Understanding Connections Between Digital Literacies and Web Literacies


8.28.12 | When we talk about the skills and knowledge students need to negotiate a digital-savvy world, the discussion is often framed around “new literacies.” Understanding how they relate to one another—and their impact on the learning process—can be trickier.

Writing at DML, Doug Belshaw, who works on the Open Badges project at Mozilla Foundation (read more about it), shares some of his thinking on the subject, specifically the relationship between digital literacies and web literacies.

“Perhaps the biggest consideration when dealing with so-called ‘New’ Literacies is distinguishing them from one another,” writes Belshaw. “As I’ve discussed many times before, without some clear thinking on this issue both theorists and practitioners alike tend to talk past one another using imprecise terminology.”

Belshaw is somewhat of an expert in this area, having focused on digital literacies in his doctoral thesis, which is available online at neverendingthesis.com.

“The conclusion I came to after delving deeply into the research was that we need to always talk about literacies in their plurality and that there are broadly eight essential elements to digital literacies,” he continues. “My question when it comes to Web Literacies, therefore, is whether (a) they constitute a subset of Digital Literacies, (b) they are wholly distinct from Digital Literacies, or (c) there is some overlap between the two.”

Here are the eight essential elements of digital literacies Belshaw identified:

1. Cultural
2. Cognitive
3. Constructive
4. Communicative
5. Confident
6. Creative
7. Critical
8. Civic

And the five different elements of web literacies he’s considering, building on the work of his colleagues at Mozilla:
* Exploring
* Authoring
* Connecting
* Building
* Protecting

Take a look at his post for several diagrams that show the overlap between the two, and help Belshaw answer the question of whether “Web Literacies constitute either (or both) a necessary condition for Digital Literacies? In other words, could somebody claim to have developed Digital Literacies without having developed Web Literacies?”


Plus: Speaking of badges, Charles Perry of the e-learning platform MentorMob looks at the influence of gamification on motivation and learning. The subject was the focus of a webinar for the winners of the most recent Digital Media & Learning Competition, all of whom are developing digital badges for release in 2013. (MentorMob is working with Girl Scouts of Greater Chicago & Northwest Indiana and Motorola Mobility Foundation on a badge that encourages girls, volunteers, educators, and community leaders to build mobile Android apps.)

For the badge system to be successful, writes Perry, the DML winners need to develop badges that 1.) are based on a rigorous curriculum developed by a trustworthy institution; 2.) can accurately assess a learner’s knowledge gain; 3.) ensure an “addictive learning experience” that can continually attract and retain users.

Perry also nicely highlights the takeaway’s from a talk by Judd Antin, a user experience researcher at Facebook, on why gamification works and the important questions to ask when designing a badge system.

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