Brainstorming a session on Mozilla's Web-literacy Standards

I am working on setting up a session for Mozilla's amazing upcoming Mozfest in London in October. If you have not heard of it, then check it out here: http://mozillafestival.org/

It will be an awesome mind blowing event if last year is anything to go on, so if you have not signed up you should drop everything you are doing and come :) No, really - everything, it is great.

What are the web literacy standards ? Check it out here.

Why are they important ? Check that out here and here

I am trying to work out ideas on this topic in a collaborative and open way - there are many many others working on similar ideas who have put the word out there about the web-literacy standards, and so I think it makes sense to ask for people to think about doing a session collaboratively and to share ideas :) I am actually hoping that other people might also like to get involved in this who would be going to Mozfest. So this is where I am so far in my thinking.

So this is an open letter to anyone else interested in working on designing a session for this event on this topic. You are all welcome to jump in and get involved. This is posted here simply to help with improving the quick brainstorm process :) I have posted in this blog post about creating two types of sessions, called activity type 1 (a learning lab) and type 2 (a more formal facilitated session).

Why ?

I think we should have some more activities building off the web-lit standard exactly because it is a really key element connecting up lots of the other things going on and it connects many things in the Web-making community generally and it is also important to open up things that might not as easily get attention in other ways.

So apologies for this splurge of stuff / notes etc..but it is one way to get this ball rolling I guess. To share ideas for a session I have put forward an etherpad to help with collaboration. I have put the link at the end of this post.

I understand the concern about using something like a lecture format and how this might fit with the general pitch of activities at Mozfest (generally very participatory). I know the material lends itself well to an academic discussion / PPT and some kind of information 'transmission' session. But I guess that is a bit of the challenge of making these things more accessible. So the aim is to bring the web-lit standards out there in way that reaches everyone. I am thinking out loud on how to make them slightly more accessible.

General rules / principles

I think as a general rule, to compensate for introducing people to quite a lot of detailed and possibly dry / technical information in one go, it's a good idea to try to carefully structure collaborative and participatory activities. That way our attention is mostly focused on the outcomes of each stage and step of the process, so we are aiming for people to get 'just enough' information at each point of the activity (so they are not overloaded) and have enough differentiated opportunities for participating, responding, etc..to feel like they are getting to grips with a chunk of information. This means giving the participants a degree of control over the pace and pitch of the activities too. But that doesn't mean the activity needs to be a self-access or self-led activity, although with the right set-up it could also be geared in that way.

Learning Labs?  (activity type 1)

I guess that as Doug Belshaw has suggested in his email (distributed via the Mozilla email list) is that something like a 'Learning Lab' fits well. What does that entail? As far as I understand it, the difference between an activity as simply described above (so a facilitated session that is participatory in some way) and a 'Learning Lab' is that the lab will have a much greater focus on 'making' something and on innovation. These would sit at the core of the process and are the central objectives of the activity or activities. So whereas a session that was participatory might contain the learning objectives such as, 'to be able to describe the web-literacy standards framework and list 4 areas that they directly apply to'  a learning lab might contain a learning objective such as, 'to be able to make or create something new that is based on or uses or adapts the web-literacy standards, in a way that demonstrates a understanding of the framework or part of the framework itself'. Sorry for being such a high-school chalkie, as we say in Australia. But hopefully aside from me waffling on, I think opening this up could help get some ideas / feedback flowing from everyone.

FYI: Here is a sort of sketch of what a learning lab for Popcorn might look like that Michelle wrote http://michellethorne.cc/2012/02/howto-popcorn-learning-lab/

Design principles for activities

I think it is helpful to consider your objectives for a session clearly, that helps to drive things forward. Here is a good resource of doing that in terms of setting clear objectives: 


I think it is also worth considering how much emphasis you want to have on being innovative in considering designing a 'learning lab' of sorts, particularly considering how we understand the ways people are learning today. So here are a few simple principles to consider:

1. Learner-centered
2. Media-driven (this doesn’t have to mean digital media)
3. Personalized
4. Transfer-by-Design
5. Visibly Relevant
6. Data-Rich
7. Adaptable
8. Interdependent
9. Diverse / differentiated

Plenty of these principles can be woven into a more 'traditional' session simply by allowing people themselves to document / interact with the work they are doing in a more formal session and to share it on the web. So for example, taking pictures, tweeting stuff, allowing people to choose their own ways to access the information and learning informally as well as formally..

How could
this work ? Well for example you might set up the activities so that many people work together on some challenge to make something or build something collaboratively, so to make something or to present something that demonstrates a certain take on the standards, an application of them or maybe their own version or hack of the standards. I know this is the difficult bit where the rubber hits the road - but it is also the juicy bit that can help to lift the dry material off the page and make it interactive, engaging. etc...

Another thing to consider is that 'participatory' work does not necessarily entail totally removing the teacher / facilitator (eg. with a flipped-classroom model, or an entirely bottom-up approach to sessions such as in an unconference).

Example of a Learning Lab (activity type 1)

I was trying to think of a successful kind of Learning Lab activity I had been to and I thought of the Popcorn Hackathon run by Philo and Giles in London. This was a really good example and they have tried to document the whole process here: http://philovankemenade.tumblr.com/post/50422026642/hacking-interactive-online-video-stories-at-popathon 

Essentially they simply asked the teams to do one thing only (clear objective) which was to: "Create a story experience that turns a viewer into a user" using Popcorn and the web. The teams went through a brainstorm session, a show and tell prototype / feedback session and then in the afternoon they presented their finished products. The teams also were carefully picked to combine one expert coder, one film-maker and maybe one more person to glue that together a bit.

This step into group work is very effective if you have preselected or filtered the participants into groups. Philo and Giles had a two stage process for doing this which was very effective; they had people sign up as either film-makers, coders or something else and then once in the session had people move to stand along two axis lines (think of a graph shaped like a cross-hair) depending on their confidence in coding and their confidence in story-telling and film-making. They then pulled the scattered people in the corners of the graph (bringing together all the expert coders, and then the expert film-makers and all those who knew little of either) and then made the teams by choosing one person from each of these three groups. This is a very long way of saying that for groups to be most effective, you need to filter the participants by their knowledge and skills and give them clear roles within the group.

How could that translate into a session for an event like Mozfest?

At an event like Mozfest you might not really have the luxury of being able to filter the participants before the session, but you certainly can and probably should do a bit of this somehow within the session to make your groups / teams work well and to judge where people are at (experts, total beginners ?), and group-work is probably a good way to do that.

Also consider that Giles and Philo had all day to run a Lab and even then it is a scramble to get a project done. At this kind of event one session might be quite short, although you could have multiple sessions that could even add to the work done in previous ones, but it would be easier to run something that was much less involved and time-hungry. The other thing is to remember to document it all well so it can be bundled into all of the other work produced at the event.

Activity type 1: Learning Lab - answers on a postcard please :)

So first of all I am going to put this one out there. Please send your answers ideas for this - a good aim for the session participants in a session on the web-literacy standards would be to:

Create an X (your idea ) that X (does what)

For example (notice I have listed these in order of difficulty or in order of technical expertise), people could collaboratively:

  • Create a manifesto that demonstrates why you think web-literacy is important
  • Create a mindmap that illustrates activities that could incorporate the web-literacy standards in high schools.
  • Create an infographic that explains how the web-literacy standards relate to how you learned to use and make things with the web (could use http://www.easel.ly/ or http://infogr.am/)
  • Create and draw up / design / hack an app (eg for Firefox OS) that used and referred to the web-literacy standard in some way

Now taking this approach we could also decide to go for a much less structured session, so rather than setting one competition you could make it a sort of a choose your own adventure session where you choose to create something. With all the ideas we could make a big chart of activities and each group could just go and choose the one that they liked the best. As I said even in a 'participatory' environment there is always an important degree to which activities are generally led by the expert / instructor / facilitator. I think it would be nice to have people engage in playing around with the different parts of the standard as they wished to some degree, choosing to explore or make as much as they wished to with a number of 'facilitators' or experts to help them out with questions and ideas. So this would be based on a sort of list of self-structured group activities to choose from that would allow people to do that in small groups.

Activity type 2: More formally facilitated session

Instead for creating some more 'whole group to small group' activities, you could also run some more overtly facilitated sessions:

- you could give different groups parts of the complete standard and have them guess what might be missing in a sort of information gap / jigsaw activity.

- you could have a four corners activity discussion:
Eg: a statement about the web-literacy standard or part of it is made and then everyone moves to different corners of the room (agree strongly, agree, disagree, disagree strongly) then they discuss with the others in their corner and then each corner must feedback to the center quickly on the discussion.

- you could show part of a quick PPT to explain the web-literacy standard and then get people to walk around the room and add ideas for activities or applications for each area of the standard on the walls onto butchers paper

Now there is there difference between creating a learning lab and running a session that is a bit more like a 'class'. To be honest I think there is room for both at Mozfest, as some people might be more comfortable with one more than with the other.

So now I have sketched out two possible sessions :) I have also now put these ideas onto an etherpad for feedback. I have also put a list on the etherpad for people to join if you are interested in helping be part of a team to facilitate either of these sessions.

Here it is: https://etherpad.mozilla.org/Zzeq5vgiMn

So if anyone is keen to send suggestions and / or will be at Mozfest and has been involved in the web-lit standards then please do jump in. I will move to propose a session within a few days, so let me know if you are interested to join in!



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