I love design. Early in my career, my first NCTE actually, I stumbled upon a museum exhibit celebrating the work of Stephen Heller. I picked up his book Design Literacy.

It helped change the way I think about how we #teachtheweb. Since that moment I have considered how opening up the tools of design to the masses will alter the way we read and write the web. Colors, fonts, white space. These all affect meaning as much as copy.

So I was excited for today’s Web Literacy Map Call. We were going to discuss and try to resolve separating design and accessibility and combining infrastructure and and web mechanics

I am not qualified to speak on the latter (Nor am I on design but I was most excited about this). Especially after reading what Jess Klein posted about the Mozilla’s Design Team’s Dino Dribble. Design Matters. Accessibility matters. Lets flesh them both out.

Then came infrastructure and web mechanics. They got tangled in the nets of last weeks vote to not change the grid layout of the Web Literacy Map.

We were letting design determine what Ian called our nomological net rather than letting what we are trying to capture determine our design.

The Tale of Two Questions

The vote of 1/29

It isn’t that we don’t need to attend to web mechanics and infrastructure. I think logically we can determine where these competencies fit (s0meone just tell me what a web stack is please). It was the rationale behind the move that I question. You see on the map if design and accessibility are separated under building then the balance of the the grid would be upset. Building would have six competencies and exploring and connecting would have five.


so…If infrastucture and web mechanics were combined and housed under exploring then balance would be restored. Three strands and five competencies a strand. Except this is web ltieracies not Feng shui.

I am not saying web mechancis and infrastructure do not belong together. They probably do. They may even belong under the nomological umbrella of exploring, but lets determine this by logic not design.

The Vote of 1/22

I could not be on the actual call and the mopad at the same time. So I lurked. We were voting not to change the design of the Map in Version 1.5 (listen to the audio…fascinating stuff). I voted for this motion (in fact I times infinitied someone’s +1000 on this vote). I want to move logically and consider the strands, competencies, and skills of the Map.

That does not mean I will not be pushing for a redesign in Version 2.o. To me that would require a new version launch.

I did learn some shocking news during the 1.22 call . The Map exists, in all its grid like wonder, because it had to fit on a PowerPoint slide.

Really. We are going to let the constraints of PowerPoint determine something this important? That is thinking inside the box. I mean literally thinking inside the box.

We should let the fish we are trying to catch define the size of our net and not let the design of our nets determine  where we can cast.

In the long run I do not favor a grid like approach. The web moves too fast to fit in a box. Plus it makes us do silly things like try to force constructs together to protect the grid.

We need a modular approach to the Web Literacy Map. Something hackable and remixable on the fly. In response to the mobile MozFest challenge (about six months late) to re-envision the map.

I suggested this (some competencies came off):

I tried many shapes during the design challenge. Only the grid and the regular hexagon seemed to work. Every other shape lead to different surface areas for different competencies. Size would then be interpreted to determine meaning.

I am not saying I only want hexagons. I am saying is that this is  a more modular design that would not force us into making what maybe a good decision for the wrong reason.

Let’s Play What If

Plus now some what ifs. What if in Version 2.0 we stop thinking about a 2-D design altogether? Why can’t the Map be a light weight mobile  web app that played well on FirefoxOS?

There could be an official release. Maybe you click on a competency and the skills pop up as well related pathways to other strands. This could be a great way to combine Laura Hillinger’s Pathways Spreadsheet with the Web Literacy Map.

What  if the Web Literacy Map 2.0 worked like an etch-a sketch?

If you hit a button all the competencies and strands fell to the bottom. Then the user could drag and drop then back into place to fit their current #teachtheweb maker challenge. Since we are no longer using rectangles we would no longer be limited by the four cardinal points. Mentors could quickly map out their learning across the strands.

What if the strands and competencies were also printed as tokens localized to different languages?

Mentors could use them in remote areas with little Web access. They could be tactile. They could be magnets. The map could be even more fun.

What if the map and the badges had a unified design? That would be pretty sweet as well.


I am energized by the Web Literacy Map and the Mozilla crowd in general. The calls have become great exercises into mental explorations. Doug has done a great job spearheading this effort and capturing the values of the open web.

Now we are all starting to blog about our thinking beyond the one hour weekly calls.  The Discourse community is finally starting to pick up. Curriculum is being tested and developed.

It is an exciting time to #teachtheweb. I encourage everyone to join us. Everyone involved is proof that if you do not shut up even the most reasonabale people will start to take your silly ideas seriously.


Ken Mathews CC by-nc-sa. Kings Advance. Flickr

Busy day yesterday for webmakers and the #teachtheweb movement. We had our first call about the web literacy  map, The Connected Learning Alliance kicked off their #teachtheweb month, and Mark Surman released Mozilla’s three year plan on his blog.

While I will address all three soon I wanted to focus in on our community call.

Yesterday marked the first web literacy call of the New Year (notes are here). I am excited as the call dates no longer fall when I am teaching. As a participant I find working with so many people under such a time constraint invigorating.

Yesterday we had one major agenda item. Should the web literacy map be broken down into beginner, intermediate, and advanced? You can see in this visual history (unsanctioned bit of a fun make I did) of the web literacy map that we used to delineate based on a skill level.


We decided, after much discussion and an informal non-binding vote not build in different levels of the map. Skills and competencies exist on continuim and my “advanced” may be your “beginner”. For example I spent the better part of two days figuring out how to do use CSS to do <div> overlays so I could put one image on top of the other (Thank you to @fourtunfish for his help). For many people on the call, some of the best UX designers in the Mozilla Foundation <div> containters are very basic. For me it was advanced. For my students simply writing the code for a hyperlink is an advanced skill.

Skill levels are both a value judgement and context dependent. Skills are not. You either can or can’t. Though I disagree with my little green friend as everything I make takes a lot of trying.

The Web Literacy Map provides educators and makers with a guide for reading, writing, and participating on the open web. It is descriptive rather than proscriptive. I believe assigning skills levels would make it proscriptive. So what to do?

This is where we left it and will pick up next week.

  • There was talk of using a skill level tree
  • Laura Hillinger’s Learning Pathways tool was suggested as a template
  • There was talk of tagging curriculum, resources, and makes based on skill level.
  • We discussed how many competencies in the map consist of dozens of skills.

The whole call reminded me a alot of skills and strategies debate in reading. Paris et al wrote about a skill being autmoatic and a strategy being a deliberate action involving goal setting. So fluency is a skill fro many 3rd graders but may require many decoding strategies for a six year old.

Same holds true with web literacy. I can fluently type the html code for a hyperlink. My students can not. They need strategies and resources to help. I can not fluently write CSS. Those who have been helping me (h/t to @fourtunfish and @toolness) probably dream in CSS.

So what we need to do is build a collection of curriculum, resources, and most importantly connections. These materials can then be tagged by very specific learning goals.




Sorry to open with a tired trope, but I want to date myself. Good change does not have to happen quickly, and in fact it rarely does.

Web Literacy Map v1.2, v1.5, or v2.0?

We spent the  call discussing how far and how fast to change the map

The options we discussed were:

v1.2add links to Mozilla Manifesto where appropriate

v1.5as v1.2 + make changes to some competencies after 2015 discussions

v2.0as v1.5 + act on feedback from LRA conference + explore other ways of representing the map

Much of this debate focused on the Protecting strand rejoining the Map. This strand was deprecated in late 2012 and early 2013. The Snowden era changed all of this. There is a general sense amongst the Mozillians working on the Web Literacy Map that we have to highlight this explicitly.

The Protecting Strand

I am currently leaning against adding the protecting strand. To me it is a core value that cuts across the Web Literacy Map. That is why the map defers from past frameworks used to explore our transition from print to pixel. These efforts sought to Understand the web. The Web Literacy Map seeks to Build and Protect the web. This can only be done through efforts to #teachtheweb and the benefits of open.

I think we do need to write some supporting documents abut the values of the Web Literacy Map and the design principles of how to #teachtheweb. We are trying to create a dynamic model within the affordances of texts and images and we lose some meaning along the way. We have been getting some pushback about how we are focused solely on a skills (which many interpet as a deficit) model of literacy.

The Ever Forking Framework

I also believe the Version 1.1 has not been in the Wild long enough for us to garner feedback. Furthermore changing the Map while many are implementing it for the first time can cause a drop in active user conversion.

Someone in the call mentioned this could be handled by having different clubs, groups, and versions aligned to different version of the Map. If we want to be the Android of education I am okay with that. We can have multiple legacy versions flying around and very few webmakers using the latest version.

In fact you already see this within the webmaker community. When you read a summary of changes to Version 1.1 of the map it is noted that no decision has been made on renaming the strands reading, writing, and participating. Though I support this change I did not know it had been made. Yet when you read discussion boards about the upcoming webmaker clubs we consistently refer to the strands of reading, writing, and participating.



This is why I also favor a 1.5 release versus a full blown 2.0 release. Altering the Web Literacy Map and trying to develop curriculum at the same time makes no sense from an instructional design point of view. It was brought up on the MoPad from the call that these two efforts do not influence each other but that is almost impossible. If a club is how we are going to #teachtheweb and there are badges connected to competencies and learning pathways that connect back to the Map then changes to the Map affect the clubs.

We have some feedback from the community on how the map needs to evolve. Lets make these changes now so they can be baked into the learning pathways used by the badging community and the #teachtheweb community. Then later, possibly Q3/Q4 of this year, we can use feedback from the A/B club testing to inform the full Web Literacy Map 2.0 development.

Changes I would like to see made in Web Literacy Map 1.5

  • Lets rename the whole project Open Web Literacies Map-Focusing on open strengthens the connections to the Mozilla Manifesto. It also allows us to address those who believe web literacy involves simply WYSIWYG publishing in content silos. Finally we must recognize the muliliteracies by moving to a plural.
  • Lets attend to aesthetic design-We need to get to the affordances of images and video to support meaning. We need more competencies in the writing-building strand. This may mean we have more competencies or skills in one strand and not the other. That is okay. Lets not let a love for symmetrical design impeded our work.
  • We need to add some more criticality to the credibility strand-We can talk about consumerism, ownership, and data a little bit here in terms of understanding how power shapes “truth.”

Disagree with me-PLEASE

I am so happy my schedule will allow me to attend the calls this upcoming semester. I love this project. Whether you agree or disagree with me I hope you choose to get involved. The entire development of the Web Literacy Map is community based and done in the open. Join a community call. Reach out on twitter with the #teachtheweb hashtag, join the Google+ group, join us at discourse.webmakers.org or become a mentor and try out the map in your neck of the world.

We get the web we build. Will you help?


The Literacy Research Association annual conference presents young scholars such as myself an opportunity to grow our thinking. You can challenge scholars, sit down with literary heroes and examine trends in the fields. It is home.

Each year the new president, who planned the program gets to host an integrative research review. The session, one of the most important o closes out the conference.

This year LRA focused in on  A Conversation about the Contributions of Content Knowledge and Strategic Processing to Reading Comprehension and it was hosted by Anne Marie Palinscar.

The panel included many of my heroes in literary research. First there was Palinscar, who helped to reshape the world of comprehension instruction with the work of Reciprocal Teaching. Anne Marie provided a wonderful literature review of comprehension strategy instruction.  Then Maureen Auckerman reminded us of how strategy instruction is transactional and reviewed the research on transactional strategy instruction. Rachel Brown described the current backlash against strategy instruction. Koider Mokthari, reminded us that background knowledge is just as, if not more important as a mediator during strategy instruction. Finally Shelia Valencia noted that what counts as comprehension is culturally defined.

Slide from Rachel Brown’s presentation


Why this Mattered to Me

Beyond the already stated that the four people on the stage have greatly influences my thinking as a literacy educator this session mattered because I can trace my academic lineage to the ideas of Reciprocal Teaching.

My doctoral work was completed under the guidance of Don Leu at the New Literacies Research Lab. I served as a part of a team who worked with a great cohort from Clemson under Dave Reinking. Together we developed and tested an instructional model of Internet Reciprocal Teaching that built off the early efforts in strategy instruction.  As a 6th grade teacher I often used reciprocal teaching in my classroom.

Background Knowledge Matters

I have also been thinking about strategy instruction in terms of the caveats shared by the presenters. Background knowledge does matter. Knowing more is always better than knowing less and when you read a text when you are familiar with you do better.

Culture Matters

Comprehension is also culturally defined. Knowing more isn’t just declarative knowledge. It is knowing the specialized language of discourse communities. Take Football for example. I enjoy American football and stay well read so I can be the smartest loser in my Fantasy league. My son is into the other soccer. For some reason he has fallen for Liverpool and wants to read up on games. I have tried to translate the articles from British but I struggle. I do not know the language of soccer fans nor do I speak British. Reading an article about a sport from another culture can be anyone’s Waterloo text.

This is true not is sports but in education as well. When Valencia was thinking I could not be helped to think back to David Kirklands work in A Search Past Silence where he documents the meaning making practices of black males. These practices are rarely recognized in school.

We live different literacies every day.

Strategy Instruction Under Attack

I also recognize strategy instruction is under attack. It was deliberately left out of the CCSS. Furthermore Dan Willingham,  just published a piece questioning the efficacy of strategy instruction. I have yet to read the article but Willingham, while brilliant and approachable, is the fertilizer for the well written astro-turf of conservative edreformers bent on privatizing urban education. So the issue matters.

Strategy instruction is also not without issues. Rosenshine and Meister (1994)  completed an in-depth meta-analysis and found effects sizes varying from .32 (using standardized tests) to .82 (using research created tests). Palinscar and Brown (1984) even noted the lack of transfer of these skills. I belive the wide variance in effect sizes is due to the small and meaningful bump strategy instruction has for our neediest readers, but for proficient readers we maybe wasting their time.

While the metaphor of mind as computer is not new I do not steal it from socio-cognitivists. I poach here more in line with the hacking and making communities that the educational psychologists. After all today’s Self-programmamble readers find themselves situated in contexts that constantly collapse across online and offline spaces and networked and unnetworked audiences (boyd, 2012).


Defining Self-Programmable Reading

The etyomology of self-programmable reader traces back to my dissertation. I tried to name a phenomenon building off a term I stole from Jenna McWilliams, “reading with mouse in hand.” As we moved to trackpads I remixed the term as “reading with cursor control.” I was trying to capture the comprehension monitoring and navigational skills I noticed in the most skilled online readers.

Rand Spiro challenged this construct during my dissertation defense. I had to go back and rename the construct, which of course meant reexamining my data to see if in the act of naming I messed up the “fit” on my evidence. I settled on strategic text assembly. This fit the comprehension monitoring I observed (speeding up and slowing down reading rate and more frequent scrolling) and my theoretical lens of cognitive flexibility theory.

Then came #ccourses (connected courses)  an online community started by giants in the field of #connectedlearning. The objectives of the course were to try out and encourage the values and principles of #connectedlearning into higher education. In order to build up background knowledge for one of the makes we were asked to read (Castellas et al…Fix this citation)

It was there I was introduced to the term self-programmable learner.

and a new type of personality, the values-rooted, flexible personality able to adapt to changing cultural models along the life cycle because of her/his ability to bend without breaking, to remain inner-directed while evolving with the surrounding society

Then we read a piece by Jon Udell on redefining education. Udell tells the story of a friend looking for an employee:

Another version of this same story comes from my friend and former BYTE colleague, Ray Cote, who runs his own software and consulting business. Over dinner a couple of weeks ago, Ray told me that he’s not looking for people who “know” one or another language or framework, but rather for those who can motivate themselves to rapidly acquire these and other contexts as needed.

These ideas  morphed  for me at #LRA14. I think we need strategic reading 2.0. It isn’t a set of practices good readers do in their head but the flexibility to make meaning in ever shifting contexts. A self-programmable reader can acquire and remix knowledge while traversing socially complex texts.

Self-Programmable Reading versus Strategic Reading

Self-Programmable Reading foregrounds knowledge building

While transactional strategy instruction accounted for the importance of background knowledge, in practice these strategies (deliberate goal setting actions) are often still taught out of context or with role sheets. The strategy and not the knowledge is brought to the foreground.

Background knowledge does matter. This is one of the the most stable findings in the history of reading research, but this maybe shifting. While those who know more about a topic will always comprehend more of a text a self-programmable reader maybe able to account for a lack of background knowledge. They can recognize holes in their knowledge and then know the right questions to ask and where to go to ask these questions.

Self-Programmable Reading is Production based

I am not the first, by any means, that comprehension needs to be production based. Peter Smagorinsky and Kristine Gutierrez have influenced my thinking here for a long time. More recently #connectedlearning and the focus on production centered learning has influenced my thinking of meaning making.

I agree with Doug Fisher and Nancy Frey that text based talk and text based discussion are at the center of reading comprhenension. When you make reading a production based activities these two elements get intertwined. When students get involved in makes they have to discuss and analyze the text they read.

Self-Programmable Reading is Collaborative

If you are not familiar with the recent work of Jill Castek, Carita Killi, and Julie Coiro I implore you to seek it out. They have been investigating online internet inquiry activities in small groups and comparing this to individual readers. Suprise, surprise collaboration improves comprehension. This of course goes back to the original ideas of reciprocal teaching.

Collaboration though isn’t just about learning gains it is essential in digital spaces. Meaning making is not a singualr act. We do not mean strategy instruction. It is not about novice reader internalizing what good readers do. Instead it is more about strategy exchange. Self-programable readers use strategies like tools and fork them to meet their needs and the specific context in which they are reading.

It is Strategy Exchange Not Strategy Instruction

Self-Programmable Reading Agency and  Identity work

Agency matters in education and we do identity work when we read, write, and participate in the web. These values must be central for self-programmable readers to develop in their classroom. All the talk about lexile levels and text complexity in the #CCSS ignores this fact. The #CCSS only mention motivation once. To ignore motivation in reading is to ignore the sun in farming.

The debate around leveled texts is the same as well. Choice matters. Reading, writing, and participating give us the chance to try on multiple versions of “me.”…to be continued..and maybe actually edited someday.


Moving to Web Literacy Map 2.0

I have been following  and contributing to the work of Doug Belshaw and the #teachtheweb project to develop a web literacy map. The project, supported by the Mozilla Foundation, is currently revising version 1.0 to launch 2.0 A discussion has emerged  around naming the strands of web literacy.

In the first version of the web literacy map the competencies were organized under three strands: exploring, building, and collaborating. One of the first questions Doug asks when soliciting feedback is, “Should we use reading. writing, and participating?”

There seems to be general agreement around moving from collaborating to participating. The community is split on moving  from exploring to reading and building to writing. The majority favor sticking with exploring and building.

I support the latter approach. The web is a literacy issue.

What is web literacy?

We spend time debating what is web literacy, but I have been pondering if we need to first get at what do we mean by literacy?

The word “literacy” is   a poor substitute for knowledge. At a recent session at Literacy Research Association a paper was presented showing literacy being modified by 52 separate nouns acting as adjectives. The crowd favorite was vegetable literacy.

When we discuss literacy we must mean the act of encoding and decoding meaning on the world. At its core the web is simply a lot of texts linked together. If you lift up the hood and recognize and can decode the structure you can read web pages.

So it isn’t exploring and building it is reading and writing. As Belshaw noted in a blogpost 1/14)

Literacy, on the other hand, is reasonably well-defined as the skills and competencies required to read, write and participate effectively online.

Supporters of sticking with exploring and  building note  that the web is different. They also note that many other attempts at standards drew from media literacy or informational literacy . Once again  they note the web is different.

The detractors are right. The web is different. No tool for literacy has spread with such scope and speed. The web simultaneously  relies upon  and adds additional complexities and affordances to our existing sign systems. The web isn’t an informational literacy issue. The web isn’t a media literacy issue. The web is a literacy issue. Thus I define it as:

Web literacy is the participatory act of encoding and decoding meaning in networked spaces.

Defining web literacy as exploring and building casts the issue more as a tech issue. We need to see it as text and tool issue.

Defining Texts

Texts are now boundless. They are built and published in real time as we select the links to  follow. They are also written by the folks who publish the posts, websites, or updates.

It may in fact be better to adopt a semiotic viewpoint. Where we  speak not so much in  in terms as texts and writing but more in modes and sign making. -Modes are resources for making meaning. These can include images, writing, peaking, etc.  Each of these modes just like tools they can have  affordances.

Defining Tools

Throughout history of meaning making we often  discussed the affordances of the modes. We never thought about literacy as both a text and tool issue. Yes the pencil and voice both brought different affordances. They did different work, but the tool did not shape the message as much as it does today. We spent our literary history analyzing the mode.

Yet literacy tools today are unique. The web is different. New tools emerge every day and these new tools for meaning making, co-exist. They do not make older less efficient tools obsolete. Furthermore sign making occurs with a variety of modes and tools that cut across different social spaces. Transmedia is not possible without tool switching.

We must consider the web not as a tech issue but as text and tool issue. A literacy issue. A reading, writing, participating issue.  Both the text and the tools now help to constrain the meaning and affordances of web based text.

The web as a literacy issue

Defining web literacy using reading and writing makes the most sense because it accounts for the underlying structure of the web while recognizing the web has fundamentally shifted the meaning making process. HTML and CSS are symbol systems used by sign makers to constrain meaning based on available affordances just the same as a phonetic alphabet.

When we use the web we are reading and writing. This participatory act now just cuts across the texts, tools, and modes available. These three bring affordances to  meaning making, and the way we use text, tools, and modes are constantly shifting. Yet they are all united by the fact that someone has to encode and decode the meaning. We are reading and writing

I do not think the web has changed our brains or the ways in which we learn to write. The brain has evolved over millions of years and the web has evolved over decades.  What has changed are the social practices and discourses that are favored in network economies.

Defining Discourses

I do recognize that the web is different and there are very unique competencies required for higher level existence. This made me wonder if maybe we need a fourth element. Maybe the map should consider keeping building.

I would delineate building for writing when you are coding more for infrastructure rather than for meaning. I know I started off by saying we can no longer separate the tool and the text with web literacy. I can see how even the most complicated of code is simply a set of verbs asking to either give or get something. Yet when you look at the web literacy map something different happens as the competencies grow. You move from using the web for reading ad writing to making a web for reading and writing.

Basically I think we start to get more into the Discourses of the larger web community of tinkerers, hackers, and makers. There is a higher level of web literacy among this crowd. These are the people who can understand GitHub, who will draw virtual blades during markdown debates, and use specialized vocabulary (client-side and server-side scripting) and strange lingo (like Grok).

In the literacy we community we call this the disciplinary literacies. I wonder is this the same in web literacy. Do you reach a specific level of specialized knowledge, and ways of talking that signify membership in very specific groups? Is there a clear distinction in the general competencies the public needs to know and the more specialized discourses of the field?

Concluding Thoughts

  • After sitting on this draft I am questioning my premise. Do we need new metaphors for web literacy?
  • Should a new strand be added so it is now reading on the web, writing for the web, participating in the web, AND building the web?
  • I can understand building as a metaphor for writing but exploring as a metaphor for reading just does not sit well.
  • Where do traditional literacy skills (phonics, vocabulary, comprehension) collide with web literacy? Have we reached a critical point where this is a false dichotomy?
I herby issue the following webmaker challenge:  Can you make a gif, infographic, comic, stick figure animation,  or any silly cat meme about how to do a burpee?

I am helping my family start a fundraising campaign for my 8 month year old nephew who has a rare neurological disease leukodystrophy.

They have created an idea around . An exercise challenge. Obviously we want the idea to go global. 


We really need quick spreadable content—margarine like stuff to clog the arteries of the Interwebs.

 Can you make a gif,  stick figure animation on how to do a burpee?,Or as added challenge an infographic, comic strip, or silly cate or any silly cat meme about hating burpees but doing them for those you love?

How to complete the challenge:

  1. Create cool content.
  2. Share cool content.

Just include the hashtag #BurpeesForBobby and I  ( and hopefully an ever growing audience) will find your work.

Update: I submitted my badge application and recieved feedback from Doug.

This “just for fun” badge actually documents the successful work flow of a badge. Doug created the badge, explained the competencies being addressed, described the evidence needed. I then submitted my material. Doug reviewed it and left me this feedback:



I then went back and revised my original post. If you want to track my edits look at my source code I left the old version in html comment form.

Doug Belshaw issued a challenge. As part of the Mozilla Web Literacy Map roll out he encouraged folks to submit artifacts that would demonstrate competencies on three areas of the map,

Screen Shot 2014-04-25 at 13.57.10


I am submitting my badge under the working title of Wisdom, Virtue, Sincerity, Valor, and Austerity in Online Spaces.



  • Accessing the web using the common features of web browsers– I try to teach students how to to explore the web by creating and remixing videos and think alouds of online data: I created videos of students reading online that I allow others to use
  • Using hyperlinks to access a range of resources on the web- I try to find and share links to open education resources such as this one. I was looking for OER sources on the web, and put out a call on Twitter. This link came back to me.
  • Reading, evaluating, and manipulating URLs I wrote a dissertation on differences in searching and evaluating online sources.
  • Recognizing the visual cues in everyday web services- I make online minilessons to teach students how to search the internet and research ways to teach credibility.


  • Using keywords, search operators, and keyboard shortcuts to make web searches more efficient –My  dissertation research focused on improving search results.
  • Finding real-time or time-sensitive information using a range of search techniques- I write about the need to teach and read socially complex texts.


  • Researching authorship and ownership of websites and their content- I create online materials to teach students to focus on authorship.


  • I use my brain as my virus and phishing detector.


Composing for the web

  • Inserting hyperlinks into a web page-  This post
  • Embedding multimedia content into a web page-I can embed multimedia into posts.
  • Creating web resources in ways appropriate to the medium/genre- I write in a variety of places using the norms of thos sites such as Medium.
  • Identifying and using HTML tags- I used the comment tags so people could track the revision history on this post.


  • Identifying and using openly-licensed work- The image I remixed for the header on this post used two openly licensed images.
  • Combining multimedia resources and Creating something new on the web using existing resources- I make remixes using popcorn.

Design and Accessibility

  • Iterating on a design after feedback from a target audience– I got feedback from Doug and then revised this post. This website is the rough draft of my life
  • Improving the accessibility of a web page by modifying its color scheme and markup- I try hard to choose color schemes that allow those with red/green color blindness to differentiate.
  • Demonstrating the difference between inline, embedded and external CSS- I spent this semester trying to use Thimble to teach myself CSS. I have created my first page that no longer uses HTML tables but relies on CSS containers. The actual page isn’t live yet (Department website but containers work

Coding and Scripting

  • Composing working loops and arrays and Using a script framework- I dabbled in javascript when creating a simulated web environment. I do not know java but if I can stare at code long enough I see patterns, kind of like poetry, and can then edit the code. I made changes to the timing and feedback loops.



  • Tracking changes made to co-created web resources– This is the first collaborative story I wrote in Gdocs with my 6th graders.
  • Co-creating web resources- Ian and I edit the digital texts and tools page. Please join us and add your stuff.
  • Configuring notifications to keep up to date with community spaces and interactions– Much to my wife’s chagrin as things chirp and beep all day long.
  • Using synchronous and asynchronous tools to communicate with web communities, networks and groups– I use asychnronous and synchronous chat in my teaching.


  • Encouraging participation in web communities– I encourage folks to be digital residences.

Community Participation

  • Using constructive criticism in a group or community setting -I use online communities on Google+ for Feedback.
  • Defining different terminology used within online communities- I use the discourse of specific affinity spaces and use these spaces for learning.


  • Identifying rights retained and removed through user agreements– I added the Creative Commons plug in to this site.


  • Distinguishing between open and closed licensing- I use only open lecensed images on this site.

As we live online we navigate a sea of myriad rivers merging. Those who use the web literacy map can guide multiple streams of information.

As educators we need to draw a map (of the territory such as the Web Literacy Map) using creativity and all means available to you. To [further] illustrate this point, when even the roads are unknown, enter the online spaces, and familiarize yourself with the languages and practices. Determine which areas have steep learning curves, which areas are wide open, and measure the width of roads to understanding.

Bansenshukai. Ninpo.com. 

Two percent. Just 2% of code separates us from our Chimpanzee brethren. Yet that small difference has lead to humanities’ migration, the rise and fall of civilizations, and the creation of vast works of art.

Small differences matter.

Much like our genetic code online reading and traditional reading share many similarities. The differences, however, create a layer of complexity that mirror the vast chasm found in the cognitive abilities of chimpanzees and humans. Yes those students who have the prerequisite social practices to succeed in traditional academic reading tasks do outperform peers in online reading environments. Yet these shared cognitive skills and social practices do not explain all the differences in performance when we measure online reading comprehension.

via Pixabay

New and more complex skills and practices are required to read in online environments. This 2% (an analogy not actual data) represents the set of skills and practice that allow some learners to take online texts and reshape the meaning for future learning.

Michio Kaku in his book The Future of the Mind describes the difference between primate and human consciousness in terms of simulating the future. Kaku wrote (2014, chapter 7, 24:26):

Human consciousness involves the ability to create a model of the world and then simulate the model of the world in order to obtain a goal.

For Kaku intelligence should be a mark of how divergent thinking allows some to create more complex models and more frequent simulations of the future.

I see many parallels with definitions of online reading comprehension. When reading online more successful students do not simply assimilate information as traditional definitions comprehension would have us believe. Skilled online readers “manipulate and mold information to achieve a higher goal” (Kaku, 2014, chapter 7, 24:26). Based on my dissertation research and classroom observations I see three critical shifts: strategic text assembly, socially complex texts, and multimodal design.

Strategic Text Assembly

For the brief amount of time that book reigned in human history the reader did not have to build her own texts. An editor, publisher or author had the power of creating and shaping the texts we read. No more. Skilled online readers engage in strategic text assembly which I define as the ability to read for meaning while flexibly applying both navigation strategies and comprehension monitoring strategies.

Navigational Strategies

In my research navigational skills was a key difference between successful online readers and those who could not accomplish an inquiry task. The students who could manage multiple tabs, navigate search engines, and move between multiple sources did better. These are the easily quantifiable and teachable differences as we shift to reading online.

Comprehension Monitoring

Comprehension monitoring, or checking your own levels of understanding has always been recognized as an important skill for meaning making. Here online reading and traditional comprehension share much of the same DNA. Students who succeed in online environments skimmed more websites and spent more time engaged with sources when they judged them to be relevant.

I also noticed an intersection of background knowledge and working memory.A lack of background knolwedge did not phase skilled readers. This I documented in my work as very few students knew much about the domain of my inquiry tasks (American Revolution). I also noticed but did not have the data to fully support the thesis in my dissertation, that these skilled readers seemed to have a more robust working memory. They seemed to hold more information in their working memories that they could later mold into new meanings. They could quickly use the information they read and check it against their understanding of texts they visit in three or four clicks.

Socially Complex Texts

A believe the participatory nature of online texts requires a fundamental shift in how we define texts. Socially complex texts, concurrent arguments that unfold in print and social media with varying degrees of authority and amplification, now dominate our online reading environments. Basically socially complex texts are authored by opposing forces discussing an issue with equal passion and often mutual disdain. This requires a new set of reading skills to detect bait-clicking, astro turfing, and real grass root efforts. Accomplishing these goals requires readers to put a much larger emphasis on not only sourcing skills but also analytics.

Sourcing Skills

In my work, and in the research of those much smarter, we have established adolescent and adult readers do not attend to sources. I found very little evidence of readers evaluating websites. I asked students to identify authors, evaluate an author’s expertise, evaluate a publisher, evaluate bias, and evaluate sources within a source. Few students could identify an author let alone evaluate other markers of credibility.

We must teach students greater sourcing skills. We need them to engage in multiple source readings. More importantly we cannot decontextualize sourcing skills. A checklist approach, or a third step in some inquiry cycle will not work. Credibility judgements interweave through out the meaning making process and change based on the reading of tasks.


I have argued that analytics is the most important literacy skill that no one is teaching. At least not in the field of literacy. Definitely not at the K-12 level. Analytics involves so much more than click counting. By examining how an idea travels, the frequency of times readers and authors mention an idea, and tracing it back to its source all require analytics. These skills are even more critical when we begin to think about writing in multimodal spaces.

Multimodal Design

Design matters. Readers must understand how multimodal choices affect the meaning process. As part of our Teaching Internet Comprehension to Adolescents grant I worked with a seventh grade urban classroom in the Northeast. We discussed how design affects meaning making. We looked at three websites about Mumia Abu-Jamal, a Philadelphia man who contests his death row conviction of killing a police officer. The first text used an informational text structure and tried to inform the audience. The second two, one from Abu-Jamal supporters and one published by the police union took argumentative stances. We discussed and examined how the font and color choices impacted meaning and tone.

I can teach students to write argumentative essays in online environments but I could never account for the impact of design using pencil and paper.


Small differences in code matters. I have not done a full analysis but if I examined the wizard behind most webpages I am sure the majority of text is copy. The HTML and CSS probably account for a smllaer percentage. Yet just as our intelligence and consciousness is contained in just 2% of our DNA code, this small amount of code has changed reading and writing forever.

It’s amazing how the smallest comments can have large impacts on ones life. I once spent hours coding and then just I simply quit. The year was 1987. I  stood as a scrawny 6th grader in fron of a class getting ready to demonstrate a progam I created in BASIC.


The computer I used was a few years old (1983-1984ish). I am not sure of the brand. My father got it has a hand me down from a neighbor.  We called it a PC compatible. It had two 5 1/2 inch floppy drives and you had to use a separate boot disk to start the computer.

When I moved to Pennsylvania from Texas I took to the computer and began to teach myself BASIC and DOS. I had these manuals you could use as self teaching guides. I was so proud of my program. I created this code that allowed the user to generate a number at random. A spaceship would then scroll up the screen based on the number you rolled.

I thought it would be great to show the program when we had to do a demonstration speech in 6th grade. My father dragged the computer up the stairs of East Ward Elementary school and I set it up. Lets just say I did not get the reaction from the audience I expected. Hours and hours of writing code were reduced to a thrity second demo.

Then a student ( who will remain anonymous) ask why I did not use a particular component in the computer or a different language. I remember not even knowing what he was asking about but for some reason I felt defeated. I assumed I would  never know or maybe never afford. Who knows, but on that day I gave up.

That was the last program I ever wrote.


Instead in middle school I discovered social computing. I would troll Prodigy and find interesting things. I got my hands on computer files that taught me how to make free pay phone calls, remove the scramblers on cable boxes for HBO, and other nefarious activities.

I did not take computer programming in Junior High or High School. You had to take computer science first before programming which would teach PASCAL. The pariah status I felt in 6th grade and the social pressures of middle school, combined with memories of reformatting spreadsheets kept me far far away.

Returning to Code

I began experimenting with HTML as a teacher when I needed to create my own websites. I realized the joy I remember having in searching for patterns on code. I could stare at the source code of pages and see poetry. There was alliteration in those lines.

Still I could do just enough to mess up websites.

Then as part of my PhD work at the New Literacies Lab I had to learn some basic XML. We were creatign a simulated internet and these ran on xml scripts. I didn’t do much more than changing timing, texts, and dimensions but I found it enjoyable.

Just recently, like last week, I took my first stab at moving from HTML to CSS. You just cannot use HTML tables anymore for the mobile web. I had to learn some CSS. I was able to name and make a few objects and even made them float.

Should I continue?

I have ideas. I want to see them come to. I just wonder if my time should be spent learning to code. I registered for #CS50 Havard’s MOOC for coding but haven’t gotten past week one.

I wonder if I should just be an idea guy. Should I instead look to work with programmers and instructional designers to develop my ideas?

I do see poetry in code, but poetry is hard.