The 21st Century: Redefining the Classroom and Community

Much anticipation and excitement surrounded finding out who my German exchange student was going to be. The German exchange program was organized by my high school, but I was first introduced to my exchange partner through Facebook. She lived in Baden-Württemberg in Germany and I live in New Jersey in the United States. Before we met in person, we got to know one another through sharing pictures and talking on Facebook. Even thought the exchange program is finished, we still keep in touch to this day through Facebook. The Internet makes physical distance obsolete. Although she lives across the Atlantic Ocean, we are able to stay in contact on a regular bases because of the Internet. Not only does Facebook allow me to keep connected with my exchange partner but also the community of people I met in Germany, such as her family and other students. This concept of accessing communities across the globe no longer just applies to social situations, but also to academics and business. The web has become a platform for individuals to share their work and get feedback from a global perspective. Therefore it is beneficial to learn about what web writing is and how to write in a concise matter for a global audience.

MySpace pioneered the idea of converting social interactions to the Internet but Facebook mastered it. From there, social media sites kept blooming and Twitter, tumblr, and many other sites were founded. These sites although all different in type and aim, all serve the same purpose: sharing ideas with others in a quick, engaging manner and connecting people to communities. These communities can be an online classroom, businesses, or people from across the globe with similar interests. Although social network sites were not founded for academic purposes, they are integrating themselves into the classroom structure. Professor Leigh Wright at Murray State University is using Twitter in the classroom to teach journalism students to be quick and concise in their writing through live-tweeting projects (14 Wright). In web writing, longer blog posts or articles are often glossed over. So a digital writer must be strategic in how much information he or she gives and how he or she presents it. Knowing how to effectively portray an idea within Twitter’s 140 characters limit trains a writer to keep his or her thoughts direct and clear.

Students at the University of South Caroline and the University of Georgia are also applying social networks in the classroom. These students are using Facebook to “improve nonprofit organizations’ public communications” (62 Dyrud). Most modern businesses have online aspects, which provide information and services to “prospective customers” (Kropf). Web writing for this platform needs to be clear and concise because a customer won’t spend much time sifting through information. Students that understanding and engaging in web writing, will be attractive to employers because they can contribute to the business’s online aspect, therefore gaining them more publicity and customers.
Also, social media and the Internet connects students with other students, teachers, or global communities, allowing them to ask questions, receive feedback,discuss topics, or work on projects if meeting in person is not possible. The Internet makes students and faculty more connected because social media encourages interaction on multiple levels. These multiple connections inspire “a new way of thinking about communication, collaboration, and group effort” (61 Dyrud). The web allows for communication at anytime with people from anywhere. This accessibility encourages connections to be made, which form communities and collaborations. Online communal collaborations are not bound by geographical boundaries because work can be shared through online peer review. Student blogging also offers an opportunity “for students to work together virtually in a loosely coordinated fashion”(Alterman). Because students do not need to be in the same place or same time zone to work together, people from different cultures bring new perspectives to enhance the work.

Web writing and online discussions can also help students from different cultures adjust to the new culture, which encourages domestic and foreign students to learn from one another. As an international student and teacher, Holly Oberle finds that non-native students “feel more comfortable communicating on “paper” rather than orally”. (22 Oberle) Online discussions are beneficial because they give foreign students more time to reflect on the topic. Also, because the discussion is recorded online, the “conversation [can] extend throughout the span of the semester” (Alterman). Online discussions then inspire the sharing of ideas and creating conversations from everyone, allowing the students to learn more about a global perspective.

Dickinson College understands and stresses the importance of a global perspective from a liberal arts education. President Roseman’s inaugural address described Dickinson’s goal as a liberal arts college to “prepare young people so they can successfully navigate the mid-21st century” (Roseman). The 21st century is unique in that advanced technology has become an integral part of individual’s lives, communal interactions, and global involvement. I feel the need to be prepared for these important technological aspects of the world today. A liberal arts education is an important place to learn about multiple disciplines and to create a global perspective. My liberal arts education at Dickinson will give me the confidence to approach new concepts or situations and say, “I have no idea how to do that, but I’ll figure it out” (Roseman). For me this concept of the unknown applies to technology. I have always struggled with navigating technology and with using technology to its full potential. So, I decided to face my struggle head on and take a technology-based class: Writing in and for the Digital Environments. This class is unique in its focus on web writing, which means learning to write concisely and for a larger audience. This skill is useful in the modern world because the Internet holds many opportunities for connections and promotions. Every college major and every business has online aspects, so engaging online is beneficial for those looking for information, those wanting to share information and even those applying for a job. This class teaches how to write for the web in a successful manner by keeping in mind the audience, tone, and length of the work. Also, this class fits into the Dickinson liberal arts mission because it crosses discipline boundaries by allowing the students blogs to
be unique in topic, from environmental issues to dance, and also by preparing students for the technological aspects of the 21st century.

As a college freshman, I’m still trying to figure out what major I am interest in and what major would best suit me. Regardless of what major I choose, I know this class will help contribute to the skills I will need for my major because web writing relates to every discipline. If I choose a major in humanities, such as English, then sharing my writing online will be useful in getting feedback and peer review. If I choose to major in Theater and Dance, then web writing will still have a use. I follow the New York City Ballet, the Pacific Northwest Ballet, the Australian Ballet, and Royal Ballet on YouTube and their web sites. The videos and information they post range from performances to ballerina’s profiles to behind the scenes. When I watch a video I feel like I’m connecting with the dance community by seeing insight into a professional dancers world. Dance blogs such as Dancing Branflakes offer the same opportunity to connect with people of similar interest who may be far away geographically. Although I am just an aspiring dancer and student at Dickinson College, this online access makes me feel like part of a larger dance community. This class made me realizes I can contribute to this dance community. I am no professional dancer or dance company, but I do have a unique perspective that I can contribute through my blog. By engaging in online communities through web writing and multi-modal aspects, I can expand my understanding of dance and my connections to dancers. Whatever major I decide, I know it will be beneficial to apply skills learned from this class, such as concise informative writing and considering a global audience. If I use my web writing skills learned from this class to share my ideas and who I am, I will be involved in communities and a networks of opportunities.

Work Cited

Alterman, Richard, and Johann Ari Larusson. “Participation and Common Knowledge in a Case Study of Student Blogging – Springer.” Participation and Common Knowledge in a Case Study of Student Blogging. Brandeis University, 01 June 2013. Web. 13 Oct. 2013. .
Dyrud, Marilyn A. “Posting, Tweeting, and Rejuvenating the Classroom.” Business Communication Quarterly (9 Jan. 2012): 61-63. Print.
Kropf, Dorothy C. “Connectivism: 21st Century’s New Learning Theory.” Eurodl RSS. Walden University, n.d. Web. 14 Oct. 2013. .
Roseman, Nancy A. “Inauguration Address.” Presidential Inauguration. Dickinson College, Carlisle. 28 Sept. 2013. Speech.
Web log post. Dancing Branflakes. N.p., n.d. Web. 13 Oct. 2013. .
“Web Writing: Why and How for Liberal Arts Teaching and Learning.” Web Writing Why and How for Liberal Arts Teaching and Learning. Michigan Publishing, n.d. Web. 13 Oct. 2013. .

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