Preparing Teachers & Students for Web Literacies

Preparing Teachers & Students for Web Literacies

Over the past couple of months I’ve been trying to help out on the community calls for Mozilla as they develop new Web Literacies and learning standards. To follow these developments and join in you can either view the archive of the meetings here, or the latest versions on Doug Belshaw’s blog.  The structure and alignment of these literacies is very fluid as we progress from week to week, but the goal behind the work (at least from my perspective) is straightforward. The goal is to provide learners with clear guidance as to the knowledge, skills, and dispositions necessary to thoughtfully read, write, and communicate in online spaces. I have valued the time during these meetings, and in the discussions that occur between the community calls as a way to help inform these standards using my knowledge as a teacher educator, new literacies researcher, and as a facilitator of the MA New Literacies Institute.

So, one of the initial questions many teachers may have about the Web Literacies work is…”So What?” As a K-12 educator in the U. S. we’re inundated by the CCSS, frameworks, content, curriculum, etc? This is additionally complex for teachers that want to integrate technology into teaching and learning with the multitude of terms that define this use of these literacies. This development of Web Literacies with Mozilla effectively adds one more set of competencies into what is already a challenging landscape. I believe these literacies are important as guides, or a point out on the horizon that I can point to when we’re directing teachers as to the skills necessary to be literate online. As a result, this offers teachers, students, or even the general public a global set of standards to use as a reference point in building up these online skills and competencies. To date, the only reference point, or “standards” I was able to direct learners to was the ISTE NETS frameworks. Although these standards provide a good benchmark for these skills, I believe we need a global refresh that also provides a literacy perspective, as well as opportunities to iterate in the future. The basic answer to the “So What?” question is that it provides an opportunity for teachers and students to think about the web literacies they have now…but also the work they need to complete to improve.

So, the next question a teacher might have is…”how do I prepare for these Web Literacies?” Although the MA NLI doesn’t subscribe to these Web Literacies (technically they haven’t even launched yet), I believe that some of the core competencies will ultimately be folded into the structure that organizes the content of the MA NLI. Additionally, the three basic tenets of the Online Research and Media Skills (ORMS) model that composes the bulk of the MA NLI curriculum (e.g. Online Reading Comprehension, Online Collaborative Inquiry, Online Content Construction) all are fairly well represented in the Web Literacies. As one of the authors of the ORMS model, I’ve had these pillars in the back of my head as I work with the community to develop the Web Literacies. The end result I believe will provide exemplary guidance and scaffolding for teachers and learners…while providing opportunities for learning outside of the traditional uses of technology that we see in our classrooms. The basic answer to the question about preparation is that professional development opportunities like the MA NLI will be successful in building the knowledge, skills, and dispositions necessary to authentically include these Web Literacies in instruction. When Mozilla finally launches the Web Literacies Standards, I believe the MA NLI will slowly start folding these into the DNA of the program. For more guidance as to why…please review Doug’s blog post on why organizations should align with the new literacy standards.

The final question about these Web Literacies involves the future. As an educational psychologist and a researcher, I also think about the teachers that I work with daily. I think deeply about the real-world complexities that they teach within…but I also need to consider the future and the world we’re preparing our students for. I believe these Web Literacies are being developed as a descriptive set of standards that try to best identify the knowledge, skills, and dispositions individuals need to be fully literate online. I hope that these Web Literacies will offer a decent amount of flexibility and “ambiguity” to allow for future developments in literacy and technology. Finally, I think that organizations such as LPVEC and the MA NLI will offer prescriptive opportunities for teachers think about effective ways to embed this learning into their classroom. As this initiative advances I’m assuming Mozilla will link it to the work on open badges that they have been conducting. This would provide a powerful way to guide teaching and learning in the classroom, while focusing on building and advancing an individual’s skills over time. As of the posting of this blog entry, the MA NLI doesn’t have any initiatives looking at offering badges in the NLI model…but, I’m pushing ;).

The work being conducted by Mozilla and the Web Literacies standards is very much needed as teachers and students try to grasp what it takes to effectively read, write, and communicate online. In preparing for these new competencies, the ORMS model and professional development opportunities like the MA NLI offer guidance as to the next steps.

 

Cross-posted to http://mnli.org/

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