The world of technology and digital communication is developing rapidly. We have moved from telegraph to email, home phone lines to wireless communication, and floppy-disks to digital platforms where we can access virtually any information we want at any given moment in time. Laptops, iPhones, televisions, and iPads have become such a large part of our daily lives that I find it challenging to imagine a would without technology and development.
This constantly growing digital world has taken us out of our comfort zones and encouraged us to test out new forms of writing. Writing in digital environments gives us the ability to expand our audience, knowledge, ideas, and access to new information. People are now given the opportunity to share, collaborate, and learn from one another in an entirely public platform that will continue to evolve and take on new forms.
Rheigngold, author of Why You Need Digital Know-How — Why We All Need It, says “Those who understand the fundamentals of digital participation, online collaboration, informational creditability testing, and network awareness will be able to exert more control over their own fates than those who lack this lore.”
Simply put, these environments are a huge part of todays society and it is important to know and understand how to use them. “Academic inquiry takes place in a living, evolving, and interconnected world and, in order to be meaningful, it must engage with that world” (Hagood and Price).
Change is inevitable and we, as students, educators, readers, etc. must adapt to this in the case of digital writing and use it to our advantage—teach it, learn it, grow from it. Many classes have begun to use this new digital learning style and sway away from the traditional learning style. Why? Because the digital world is a powerful one where ideas are always evolving.
What is Digital Writing?
Digital writing can take all forms: tweeting, blogging, emailing, texting—the list goes on. Each form teaches something new and allows writers to delve into a world of new discovery.
Twitter, a form of microblogging, is a digital platform that pushes users to get a point across in 140-characters or less. Leigh Wright, author of Tweet Me A Story, says that when students are given tasks such as composing tweets for live events, this digital platform teaches them how to “write concisely, how to think quickly and how to take the social media conversation, weave it with their own narration and craft a social media story in a digital platform.” While in a traditional style class they would focus on constructing a paragraph long description of who, what, where, when, and why, platforms such as these urge students to compress all the information needed into a small, 140-character message. Platforms such as this provide students with the “tools to develop their voice, tone, and unique writing style” (Wright).
Blogging is another popular and influential digital platform. Unlike your typical 5-paragraph essay or formal lab report, blog writing can take on any form, voice, or content you wish without being considered informal.
Kathleen Fitzpatrick, author of Networking the Field, writes that a blog is “not a form, but a platform—not a shape through which are extruded certain fixed kinds of material, but a stage on which material of many different varieties—different lengths, different time signatures, different modes of mediation—might be performed.”
Another benefit of blogging is that it gives writers to opportunity to share interests and stories with one another by integrating hashtags, comments, and links into posts. People can connect, collaborate, communicate, and learn from one another. Hagood and Price found that when their students were able to interact with one another through digital environments, they were actually learning more because “discussions online usually took conversation beyond that of the classroom… It provided a different type of environment in which to express ideas…more people participated, and everyone was able to think through their thoughts, resulting in well-articulated comments” (Hagood and Price).
Digital Writing, Creativity, and Circulation
Technology and digital writing has given writers the ability to think more creatively and deeply about the writing process and topics of their own choice.
“As a collaborative class effort, intimately linked to the intellectual work we do in the classroom, a course blog can create a uniquely powerful learning community that invites students to learn through writing. Writing to a digitally-mediated audience of their peers allows students to re-articulate new ideas, test applications, link to related resources, and affirm or modify the ideas their peers bring forward. It allows them, in other words, to engage in the messy, immersive, referential, and uneven process of academic writing in a highly interactive environment. Through structured assignments, well integrated into classroom discussion, blogging can form a rich compliment to traditional writing assignments and, even more importantly, can help students become far more reflective about their learning” (Hagood and Price).
They pathway for communication that is opened through digital writing is endless. It allows for others to build upon points and learn from one another.
This endless circulation of information provides a huge benefit of digital writing. Jen Rajchel, author of Consider The Audience, says, “Web writing is about writing on the web — the flexibility as a multimodal piece, the ability to nimbly circulate, and the capacity to create a network of texts. But it is also inherently about writing for the web and situating ourselves as readers and writers within these evolving architectures. A key consideration for web writing in the liberal arts college setting is the development of more opportunities to circulate student work while still foregrounding the navigation of the public/private.” When generating work with the intent of online publishing, “you have a greater responsibility to engage more deeply, to understand everything you need to understand, because you have a greater responsibility to educate and reach out to a larger audience” (Rajchel).
Why teach Digital Writing in the classroom?
The digital literacy divide is getting wider. As technology and digital platforms continue to develop, we need to make sure this divide does not continue to increase. We need “today’s students to critically consume information, to create and share across time and space, to co-create and collaborate to solve problems, to persevere in light of setbacks, and to maintain flexibility. Digital literacies provide opportunities for the inquiries that will develop these skills” (Hicks and Turner). They way to make this happen is to continue to teach digital writing in the classroom.
If we fail to adapt and learn this new progressive form of communication and writing, we fall behind due to the fact that we will lack the proficient skills needed to function in a world that is becoming more and more dependent on technology.
Digital Writing in My Life: Past, Present, and Future
We’ve all written you’re typical “college paper”—the 10 pages, double spaced, times new roman, MLA/APA format, 1-inch margins—it’s what we are used to. A few peer edits, teacher comments, a grade, and we get the paper back. We read the comments, stress about the grade, a out the paper in a folder that we will never look through again.
So those countless hours of hard work that we put into the paper, a few all nighters, and a dozen coffees later and the paper is never to be seen or looked at again? Wait, this does not make sense. I worked hard on that paper and it will never be shared with anyone.
I find the idea of my work being accessible to anyone online terrifying yet exhilarating. So many opportunities are opened once writing is out there for others to see. As a middle schooler and high schooler, I could have benefited from having numbers comments and thoughts on my work. Collaboration takes on a whole new form in the world of digital writing and I could have benefited from the extent to which it takes ones work. Twitter would have also been beneficial in my learning experience in that it would have given me the ability to, at an early age, learn how to be short and concise when getting my point across. I would have the ability to create my own voice and become a more creative writer.
This summer I had the opportunity to intern for EverFi as a member of the marketing team. “EverFi is the leading education technology company focused on teaching, assessing, badging, and certifying students in critical skills. We combine cutting-edge personalized technology, deep education research and data, and a dedicated implementation team that allows each teacher to feel as though they have a blended learning assistant in their classroom. Most importantly, EverFi partners with the private sector and foundations that sponsor this innovation across the country.”
They supply multiple online educational programs one of which is centered around teaching digital literacy and responsibility. Technology is incredibly beneficial in todays world and this program provides students with the knowledge about the risks that come with technology as well as the rewards of using digital platforms.
I was given the opportunity to create lesson plans and a jeopardy game for this specific program and I was learning things about the digital world that, with where we are today with technology, everyone should be aware of.
The ability to access and understand digital platforms in productive, yet creative, ways can be beneficial for everyone.
Being in the class Writing In & For Digital Environments this semester has given me the opportunity to publish work beyond the classroom. I have created a running blog that not only encompasses text blog posts but also an Instagram feed and twitter account. With my blog, I can give it any voice I want whereas if I were writing specifically for my professor, my tone and overall format would be a lot different. I can simply be creative—think outside the box. My writing, while still formal, takes on different meaning when it is written in the voice that I choose. This blog has also given me the ability to connect with others. One of my followers on Instagram “regrammed” one of my photos. This led others to follow me on Instagram where they were then led to my blog.
This new digital world allows for endless connections, learning, and creating. As technology continues to develop, it is essential that we continue to adapt and learn.
“EverFi.” EverFi. N.p., n.d. Web. 24 Oct. 2014.
Jen Rajchel, “Consider the Audience,” in Web Writing: Why and How for Liberal Arts Teaching and Learning, ed. Jack Dougherty and Tennyson O’Donnell (University of Michigan Press/Trinity College ePress edition, 2014), http://epress.trincoll.edu/webwriting/chapter/rajchel.
Kathleen Fitzpatrick, “Networking the Field,” MLA Presidential Forum address, Planned Obsolescence (blog), January 10, 2012, http://www.plannedobsolescence.net/blog/networking-the-field.↵
Rheingold, Howard. “Why You Need Digital Know-How: Why We All Need It | The European Business Review | Empowering Communications Globally.” The European Business Review. N.p., 20 May 2012. Web. 20 Oct. 2014.
Leigh Wright, “Tweet Me A Story,” in Web Writing: Why and How for Liberal Arts Teaching and Learning, ed. Jack Dougherty and Tennyson O’Donnell (University of Michigan Press/Trinity College ePress edition, 2014), http://epress.trincoll.edu/webwriting/chapter/wright.