Digital Writing – Helping or Hurting?

As technology continues to advance, the way students use it to read and write continues to change. Students are adapting to various forms of technology in their schooling. It has been noticeable in many research articles that technology has influenced the way college and high school students are performing in the classroom. There are pros and cons to digital writing and the research shows them both. When it comes to digital writing, there are multiple perspectives that are addressed to try and discover if digital writing is beneficial for college students or if it hinders their overall learning experience.

The Bright Side:

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Digital writing has become a normal part of the education process for many schools. It can be hard to keep up with the ever changing technology, however most educational systems account for it. Assignments are often found and completed online with the multiple learning platforms. Within my own experience, I have continued to use technology for my courses throughout my time in school. Whether it be writing a paper or research, I am usually using a computer daily to complete assignments. This is common amongst students my age. Research calculates that 87% of teens say they have access to computers and laptops as well ass 91% say they use the internet daily (Dagostino 96). These numbers are not surprising to a college student like myself who is constantly online for homework, writing and research. Even the time I do not spend doing school work, I usually browse the internet for movies or to catch up with family and friends. There are several benefits to using technology for school purposes. One major factor would be the endless amount of information available online that can expand students knowledge on various topics.The endless online reading options can help enhance a students learning experience because it gives them the ability to obtain various amounts of information in a little amount of time. For most students, it does not take them long to search the internet if they have a question or need further research. The data online is so easy to find that it can be a useful tool for college students.

As students continue to adapt to the various ways of reading and writing, it is helpful to expose students to technology early on so they are able to keep up with the advancements in society. The use of technology also allows for frequent interaction between students and their community. For many who use technology, it is a way to stay connected by reading, writing, discussing and providing feedback for assignments. Along with this, using an online platform to connect students work will prompt them to improve their assignment standards. “Researchers suggests that when students know their writing is extended to a larger audience, they are more motivated to write and tend to do better work” (Pearman & Camp 29). This can be related to homework and essays that are submitted to an online platform. Students strive to impress their professor and classmates as well as push themselves to receive a good grade. If students are aware that their peers will read their responses, they are likely to work harder to ensure their submissions are of high quality. This can easily be seen with online writing as well. With online writing such as blog posts, people write differently when they know others will read their writing because they want others to enjoy the reading. Digital writing can be a beneficial aspect to the classroom as well as the real world if used to prompt positive and motivated work.

How Digital Writing Hinders Students:

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There is also the other side of using Digital Writing for school related purposes. While it is common to use a laptop or tablet during class, it is not always the best decision for the student in the long run. Research has shown the results of using technology to write down notes during class can hinder a students ability to retain information. Students don’t absorb as much information while taking down notes on laptops (Mueller 1159). This is because students only focus on writing down information as quickly as they can follow as oppose to listening, learning, and writing information down in words they will remember and understand. “Laptop note takers’ tendency to transcribe lectures verbatim rather than processing information and reframing it in their own words is detrimental to learning.” (Mueller 1162). The information that is written down is not retained because students are not trying to learn but rather are trying to write everything down so the information is not remembered later on. This hurts the students ability to absorb the information for long term use. It is important for students to stay engaged in the lesson rather than zoning out while typing notes.

When it comes to college students, it is nearly essential to use technology to read and write for courses. It is common to have a course assignment that can be found online or that must be typed through a computer. These are all forms of digital writing. Research has proven that students prefer to use a computer when performing for school work, even though they hold a closer retention rate when the information is written by hand. This is due to the thinking process that comes along with writing by hand. In an article published in International Journal of Engineering, three researches did various surveys to determine how digital writing and reading can affect students. In this survey, they focused mainly on the preferred methods of students in comparison to which methods tend to work the best. Students who use computers to read assignments for class tend to look for shorter passages as oppose to longer essay. This is because many students prefer to read longer passages on paper. “Students also like the physical nature of paper, it’s tacticle, pages can be turned and it’s easier to take it anywhere” (Szentgyorgtvolgyi 153).  The preference of paper reading also falls into pleasure reading. When reading for non-academic reasons, the students will use both digital and paper, however paper seems to be the more comfortable method as it “doesn’t fatigue the eyes” (Szentgyorgtvolgyi 153). It becomes difficult too students to stay engaged with online readers which is why they will either scan the long page or search for a shorter piece to avoid the long reading all together. The research shows that although students still prefer to use technology in order to complete a reading assignment, sometimes this is not always the most efficient method for long term learning.

Although digital writing has many pros and cons, it still remains a popular option compared to other writing options. People go to the internet to express themselves and to get their ideas across. It is up to the writer to decide which direction their writing will take. Whether it be the language of the piece or the multimodal elements, online writing is ever-changing. This is also evident in the constant interaction digital writing experiences. When writing is put online, it is available to large platforms of critics, commenters and other readers. “Growth is determined by the encouragement and critique of the community” (Rorabaugh 1).  This is what makes digital writing communal. It may not be intended for interaction, but if it is online it is always open to interpretation of other online readers. Online platforms make it easy to give feedback or write a response to digital writing pieces. It is important to keep the public availability of your work in mind after posting online because it is common for people to respond, both positively and negatively, to online work.

My Own Experience:

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When it comes to digital writing, I believe it can be beneficial to college students like myself. Reading and writing online is easier for students to stay connected. Posting assignments online is helpful when there are comment sections that my professors and classmates can utilize to give feedback to my work. Along with writing online, keeping classwork information online is helpful to students. Having an online platform that has the classwork, homework, syllabus and other resources is beneficial for me as a student. It makes it easy to quickly find a resource to assist me in my work and understanding of the course. I think digital writing is essential for this course as well as other courses available at Dickinson. Being a double major with English and Economics, a lot of my time is spent online. I use an online platform to complete economic take home assignments as well as type out various English papers and reflections. Although most of my take home work is done online, I find it easier to hand write notes in class. Even though my preferences may align with the research involving hand writing verses digital writing, I witness it is a personal decision for students. In classes that give you the option, there some people who use laptops during class for notes while other students use notebooks. Even if one is proven more effective than the other, some students may feel differently about their preferred study methods. Digital writing has been a crucial part to my learning experience here at Dickinson College. It is important to develop the skills of digital writing throughout years at school because it is a beneficial skill to have beyond college. The internet will be around long after graduation, so it is important to form a positive online presence and establish a sense of what kind of digital writer you are. Developing a blog is a good way to start digital writing. Whether it is for a course project like my own, personal use, or professional use, having a blog helps engage an audience to hear your ideas as well as develops a set of writing skills that could be helpful in the future.

Works Cited

Dagostino, Lorraine1 and Christine1 Casatelli. “Content Creation for a New Generation: A Guide for Digital Writing.” New England Reading Association Journal, vol. 52, no. 1, Jan. 2017, pp. 94-105. EBSCOhost, envoy.dickinson.edu/login?url=http://search.ebscohost.com/login.aspx?direct=true&db=eft&AN=123510083&site=eds-live&scope=site.

Mueller, Pam A. Oppenheimer, Daniel M. “The Pen Is Mightier Than the Keyboard: Advantages of Longhand Over Laptop Note Taking “ Psychological Science, vol 25, issue 6, Published April 23, 2014 pp. 1159 – 1168. https://doi.org/10.1177/0956797614524581

Pearman, Cathy J.1 and Deanne1 Camp. “Digital Writing: The Future of Writing Is Now.” Journal of Reading Education, vol. 39, no. 3, Spring/Summer2014, pp. 29-32. EBSCOhost,   envoy.dickinson.edu/login?url=http://search.ebscohost.com/login.aspx?direct=true&db=eft&AN=114270918&site=eds-live&scope=site

Rorabaugh, Pete. “Organic Writing and Digital Media: Seeds and Organs.” Digital Pedagogy Lab, June 21, 2012. http://www.digitalpedagogylab.com/hybridped/organic-writing-and-digital-media-seeds-and-organs/

SZENTGYÖRGYVÖLGYI, Rozália, et al. “Comparative Quantitative Analysis of Writing and Reading Habits on Paper and Digital.” Annals of the Faculty of Engineering Hunedoara – International Journal of Engineering, vol. 15, no. 3, Aug. 2017, pp. 147-154. EBSCOhost, envoy.dickinson.edu/login?url=http://search.ebscohost.com/login.aspx?direct=true&db=a9h&AN=125345662&site=eds-live&scope=site.