Digital writing has become increasingly important in the last decades. But, what exactly is digital writing? When we talk about digital writing, “we are referring to a transformed composing environment — that is, to writing produced on handheld and desktop digital devices and distributed primarily via wireless and wired networks.” We have moved to a “very late age of print, well into a world of writing and document distribution that primarily happens digitally.” This new way of distribution gives place to many new elements that enhance the way we communicate, the way we experience reality and how we approach tasks. Multimedia and information have developed at a high rate allowing us to include videos, interactive images, music, among others, which intertwine with text to give writing a new color and characteristics. In fact, the concept of multimodality is becoming more and more common when it comes to digital writing.
Multimodal texts are “works that use more than just words and letters to communicate a thought–they may include audio, video, photographs, drawings–basically, any visual element used to supplement the text in some purposeful way.” Nowadays, writing is no longer a purely text-driven practice. Writing requires “carefully and critically analyzing and selecting among multiple media elements. Digital writers rely on words, motion, interactivity, and visuals to make meaning. […] Most Web search engines allow writers to search for photographs, animations, and video clips to download and use in documents, Web pages, and digital movies. These tools shift the ways in which composing takes place; they change the way we do research, the way we produce texts, the way we deliver our writing.” All these elements have a huge impact on many areas and fields. When it comes to writers, for example, it requires them to adapt to the new trends and to learn how to use the new technologies that are available for them and that would appeal to many audiences. There is one field which is particularly affected by new digital technologies; the education field. As a recently graduated English Teacher myself, I experience how traditional teaching methods are challenged by new trends in technology. Virtual spaces are omnipresent in students’ lives and this requires teachers and institutions to stay current with emerging innovations. Keeping up to date with social networks, new software, etc. seems to be a hard task for them. However difficult this might sound, new technologies for digital writing, social networks, and other digital environments offer a wide array of opportunities to enhance learning and the teaching of writing and other subjects.
In her article “Tweet Me a Story”, Leigh Wright describes how she uses social media for pedagogical purposes. Wright is a journalism professor who has observed how “reporters use social media tools to supplement the traditional methods. I have used Twitter to teach students 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 on a digital platform.” Wright uses Storify to compile student’s tweets and craft a story. The author also suggests using Twitter and Storify in other disciplines; political sciences, history, and creative writing, among others.
There are many more examples of authors who suggest using multimedia teaching technology in a variety of areas within education. Gao Feng, for example, applies the multimodal teaching to the field of physical education. In “Research on the Influence of Multimedia Teaching Technology of College Physical Education Teaching,” he discusses the “multimedia teaching technology for the promotion of sports teaching in colleges and universities, and analyzes influence of the multimedia teaching technology to the physical education teaching in colleges.” He emphasizes the role of these technologies as great tools to increase students’ interest in the subject matter. He also highlights the importance of multimodality to cater for different student learning styles, combining auditory and visual learning. “Multimedia teaching technology combine the students’ auditory and visual, in theory can be as high as ninety-four percent. Therefore, in the sports teaching, multimedia teaching technology is used to carry on the comprehensive explanation and display all action, analyze the difficult point, more conducive to the students’ understanding and memory, and to improve the students’ learning efficiency, as well as strengthen the teaching results.”
“Multimodal Children’s E-Books Help Young Learners in Reading”, by Hani Morgan, introduces the reader to the use of multimodal E-Books to improve young learner’s education. Morgan discusses how teachers can use multimodal e-books to help children make academic gains. She particularly concentrates in making use of multimodality to help students become interested in reading and more proficient. She explains that “many children struggle with reading and are seldom engaged in this process when teachers assign them to read. Some lack motivation and dislike reading because they have unpleasant experiences with the process.” She insists on the benefits of multimodality to help students get engaged in the reading and interested in the content. “Picture books are also beneficial because they capture students’ attention with lively illustrations, provide pleasure within a stimulating context, and promote conversation through familiar experiences. Using electronic children’s books to provide instruction has helped teachers integrate much more visual content, like video, animation, and independent images.” In this way, multimodal e-books cater for student different learning styles, including videos and pictures for visual learners, music and sound for auditory learners, and even tactile tasks (like in an iPad or tablet) for kinesthetic learners.
Alsadhan, alhomod and Shafi (2014) also mention the notion that the advancement in multimedia and information technologies has impacted the way of imparting education. They make reference to multimedia e-learning in particular, “Multimedia in e-learning has transformed the traditional media like books, figures and written material into online, readily available and interactive forms. As such, this introduction has positively affected students enabling the delivery of interactive study material as well as enabling students to adapt to different learning styles.”  I agree with these authors that multimedia learning offers many new opportunities to improve our classes and to reach all of our students with a variety of approaches that new technologies, multimedia in particular, offer us.
Most of the authors considered in this essay agree that new digital technologies can enhance learning opportunities in a variety of fields. They can help promote students’ interest in class while they allow catering for different learning styles. If we think of classes about digital writing in particular, like the one we are taking during this semester at Dickinson College, there are many benefits to be considered. First of all, writing on line lead us to the creation of a community. Sharing our ideas and experience in our blogs and reading and commenting on others’ writing fosters interaction. This interaction enriches the learning experience by granting us the opportunity of receiving feedback on our work from our peers, sharing points of view, and fostering discussions on the topics.
Second, classes about digital writing help students to improve their writing from a multimodal perspective. In other words, these courses focus not only on the traditional aspects of writing, but also in many other elements that can be incorporated in our writing. These, in turn, make our composition much more appealing to an audience that is getting more and more used to reading on line. Embedding videos expand the meaning of our words and appeals other area of perception in our readers (listening). Including pictures provides an opportunity to “rest” while reading a long text and it helps better illustrate the meaning the writer is trying to convey.
As a major in English Teaching, I can take advantage of all the possibilities digital writing offers. The knowledge I am acquiring in the course “Writing in and for Digital Environments” will help me, first of all, to make my students aware of their actual participation in digital writing. Nowadays, all teenagers use social networks: they post on Facebook, Tweeter, among others, and read others’ posts as well. If students in my class are reluctant to write analogically, I can create a Facebook page for them to post their ideas about topics discussed in class. Besides, I can create a blog for them to share their work with the class or use other software available for teaching purposes, such as Wordle, Padlet, etc.
One of the main ideas I have discovered in this class is that of the audience and its importance. Emphasizing in my classes the idea that students’ writing can reach a huge audience, much wider than the classroom itself, can be a strong motivation to encourage my students to write and to do this in the best way possible.
Another important point is the possibility multimodal writing offers to cater for different learning styles. Multimodality allows teachers to include visual, auditory, and kinesthetic input in their classes, thus facilitating students understanding in accordance to their preferred sensory channel. I am convinced that developments in digital technologies and improvements in the field of teaching should go hand in hand. We teachers should not be overwhelmed by all of all the possibilities digital writing and new technologies offer to us and especially to students and make the most of these opportunities for the benefit of the community.
 “Teaching Digital Rethoric: Community, Critical Engagement, and Application.” Pedagogy 6.2: 231-59. Web. <DigiRhet.org>.
 “Teaching Digital Rethoric: Community, Critical Engagement, and Application.” Pedagogy 6.2: 238. Web. <DigiRhet.org>.
 “Defining Multimodal Composition.” Multimodal Composition. Web. 23 Oct. 2014.
 “Teaching Digital Rethoric: Community, Critical Engagement, and Application.” Pedagogy 6.2: 240. Web. <DigiRhet.org>.
 Wright, Leigh. “Tweet Me A Story.” Web Writing: Why and How for Liberal Arts Teaching and Learning: 2. Print.
 Feng, Gao. “Research on the Influence of Multimedia Teaching Technology of College Physical Education Teaching.” Advanced Materials Research 1044-1045 (2014): p.1652. Web. </www.scientific.net/AMR.1044-1045.1652>.
 Feng, Gao. “Research on the Influence of Multimedia Teaching Technology of College Physical Education Teaching.” Advanced Materials Research 1044-1045 (2014): p. 1654. Web. </www.scientific.net/AMR.1044-1045.1652>.
 Morgan, Hani. “Multimodal Children’s E-Books Help Young Learners in Reading.” Early Childhood Educ 41 (2013): 477. Web
 Morgan, Hani. “Multimodal Children’s E-Books Help Young Learners in Reading.” Early Childhood Educ 41 (2013): 478. Web
 ALSADHAN, Omar, Sami ALHOMOD, and Mohd Mudasir SHAFI. “Multimedia Based E-learning: Design and Integration of Multimedia Content in E-learning.” International Journal of Emerging Technologies in Learning (iJET) 9.3 (2014). Web. <http://www.i-jet.org>.