According to a recent Pew Internet and American Life survey, 86 percent of teenagers believe that writing well is important. However, the teens do not view their writing as authentic. Yet, ironically, it is the writing in which they find the most pleasurable, that they do most eagerly and, arguably, that they do most successfully.
The “Digital” in Digital Writing
What distinguishes “digital” writing from traditional writing? Digital technologies facilitate “writing” in new ways. Computer applications and digital publishing spaces allow students to construct and weave multiple media (e.g., images, voice and other sounds, music, video, print, graphics), layered together across space and time to produce interactive, hyperlinked artifacts. The artifact can then be easily shared, and connected, with a global audience.
However, the use of technologies is only part of digital writing. Digital writing is not teaching writing with technology, but rather teaching writing in spaces that allow students to write with technologies. This involves a powerful pedagogical shift, and all powerful changes are cultural. Writing has been radically changed by the collaborative and conversational affordances of networked technologies. Technologies allow writers with access to an online network to become not only publishers and distributors of their writing,but collaborators and communicators. Therefore, audiences and writers are related to each other more interactively in time and space.
Digital writing is not only networked, but involves new modes and media. Writers can easily integrate the work of others into new meanings via new media and rescripting of existing media—text, image, sound, and video.The depth and breadth of this type of collaboration—both implicit (“borrowing” from others) and complicit (communities of writers)—may be one of the most significant impacts of technologies on the contexts and practices of writing (WIDE Media Network). This context presses up against larger issues of intellectual property, plagiarism, access, credibility of sources, and dissemination of information (DeVoss, 2001; DeVoss & Rosati, 2002).
Making “the Digital” Work for Teaching and Learning
In most classrooms, “writing” entails composing words on paper, prose in sentences and paragraphs. And from this perspective, technologies are incidental to writing, simply a means of producing, it but not actually part of the art or process of writing. Digital writing, in fact all writing, is more than style, syntax, coherence, and organization—meaning at the level of the sentence and the paragraph.
Embracing a digital writing environment involves a shift in pedagogy based on these principles:
Situated in contexts of rich affordances for writing. Affords basic infrastructural and semiotic wrtiting choices for students
Linked to a thoughtful, critical consciousness of technology. Facilitates a thoughtful, critical selection among tools for performing writing tasks and preparing compositions among many options
Anchored by multimodal approaches to writing. Juxatposing, scripting, and layering multiple media, including photographs, charts, video, images, audio, diagrams, hyperlinks, and more to create sophisticated messages
Source: WIDE Media Network
Digital writing means starting and sustaining discussions about approaches to integrating different technologies for different tasks and goals. Fostering a digital writing environment means students having the technology and skills they need to progress their writing at their immediate disposal. The list of technologies to help students in terms of production (process) and distribution (delivery) are numerous; however this blog’s sister site,TechyTeacher has categorized substantial process and delivery technologies.
Ready to Embrace the Digital Writing Perspective?
Try the WIDE Network’s “Do you take digital rhetoric seriously? ” quiz! Each of the examples is grounded in one of the canonical categories and includes one or more ancient rhetorical principle. Each also reflects a very common writing practice in the real world.