacy (UNESCO MIL) Framework
  • Partnership for 21st Century Learning (P21) 21st Century Skills Framework
  • United States Department of Education’s 2016 Employability Skills Framework

This analysis shows that some of the concepts embedded in the Web Literacy Map are being addressed in current standards. For example, all of the analyzed standards included “Find” and “Evaluate,” which are the same as Mozilla’s web literacy skills of “Search” and “Evaluate.”

The analysis also highlighted critical gaps in the standards outlined above. Key skills such as “Navigate” and “Open Practice” are not specifically addressed by any of the above standards, despite being critical to web literacy and learning today. “Navigate” is critical to understanding the basic structure of the web and how to use hyperlinks (i.e. web addresses) to access resources on the web. Learning “Open Practice” helps people use and contribute resources, which keeps the web transparent and accessible for all, and is a crucial to sustaining a healthy and accessible Internet.

U.S. Public Libraries

The American Library Association (ALA) defines digital literacy as “the ability to use information and communication technologies to find, evaluate, create, and communicate or share information, requiring both cognitive and technical skills.” While the ALA’s definition does align to some of the skills in “Participate”, it does not specifically mention the skills related to the “Open Practice.”

The library community’s digital and information literacy standards do not specifically include the coding, revision and remixing of digital content as skills required for creating digital information. Most digital content created for the web is “dynamic,” rather than fixed, and coding and remixing skills are needed to create new content and refresh or repurpose existing content. Leaving out these critical skills ignores the fact that library professionals need to be able to build and contribute online content to the ever-changing Internet.

Essentially, several critical web literacy skills are not included in ALA’s definition nor the more detailed learning standards of its school and college library divisions. This could lend itself to a situation where people know about the web without actually knowing how to wield it and use it.

U.S. K-12 Education

We also see that Mozilla’s Web Literacy Map complements and reinforces concepts included in many other learning standards. For example, a learner with the full range of web literacy skills would demonstrate many English Language Arts and Literacy skills (as defined by the Common Core State Standards (CCSS)), as well as key practices identified for Mathematical Practice in CCSS and Science and Engineering Practice in the Next Generation Science Standards (NGSS). This overlap shows how the Web Literacy Map not only reinforces but also adds to critical skills from other standards.

Despite the Web Literacy Map demonstrating many skills captured by the existing standards, the opposite is not true. The K-12 standards touch upon skills conceptually, but not practically. For example, the skills identify “compose” as a skills related to writing, but not specifically on the skills needed to write and share online content, such as code, contribute, and share. Therefore, a learner could demonstrate proficiency in all CCSS and NGSS standards without ever using the web or demonstrating proficiency in web literacy skills, despite the integral role digital technology plays in learning and doing math, science, and engineering today.

International Standards

The International Society for Technology in Education (ISTE) 2016 Standards for Students are focused on technology skills, and as a result more strongly aligned with the Web Literacy Map than the U.S. library community’s digital and information literacy standards. For example, The Empowered Learner, Digital Citizen, and Global Collaborator categories of the ISTE standards show strong alignment with skills in the Participate category of the Web Literacy Map. However, they do so without specific references to the web, but do use terms such as “digital tools,” “online”, “networked devices”, and “collaborative technologies”. There is no mention or correlation to “Open Practice.”

United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization Media and Information Literacy (UNESCO MIL) framework was developed as a guide for participating nations to use for teacher preparation. There is strong alignment of UNESCO MIL framework with most of Mozilla’s web literacy map. However, as with most other standards, the skills under “Participate” are not included in the UNESCO MIL framework.

A second international framework, the European Union’s 2013 Digital Competencies (EU DIGCOMP) Framework, is similarly well aligned with the Mozilla framework at the indicator level, though the skill categories are organized differently. Again, there are comparable skills included with the exception of “Open Practice.”

Align Web Literacy with Existing Standards

By investing in web literacy, we reinforce and support other standards. By not incorporating web literacy skills, essential skills are left unaddressed.

There is an opportunity for web literacy and 21C skills to be aligned and integrated with other standards to identify the full spectrum of competencies needed to thrive today and tomorrow. By adding and integrating these skills, we have an opportunity to leverage web literacy standards to reinforce other learning and fill in the existing gaps in web literacy knowledge and know-how.

The web literacy skills are not tied to any specific content but rather to the specific skills that demonstrate the ability to read, write and participate on the web while producing, synthesizing, evaluating and communicating information. True to Mozilla’s commitment to open practice, the Web Literacy Map and corresponding open source training curriculum and activities can be remixed and adopted into almost any context to augment and support existing learning.

Mozilla’s core web literacy and 21C skills can fill the current learning gap, which will help ensure that a more complete set of 21st century skills are taught and learned in preparation for work and life. We believe there is an opportunity for web literacy skills to be aligned and integrated with other standards so that learners can develop and demonstrate the full spectrum of competencies they need to excel.

Please share with us your insights, feedback, and thoughts! anme@mozillafoundation.org