Developing Digital Fluency on/with the Open Web

This session will explore examples of the Open Web and how learning on/with the Open Web can support the development of critical digital competencies. The session will introduce how Domains of One’s Own initiatives such as Coventry University’s Coventry.Domains empower students and staff to own their online presence and build understanding of the technologies behind the web.

Digital is a catch-all term for communications media that is accessed by electronic devices. This session will focus largely on Web Literacy in relation to building Digital Fluency.

Digital Fluency

Digital Literacy means acquiring skills and competencies to read and create meaning and apply technical skills while doing so. Those who are digitally literate can follow instructions to complete a task for a defined purpose.

Digital Fluency is broader than knowing how to use specific software packages etc. and goes beyond a defined skill level. If you are fluent you can self-select from a range of tools and approaches to achieve the same outcome. If you are fluent you can navigate social and collaborative spaces effectively and confidently with other people.

Digital Fluency goes beyond being able to navigate a digitally enabled education system towards being able to build the procedural knowledge to work and live in a digital hyperconnected world.

Digital Fluency relates to issues of social responsibility, equity and access. We are at a moment in time where more and more services – health, civil, voting, education – are moving online. We need to ensure that citizens have the skills and knowledge to access these services and critically understand issues such as digital citizenship, data privacy and the political economies of the web.

Mozilla Web Literacy Framework

Image: Screenshot of Mozilla’s Web Literacy Framework at learning.mozilla.org/en-US/web-literacy/

Mapping the Internet

The Internet is a big intangible place. We use it almost every day and spend a lot of time there. But where is there? How big is it? What or where are the different places we go to on the Internet and how does it all link together

How do we navigate it in our heads to know where we are and where we are going?

Activity:

Draw a map of the Internet, as you see it. This can include how you experience the Internet as part of work and outside of work. Indicate your “home”.

This activity uses Kevin Kelly’s ‘The Internet Mapping Project’ openly licensed print-out resource. Read about the Internet Mapping Project here: kk.org/ct2/the-internet-mapping-project/

The Open Web

The phrase ‘Open Web‘ might be traced back to the original vision behind the creation of the World Wide Web (WWW), imagined by its creator Sir Tim Berners-Lee as “an open platform that would allow everyone, everywhere to share information, access opportunities, and collaborate across geographic and cultural boundaries.”

The Open Web is the concept, practices and infrastructures that ensure the Internet is a public global resource, open and accessible to all. This includes the ability to openly publish, code and access content and applications on the web.

Openness and the Open Web can be understood in a variety of ways depending on different educational, personal and global contexts.

Some people will focus on open technical standards and open source software when discussing the Open Web. Others will focus on issues of access and how we can enable equitable means for all people to read, write and participate on the web. Some will focus on the need for open content, and how this content is licensed, made, distributed and remixed.

Visualization of ten million relationship connections among Facebook users, 2017. Source: Facebook.
Example of proprietary space - visualization of ten million relationship connections among Facebook users, 2017. Source: Facebook.

The Internet Vs The Web

Ever wondered if the Internet and the World Wide Web are the same thing? The two terms “Internet” and “World Wide Web” are often used interchangeably, but they refer to two separate but related things.

The Internet is a massive network of networks, or a networking infrastructure. It connects millions of computers around the world together, creating a network which allows any computer to communicate to any other computer provided both are connected to the Internet. Information can be communicated via the Internet through a variety of languages known as protocols. Things such as email and instant messaging are built on top of the Internet but are not part of the Web.

The Web is just one of the ways of accessing information on the Internet. It is an information sharing model built on top of the Internet, and uses the HTTP protocol which is just one of the many languages used on the Internet. The Web uses browsers (e.g. Firefox, Internet Explorer or Google Chrome) to access web documents known as webpages that are hyperlinked together and can contain different media types such as images, text and video. The Web is a large portion of the Internet, but the two are not the same thing.

Coventry.Domains

Coventry.Domains is Coventry University’s Domain of One’s Own initiative that offers students and staff the opportunity to take more control over their online presence and to develop important digital competences. It provides students and staff with web-hosting space, a personalised sub-domain name and capacity-building opportunities, enabling them to build their own websites and experiment with a wide range of applications for web publishing, information management and other purposes. Coventry.Domains is led by the Disruptive Media Learning Lab (DMLL) and started as a pilot in 2016-17.

The phrase Domain of One’s Own and acronym DoOO were first used at the University of Mary Washington (Virginia, US) for a pilot project initiated back in 2012, in direct reference to Virginia Woolf’s essay A Room of One’s Own (1929):

“A woman must have money, and a room of her own, if she is to write fiction.”

“Faculty and students must have a domain and web hosting of their own if they are to truly understand and engage the deeper possibilities of the open web.” Jim Groom (2013)

“They can think about how these technologies shape the formation of their understanding of the world – how knowledge is formed and shared; how identity is formed and expressed. They can engage with that original purpose of the Web – sharing information and collaborating on knowledge-building endeavors – by doing meaningful work online, in the public, with other scholars. That they have a space of their own online, along with the support and the tools to think about what that can look like.” Audrey Watters (2017)

Benefits of Coventry.Domains:

  • Reclaim ownership and control of one’s digital foot print
  • Develop technical and critical web literacies
  • Create a digital online identity through online publishing

Example Institutions running Domains of One’s Own initiatives:

Domain Names and Web Hosting

a Domain Name (or IP address) is to Web Hosting what a Street Address is to a House.

Code.org have a really useful video explainer on the Domains Name System and IP addresses:

Coventry.Domains has the top-level domain “.domains”, rather than “.com” or “.org”.

Coventry.Domains users have the chance to pick a (sub)domain name of their choice under the main domain www.coventry.domains:

e.g. yourchosenname.coventry.domains

 

Your Online Home

Many people use the metaphor of a house in relation to building a website, to both understand a website’s relationship to its hosting and domain name and to understand the potential of this online home.

Thinking structurally:

A domain can house a single website, or it can house multiple sites. These multiple sites can be thought of as rooms in your online home. ‘Rooms’/sites can take the form of:

Subdomains, e.g. www.kitchen.youronlinehome.coventry.domains

or

Directories, e.g.www.youronlinehome.coventry.domains/attic

Thinking laterally:

The house metaphor can also be used as a prompt to think of what kind of house you want to build. What is its purpose? How big is it? What is in the house? How do you get in? Where is it situated conceptually?

Laurel Schwulst wrote an essay discussing how she uses this notion as a prompt to support creative students and artists to think of the potential and opportunities of building and maintaining your own website.

“My website is a shifting house next to a river of knowledge. What could yours be?”

Schwulst uses the metaphor of a room or a shelf to suggest a small, well defined space, whilst allowing for the possibility to curate content and play with spatial composition.

The metaphor of a plant or a garden to suggest the organic nature in which websites grow over time with nurturing and maintenance, and that they are live, living spaces.

She also explores the idea of a website “as thrown rock that’s now falling deep into the ocean” to explain the times when you don’t want a website that you have to maintain, and how that’s okay too:

“Thankfully, rocks are plentiful and you can do this over and over again, if you like. You can throw as many websites as you want into the ocean. When an idea comes, find a rock and throw it.”

With Coventry.Domains students and staff can choose how many websites they want to have, and whether or not they are temporary, how they link together, whether they are public or password protected etc.

Create Your Own Metaphor

Imagine you have a new web space. It is an empty plot of land on the web where you can create anything you want as a new website. What would you build there? Who would be invited in? What would you want to keep there?

Activity:

Draw a metaphor for a potential website you would want to create.  It can be as silly or serious as you like.

Example Student Websites

Postgraduate student studying MA Communication, Culture and Media: rosegeorgieva.coventry.domains

Undergraduate student studying BA English: hannahwykes.coventry.domains

Open Educational Practices and the Open Web

Image: Screenshot of perspectives.owlteh.org

OWLTEH (aka Open Web for Learning and Teaching Expertise Hub) is an initiative that aims to gather resources and examples of inspiring practice related to the Open Web and its use for educational purposes. It is the result of the generosity of educators and learners who want to share their knowledge and experience of the Open Web, enabling others to understand and take advantage of its potential for learning and teaching.

OWLTEH consists of different types of contributions organised around three collections:

Catalogue: Instances of the Open Web: applications, platforms, techologies, or concepts

Perspectives: A series of videos contributed by educators and learners who are actively engaged in using the Open Web within their practice.

Stories: A selection of accounts narrating how specific instances of the Open Web can be used for teaching and learning.

You can contribute by sharing your own experiences and knowledge. Step-by-step information on how to do so is available at each of the three sites liked above. Visit the main OWLTEH site here: owlteh.org