Web Literacy

More than just coding; an enabling education for our times.

GUEST COLUMN | by Doug Belshaw

CREDIT MozillaWhat are the skills and competencies that people need to read, write and participate on the web? Where can they learn these skills? How can they apply them most effectively? These are questions that have been on the mind of progressive educators, both in formal and informal environments, over the past few years. And they have also been on the mind of Mozilla – a global non-profit best known for its Firefox web browser.

Education, whether in a K-12 setting or something less formal, is about the transmission of knowledge as both a means and an end, an idea that squares wholly with Mozilla’s mission to promote openness, innovation and opportunity on the web. Keeping learning at the center of the internet, we are looking to encourage people to move beyond ‘elegant consumption’ and join a growing movement of “webmakers.” These are people who know a bit of code and can tinker with the web, shaping it in their own image. Increasing your web literacy skills means having agency on the web. And given the amount of time we collectively spend online, this is a social justice issue.

The Web Literacy Map

But it’s not just about code. Web Literacy, as Mozilla has defined it with a community of stakeholders through our Web Literacy Map, is an enabler for the development of skills in so many areas. As such, it must be seen as central to any education that aims to equip people for survival and success in the 21st century.

CREDIT Mozilla WebLiteracyMap-v1.1-updatedAs you can see from the map (pictured), when we use the lens of web literacy a number of competencies become as important as coding. Remixing the web, for example, is a great way to build on the work of others and take your first steps towards becoming a webmaker. Working effectively with others and collaborating on the web is another valuable competency in its own right that can be taught. So is fact checking and learning how to ascertain the credibility of information you come across online. All 15 of the competencies listed on the chart above are focused on real-world knowledge and skills that a cross-section of academics, educators, and industry professionals deemed important.

This is an overview of the landscape, a ‘map of the territory’ to help school teachers, parents, and organisations orient themselves in what can be a confusing world. As the web changes and develops, so we will update the Web Literacy Map. It’s a living document, upon which people and organisations can build tools, resources and community.

Webmaker.org

Mozilla is an organisation that builds products that compete in a marketplace to win market share. This allows us to influence the hearts and minds of users, and further our non-profit mission. Not only is this true of Firefox, but of Webmaker Tools such as X-Ray Goggles, Thimble, Popcorn Maker and (our newest offering) AppMaker. These free, open-source tools were conceived to serve the teaching and learning process and allow users to peek behind the curtain of the web to see how it all works. X-Ray Goggles, for instance allows you to remix some of your favorite websites, while AppMaker encourages you to create your first smartphone app.

In addition to these tools, we’ve curated the best resources available on the web aligned with each of the web literacy competencies on the Web Literacy Map and, soon, Open Badges will help learners scaffold their learning journey. Maker Party

It’s Mozilla’s belief that people learn best through making and doing. A great deal of that learning happens in a peer environment with other learners. To encourage people to do this within their own community, we have a yearly campaign called Maker Party. So far this year we’ve had over 2,200 events run globally by community members in 400 cities. At the time of writing, this meant 85,000 people learning and teaching the web. You can find live updates here.

As the recent celebrity iCloud leaks showed, understanding how the web works and how we can use it for our own benefit is something that affects everyone. Learning through making and doing in a peer-learning environment is what Maker Party is all about. Although the campaign ends on September 15th, it’s always the right time to use the resources on the site to bring people together to learn and teach the web!

Conclusion

The web is a hugely enabling, democratic platform that can enable human flourishing on a scale never before seen. However, to do this we need the broad set of skills and competencies to read, write and participate on the web effectively. The Web Literacy Map, coupled with Webmaker Tools, resources, and community (especially through Maker Party) is Mozilla’s free, open-source attempt to do just that.

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Maker Party image CC BY-NC-SA

https://secure.flickr.com/photos/newyouthcity/

Hive Learning NYC

Doug Belshaw is the Web Literacy Lead for the non-profit Mozilla Foundation. A former teacher and senior leader, Doug also has experience of further and higher education as a researcher/analyst. You can find him on twitter @dajbelshaw

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Trends | Back to School Refresh

CREDIT PBS LearningMediaAs teachers and students head back to school, PBS LearningMedia is welcoming them back with a new look, new resources, and the return of its “Get Your Tech On” initiative designed to support technology and digital resource integration in the classroom. Today through November 30, teachers can access free tech-themed content collections, how-to guides on building digital classrooms, professional development webinars, and enter to win weekly tablet giveaways. From gaming and coding to 3D printing, the “Get Your Tech On” content collection features themed resources designed to help teachers integrate digital media and technology into curriculum. PBS LearningMedia will also offer free professional development resources for teachers, including how-to guides and webinars. The first “Get Your Tech On” webinar, “Transform Your Classroom: Digital Resources You Can Use Tomorrow” will be held September 17 at 6pm EST. With this webinar, teachers will highlight how they are using digital media to inspire their teaching and personalize the learning experiences for their students. Participants will be able to jump-start lesson planning with blended learning teaching tips, tools and media-rich content from PBS LearningMedia. To register and for details on the full “Get Your Tech On” webinar series, visit pbslearningmedia.org/getyourtechon.

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Beyond Walls

A superintendent moves into the edtech world to redesign education. 

INTERVIEW | by Victor Rivero

CREDIT Robert-Wayne Harris of VP PD TeqWith more than 20 years experience as an educator, Robert-Wayne Harris has excelled at building teams and leveraging technology to drive teacher effectiveness and improve student engagement. He has received national recognition for his leadership and ability to bring reform and improvement in student achievement in low-performing school districts. In his recent position as Superintendent at Roosevelt School District (Long Island, NY), Robert-Wayne successfully built a solid infrastructure of technology and professional development services. Prior to that, he was Assistant Superintendent of Curriculum, School Improvement, Professional Development and Planning for Freeport Public Schools, where he led the development, planning, and implementation of all curriculum and instructional programs. Before that, he was Associated Director/Educational Planning Administrator for the Long Island Regional School Support Center/Nassau BOCES. Today, as Vice President of Professional Development for Teq, a company that embraces and encourages the integration of technology into the classroom, he has much to say about what that integration means.

Unlike education in the past, which was based for the most part on a factory-model system, today’s schools must be highly interactive, engaging, technology-based learning environments.

Victor: Why did you decide to go into edtech, and leave your job as a superintendent?

Robert-Wayne: After my six-year tenure as Superintendent of Schools at Roosevelt Union Free School District, I had the option to accept another superintendent position or to move in an alternative direction. As a proponent for true educational reform, I began exploring career opportunities that would assist schools with their efforts to increase student achievement through the improvement of pedagogical practices in the classroom.

As a district administrator who had the unique opportunity to create 21st century technology-based learning environments in my schools, I was often concerned about how teachers utilized technology as a tool for learning. Through classroom observations and teacher evaluations, I often found that the technology provided to teachers were not utilized for the benefit of creating interactive learning environments. The SMART Boards, projectors, and other interactive technology provided for our classrooms were often used to inappropriately, and in some cases only to show movies.

Based upon these experiences, I sought to find an employment opportunity that would enable me to support teachers with innovative strategies for classroom instruction in order to provide students with the opportunity to be educated in a classroom environment that reflects the world in which they live. I was extremely excited to accept the position of Vice President of Professional Development at Teq, a company that truly embraces and encourages the integration of technology into the classroom.

Victor: What were some of your biggest successes as a school superintendent?

Robert-Wayne: When I was appointed by the Commissioner of Education as superintendent of one of the most challenged and controversial school districts in New York, I was charged with reforming the educational program, improving academic performance, and restoring the financial stability of the district. At the time, Roosevelt UFSD was facing a deficit of almost $9MM. Academic achievement of students, including the graduation rate, was on the decline.

Under my tenure, the $9MM deficit was eliminated, creating a $21MM budget surplus; the graduation rate grew from 25% to 80%; 3 brand new schools were opened and the high school was renovated; full-day kindergarten was implemented; acceleration and advanced placement programs for middle and high school students were created; career, technology education, performing arts, and athletic programs were expanded; and school uniforms were implemented in grades pre-K to 12.

Victor: What are the biggest challenges for teachers in the classroom today?

Robert-Wayne: One the biggest challenges for teachers in the classroom today, is the need to provide students with a high quality, standards-based, technology-enriched instructional program that prepares them for college and careers, and for jobs that do not actually exist yet. Essential to this process is the need for teachers to be knowledgeable and proficient in the technology that our children will need in order to meet 21st century society expectations.

Victor: How can Teq help teachers?

Robert-Wayne: Teq is an innovative educational technology and professional development company with over forty years of experience in technology integration. Teq’s instructional technology platforms and professional development offerings enable teachers to provide students with innovative classroom instruction and the tools that are essential for their success in a 21st century, technology-literate society. Through hands-on opportunities for learning and classroom-embedded professional development, Teq provides teachers with sophisticated strategies and techniques for the successful integration of technology into their daily classroom instruction.

Victor: Thoughts on education today?

Robert-Wayne: We are all well aware of the immense need to bring reform to our current educational system and instructional practices in schools. Unfortunately, many of the programs and practices in our schools today are antiquated and do not address the needs of a 21st century, technology-literate society. Although valiant efforts have been made to promote change, the strategies that they have been employed and implemented are outdated and band-aid approaches at best.

Instead of examining the educational system as a whole, many tend to blame, attack, and target the quality of teaching and instruction in the classroom as the only key to educational reform. In order to measure and assess school quality and teacher effectiveness, society has chosen to over-test and over-evaluate students in an effort to provide the data or evidence needed to support their assertions. Very little attention is given to outdated practices and perceptions that guide our thoughts and actions about education today.

Victor: What do you envision for today’s classroom and the classroom of the future?

Robert-Wayne: Unlike education in the past, which was based for the most part on a factory-model system, today’s schools must be highly interactive, engaging, technology-based learning environments. Classrooms should no longer be quiet places, but must foster meaningful discussions and hands-on opportunities for communication and collaboration among students. Teachers must now become facilitators of learning, and students actively engaged in learning opportunities.

I firmly believe that our educational system should be redesigned to reflect real world experiences. It seems ironic that many of our school mission statements and school mantras state that, “we are preparing students for the 21st century and to be life-long learners” and/or that “every child must be college and career ready,” yet our practices in schools are still based in the 19th century. Education today must teach our children to explore, investigate, inquire, and research. Students of all ages must be provided with opportunities to learn through technology, and our older students provided with the opportunity to experience online learning.

Victor: What is the role of technology in schools?

Robert-Wayne: We must go beyond the walls of the school and embrace the global society in which we live. I am an avid supporter of technology innovation as a tool for learning and for improving the educational system. I no longer see schools as institutions for learning, but opportunities and preparation for a world we have yet to experience and jobs we have yet to conceive. Today, we have had no other choice but to embrace the influence that technology has on every aspect of our lives. We should no longer ignore the potential of technology and the influence that it could have on improving the way children learn and on reforming educational today.

Victor Rivero is the editor in chief of EdTech Digest. Write to: victor@edtechdigest.com

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Cool Tool | Great Parents Academy

CREDIT Great Parents AcademyHere’s a way to get your GPA up — as a parent, that is. Founded in 2012 and based in Atlanta, Great Parents Academy provides supplemental math curricula for children ages kindergarten through fifth grade. Through its interactive web-based software, LoveMath™, and gamified, character-guided lessons, it motivates children and facilitates parental engagement in the early educational ecosystem. It engages students, parents and teachers via a three-component approach in LoveMath. “Learn” guides students through about 150 lessons per grade. “Engage” is a private social media network which allows parents, students and teachers to interact and engage in their students’ math achievement. “Motivate” randomly rewards students based on effort and achievement within LoveMath with more than 100 different options, which can be tailored by parents and include rewards within the home, such as cooking dinner or staying up late, as well as commercial rewards through partners such as the Georgia Aquarium. Check it out.

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EdTech Mobility

A major challenge, or a browser tab away?

GUEST COLUMN | by Ilan Paretsky

CREDIT Ericom picFor a while now, advancements and innovation in education technology, or edtech, have targeted many areas – such as learning and training software, student testing and grading systems, third-party educational applications and content, portals, school security, learning management and other solutions to enhance the classroom experience. And the field has certainly come a long way – so far, in fact, that technology companies are now focusing heavily on enabling users to take advantage of mobility, BYOD and other 1-to-1 initiatives while allowing existing IT infrastructure and staff to meet the challenges involved.

Providing better mobile access to complex software and networks is one of many keys that will help unlock the education technology puzzle.

Over the years, K-12 schools all around the country have gotten off desktops and onto laptops. That transition is complete. In 2014, it’s now about getting off traditional laptops and onto web-based systems and mobile devices such as Google Chromebooks, iPads, Android phones and tablets, etc. This shift is not only about serving the interests of convenience, BYOD, flexible teaching and student collaboration. Going mobile has been saving, and will continue to save K-12 schools hundreds of thousands of dollars (if not millions), and perhaps more importantly – countless hours that should be better spent doing what schools do best – teaching our children.

The challenge for K-12 schools going forward is figuring out how to “merge” IT systems, networks and software, which have traditionally been designed and built for desktop computers and laptops, with contemporary web-based mobile environments underpinned by connected devices such as tablets and smartphones. And although this is a challenge, it is also a huge opportunity.

Regarding edtech innovation, there is no “wrong thing,” because technology companies that participate in education are all part of this great team effort to improve the experience for students and teachers everywhere. Crowdsourcing and gamification, content aggregation, and a bevy of apps for students, tutors and parents all serve specific needs. However, more value can be realized in the near-term by focusing on optimizing existing technologies and programs that not only take advantage of mobility but more importantly extend the ROI of existing systems. Is it more important to keep coming up with novel educational tech concepts that teachers don’t necessarily need, or to get better at moving existing systems onto the right platforms?

This is one of the crossroads at which the industry currently stands. Moving forward, tech companies that are involved in the education space should place an equal amount of focus on adaptation as they do on innovation. And adapting desktop-based solutions to mobile devices is not necessarily only about creating mobile-friendly versions of apps and websites. Going deeper, it’s about making existing IT infrastructure and learning environments accessible and device-agnostic, extending the boundaries of the classroom for teachers, students, parents and administrators.

Furthermore, technology companies should be more aware of what schools are being asked to spend money on in the coming years. For example, school districts around the country are increasingly using grant money and public funding to focus on things like data center upgrades to support 1-to-1 and BYOD initiatives, state testing and assessment requirements for mobile and remote access for inclement weather days. Teachers can already do a lot of this – however, the difference now is that remote access must move away from just our home PCs and laptops, and into the browsers of tablets, smartphones and Chromebooks.

A lot of the innovation happening in edtech today continues to focus on new ways to learn and teach. But realistically, the focus should now move toward optimizing the complex IT infrastructures of K-12 school districts and their immediate needs. After all, with only so many months in the school year, the one resource that teachers and administrators cannot get back is time – and that’s what browser-based access provides. It’s all about making software easy to access, making it brutally easy for the end user – our teachers, administrators, students and parents – without requiring IT to install or manage anything at the endpoint. Utilizing HTML5 technology, which is supported by all popular browsers, access to Windows desktops and applications is easy and many K-12 schools are realizing the benefits.

There are a ton of statistics out there that demonstrate the recent groundbreaking rise of mobile devices in K-12 education. This isn’t about that.

My point is simply in regard to how schools and technology companies are going to take advantage of the intrinsic benefits that Chromebooks, tablets, smartphones and other connected devices offer when coupled with existing IT investments and merging them with new application paradigms. Beyond merging access to traditional Windows education software with newer web-based applications, I believe that providing better mobile access to complex software and networks is one of many keys that will help unlock the education technology puzzle.

Ilan Paretsky is VP of marketing for Ericom Software Inc., a leading global provider of application, access, virtualization and RDP acceleration solutions. The company works with a broad range of K-12 schools and in higher education to deliver browser-based access to Windows desktops and applications.

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