Learning Journeys to Build Web Literacy


Comic strips quickly engage, inform, and inspire us to start learning journeys. They’re also funny!

Last June, I blogged about how the partnership between two comic strip artists—Pearls before Swine cartoonist Stephen Pastis and Calvin and Hobbes cartoonist Bill Watterson—had role modeled collaborating effectively online. Critical success factors included their opening up to each other, trying new ways of working, and selecting the right communications tools.



Walt, Curtis' Dad

Walt, Curtis’ Dad

Last week, Curtis, an 11-year-old African-American boy featured in the comic strip Curtis by Ray Billingsley, assessed why his hair-pulling-out-in-frustration father could not connect to a network from his laptop. Curtis—the typical flippant adolescent—said that it was “Simple” and then rattled off six may-be reasons for his Dad’s inability to access the network. His Dad, a hard-working man with much to learn about computer technology, replied, “Thank you for simplifying that.”

We’ve all been there. Wanting help but dreading criticism because we will reveal a skill gap or becoming overwhelmed with too many solutions (read: choices on where and how to start first) especially if the tech guide has Curtis’s tact and we are short on time. How do we get started with our online learning when we can’t even access the internet? Short answer: we rely on others to show us how they would fix the problem.

Then once we can access the internet, what web literacies do we need to make use of the richness that is there 24/7?

We have some ideas at the Women’s Learning Studio (which I’ll come back to later) and the Mozilla Webmaker.org site has many more. In fact, Mozilla Foundation, the force behind the Webmaker website has been a major force in web tool creation and education since it started as a Netscape project in 1998. The Mozilla mission is “to promote openness, innovation & opportunity on the Web.” The open-source Firefox browser and its OS twin for smartphones among other innovations originated with and is updated by thousands of volunteers in Mozilla development communities and networks. Mozilla is a non-profit that walks the talk on wanting to provide “tools, learning resources and community networks [that] empower everyone to become citizens of the web.”

One of the many helpful tools to access and use the web that Mozilla has devised is a web literacy mind map. The skills and competencies below are what we need to know and be able to do to be full-fledged web citizens. Mozilla is concerned that the web stays in good hands—our hands—as we  live, work, and play around the globe.



The Mozilla Webmaker site provides an outline and white paper to explain these skill areas in more detail. One competency—credibility—listed in the first column on Exploring, is defined as Critically evaluating information found on the web. It includes the following skills.

  • Making judgments based on technical and design characteristics to assess the credibility of information
  • Researching authorship and ownership of websites and their content
  • Comparing information from a number of sources to judge the trustworthiness of content
  • Discriminating between ‘original’ and derivative web content

Do you know how to do these things? If not, when might you take steps to strengthen your toolkit?

Mozilla offers free online learning events, discussion forums, communities and networks for people of all ages. Because they believe that our educators are in catch-up mode on these skills and competencies, they are reaching out to educators who have built-in learning constituencies who need to master web literacies, too. As a child of the sixties, I can say that Mozillians are the modern day equivalent of high-tech hippies who want the people to benefit from globe-connecting technologies. They amaze; furthermore, their work is vital to our futures as individuals and organizations.

For knowing how to access knowledgeable people and expertise when needed in our workflow is a critical skill to have. Clark Quinn’s new book, Revolutionize Learning and Development (co-published by ASTD and Wiley in 2014), posits that the “semantic web” or “Web 3.0 will be increasingly valuable for organizations, not only for their customer-facing experiences, but also for internally facing learning, development and performance needs. … Tags that describe the content …is a seemingly trivial extension, but the potential outcomes are significant. The ability to pull content by description” allows us to seek information on the run with our mobile devices and personalize our inquiries. Quinn: “We can customize what we bring for the right person, at the right time, in the right way, on the right device.” Further, “We have rich ways to provide support at the moment of need. The challenge is for us to take advantage of it.”

Lisa explained in her blog post on content curation last week that we at the Studio use Diigo, a free tool to bookmark and annotate resources (blogs, videos, photos, quotations, research studies, etc.) potentially important to our work. Each Diigoed item is tagged with keywords that we can use to find it again six days or six weeks later or until dementia overtakes us.  Lisa stressed that making Diigo the standard social bookmarking tool AND routine for everyone in a group is free and fairly easy to do. It also pays dividends over time as people share what they find with their peer community of practice. For instance, we have almost 1,200 items in our Diigo WLS library that in the spirit of open intellectual commons is accessible  to all because we have made it public.

Helping women and men catch up to the Web 3.0 potentials to connect with people and ideas to improve our work performance, increase our reach and impact, and make our lives more satisfying is the Studio’s raison d’etre. Becoming web-literate can start with a simple conversation. To that end, Lisa and I devised a one-page self-ranking instrument to enable workshop participants at the International Forum for Women in E-learning to assess their strengths and growth opportunities. It was intended to arouse curiosity and invite conversation. It worked. We encourage you to do this self-ranking (takes 3 minutes) and let us know what you find out about how equipped you are to work online effectively. We offer friendly learning opportunities (unlike Curtis!) such as our Learning Concierge services to help organizations and individuals catch up, gear up, skill up to reach Web 3.0 potential.

The Learning Journey of this Blog Post

As I wrote this blog post, I realized how many little web competencies are involved. For instance, I read Curtis in the comic strip in the newspaper.  After laughing, I thought about it for several days.  Then I found it online to show you via a link since I could not afford to purchase the comic strip for publication in this blog post.  I had to research the cost before making the decision to link to it and find alternate images I could use with attribution. A free webinar I attended a week ago prompted me to visit the Mozilla Webmaker.org site.  It caused me to think a lot more about web literacy and how we equip youth and adults to become web citizens or “netizens” (Howard Rheingold, Net Smart).  I reread Lisa’s blog post on content curation and how adopting one tool–Diigo–in a group can measurably enrich and expedite their learning. I created links, snagged, and edited photographs.  Finally, my thinking came together in this blog post.

How do you start? Ask: What would I like to learn how to do with the networks of people and ideas accessible via the internet and web? Then, forget the VCR with the blinking red light that many of us never mastered (look at what we can do now with streaming video, Roku, Netflix and multiple remotes!). Don’t feel overwhelmed again by smug youth or colleagues flaunting their superiority with computer technology, and the web. Choose open and helpful learning partners (like us!)  and close the gaps in our mastery of the web and connected devices. Onward and upward!

Photos of Curtis and Walt courtesy of Comics Kingdom 

Rocket launch photo courtesy of nemo at Pixabay


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