Understanding Web Literacy within the Web Journey

Cross-posted on the Webmaker blog with Laura de Reynal.

Since 2012, pioneering educators and web activists have been reflecting and developing answers to the question, “What is web literacy?”

These conversations have shaped our Web Literacy Map, a guiding document that outlines the skills and competencies that are essential to reading, writing, and participating on the Web.

Just the other week, we wrapped up improvements to the Web Literacy Map, proudly unveiling version 1.5. Thank you to all who contributed to that discussion, and to Doug Belshaw for facilitating it.

We believe being web literate is not just knowing how to code in HTML, CSS, and Javascript. These are great tools, but they’re only one aspect of being a Web creator and citizen. Therefore, the updated Web Literacy Map includes competencies like privacy, remixing, and collaboration.

As we design and test offerings to foster web literacy, we are also determining how these skills fit into a larger web journey. Prompted by user research in Bangladesh, India, Kenya, and beyond, we’re asking: What skill levels and attitudes encourage people to learn more about web literacy? And how can one wield the Web after learning its fundamentals?

Mozilla believes this is an important question to reflect on in the open. With this blog post, we’d like to start a series of discussions, and warmly invite you to think this through with us.

What is the Web Journey?

As we talked to 356 people in four different countries (India, Bangladesh, Kenya, and Brazil) over the past six months, we learned how people perceive and use the Web in their daily lives. Our research teams identified common patterns, and we gathered them into one framework called “The Web Journey.”

The Web Journey

    This framework outlines five stages of engagement with the Web:

  • Unaware: Have never heard of the Web, and have no idea what it is (for example, these smartphone owners in Bangladesh)
  • No use: Are aware of the existence of the Web, but do not use it, either by rejection (“the Web is not for me, women don’t go online”), Inability (“I can’t afford data”), or perceived inability (“The Web is only for businessmen”)
  • Basic use: Are online, and are stuck in the “social media bubble,” unaware of what else is possible (Internet = Facebook). These users have little understanding of the Web, and don’t leverage its full range of possibilities
  • Leverage: Are able to seize the opportunities the Web has to offer to improve their quality of life (to find jobs, to learn, or to grow their business)
  • Creation: From the tinkerer to the web developer, creators understand how to build the Web and are able to make it their own

Internet = Facebook

You can read the full details of the Web Journey, with constraints and triggers, in the Webmaker Field Research Report from India.

Why do the Web Literacy Map and the Web Journey fit together?

While the Web Literacy Map explores the skills needed, the Web Journey describes various stages of engagement with the Web. It appears certain skills may be more necessary for some stages of the Web Journey. For example: Is there a list of skills that people need to acquire to move from “Basic use” to “Leverage?”

As we continue to research digital literacy in Chicago and London (April – May 2015), we’ll seek to understand how to couple skills listed in the Web Literacy Map with steps of engagement outlined in the Web Journey. Bridging the two can help us empower Mozilla Clubs all around the world.

What are the discussion questions ?

To kick off the conversation, consider the following:

  1. Literacy isn’t an on/off state. It’s more a continuum, and there are many learning pathways. How can this nuance be illustrated and made more intuitive?
  2. How can we leverage the personal motivators highlighted along the Web Journey to propose interest-driven learning pathways?
  3. Millions of people think Facebook is the Internet. How can the Web Literacy Map be a guide for these learners to know more and do more with the Web?
  4. As web literacy skills and competencies increase throughout a learner’s journey, and as people participate in web cultures, particular attitudes emerge and evolve. What are those nuances of web culture? How might we determine a “fluency” in the Web?
  5. How does the journey continue after someone has learned the fundamentals of the Web? How can they begin to participate in their community and share that knowledge forward? How can mentorship, and eventually leadership, be a more explicit part of a web journey? How do confidence and ability to teach others become part of the web journey?

Share your thoughts in the blog post, on Twitter using the tag #teachtheweb, or on our discussion forum.

Image “Access is not enough” by Laura de Reynal

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