The Mozilla Foundation has a vision of a Web literate planet. We want to help empower people to not only be able to read but to write and participate in the Web - both now and in the future. A central part of this effort involves engaging the community in helping us to define a framework leading to a dynamic and powerful Web Literacy standard. This vision document outlines our current thinking (February 2013) and points to the near future where a new, open learning standard for Web Literacy exists.
The Web itself is relatively young and so, understandably, is the concept of Web Literacy. Despite many different entities looking for a way to talk about literacy as it relates to the web, to date there has been no standard—formal or informal—against which organizations or individuals could align. As a result, there is no clear definition of the knowledge, skills or understanding required to be declared "web" literate. It's nearly impossible for educators, organisations and businesses to know what to include in learning activities and curricula. And it proves equally problematic for learners who don't know where to turn to improve their skills or understanding of the web.
Defining 'Web Literacy'
Mozilla is choosing to define Web Literacy in the broadest terms possible: the skills and competencies needed to both read and write the Web. These may range from understanding procedural elements such as using the correct syntax for HTML and CSS to grappling with more conceptual elements such as understanding appropriate and inappropriate ways of interacting with various online communities.
Towards a Solution
With the term defined, we can now begin to work toward developing a series of alignment considerations—a framework—that will result in a collaborative standard. In order to get this effort started, Mozilla is proposing a new, open learning standard for Web Literacy: open because the standard will be publicly co-created, allowing anyone to contribute to its development and maintenance; a learning standard because it applies primarily to educational activities and resources. It may also begin to function as a quasi-technical standard for things like metadata and APIs.
Defining a Learning Standard
According to ISO (the International Organization for Standardization), a standard is, "a document that provides requirements, specifications, guidelines or characteristics that can be used consistently to ensure that materials, products, processes and services are fit for their purpose." Essentially, standards are about coordination of effort. And that is precisely what we're aiming for: coordinated effort in creating and defining this common goal.
But why a standard at all? To identify this work as vital to many people for many reasons, to emphasize its communal creation, and to ask for its continual review. The framework will be co-developed with the community to create a reference document against which learning activities and credentials can be mapped by formal and informal educational bodies, individuals, and businesses alike.
Learning Pathways and Badges
A significant portion of our thinking around the framework will include developing potential learning pathways. Along those lines, we envisage thinking through the framework's 'Beginner' and 'Intermediate' levels before considering 'Pre-Beginner' and 'Advanced'. Taking this approach will allow us to produce multiple touchpoints and signposts along the way to web literacy. We'll use those same touchpoints and signposts to develop an open badge system that accommodates various learning pathways, builds upon the web literacy framework, and encourages continued community badge creation. A key aspect of these badges will be their compatibility with Mozilla's Open Badges Infrastructure (OBI). The OBI provides an easy way for any organization or individual to issue, manage and display digital badges across the Web.
For years researchers, mentors and teachers have investigated different types of literacies, e.g., digital literacy, technological literacy, computer literacy, etc. Over time, some of this thinking has become territorial and divisive. Mozilla does not believe territoriality to be useful - nor is it necessary. There are many different people and organisations doing great things in the Web Literacy space who can work together for the greater good.
With this new effort, we propose to gather these conversations and 'connect as many dots' as everyone agrees is possible. Instead of a fragmented approach that leads to small pockets of innovation pointing in slightly different directions, we aim to take the long view, be part of a bigger picture, a movement to change the world together. We're all seeking the answer to the same question: how do we help learners improve their Web skills?
Scope & Limitations
While we're interested in co-creating a new learning standard, it is important to note that Mozilla is not interested in becoming a regulatory body. This standard will be something to which organisations may choose to voluntarily align. In terms of scope, we will begin our framework considerations by focusing on the parts of the Web that are easily accessible through a mobile or desktop Web browser.
Of course, we must acknowledge that the Web is a living system and newly emerging elements like the 'physical Web' will continue to appear. We will not ignore these but instead review them on a case by case basis, incorporating them into the standard where appropriate. Throughout this process we will seek community review and agreement. Finally, as mentioned earlier, this is first and foremost a learning standard, not a technical one and will not be developed as such.
Our vision of a Web literacy standard involves helping people develop the skills and competencies to not only read but to write and participate in the Web. We invite partners, people and organizations to work with us on this journey. Mozilla cannot build this alone, nor do we want to! Working together we can create a dynamic, living web literacy standard that suits / benefits the widest possible audience. If you're an educator, a learning organization, a charity or non-profit, a business with an interest or stake in this area, or simply an interested party, get involved! We have further details on this page of the Mozilla Wiki, where we will also post upcoming opportunities to collaborate both synchronously and asynchronously.
Q1: Kick Off, Events / Conversations
Q2: Standards Launch, Initial Alignment
Q3: Initial Assessments and APIs
Q4: Full Badge System with Assessments