What does it mean to be living in a Digital World?
Imagine driving to work or school and realizing halfway to your destination that you left your phone at home. That feeling of being lost without it, loneliness, and a sense of detachment from society is universal in today’s culture. Engineers and the masterminds behind Apple and other companies are starting to romanticize technology. As stated in Sherry Turkle’s article, “Alone Together,” we feel as though we have actual relationships with our devices as they are “romanticized” and “inseparable” from our daily lives. She further explains how networks are becoming seductive; they are pulling us in with multimodal aspects leading us to click away at different links and never escape the four edges of our screens for hours.
The digital world and digital writing is becoming more accessible and influential in educational settings. On college campuses, we, students and professors, have new tools and mediums for learning, teaching, writing, expressing ourselves, and being creative. Our digital world is multifaceted and evolving which transcends to the progressing roles and structures of classrooms, teachers, and students. The collaborative, multimodal and democratizing aspects of digital writing sparks student motivation and engagement as new roles and teaching methods are introduced and practiced which allow students to gain rhetorical skills necessary for success in this fast growing digital world.
With easy access to computers, tablets, phones, and the Internet, we each have an equal amount of power to create a voice and express ourselves with the tool of digital writing. Digital writing, is writing written specifically for the web. Although digital writing is relatively new with new technological advancements and social media platforms, the idea of implementing technique with the practice is the same as traditional ways of writing.
What does it mean to be a “good digital writer”?
To be a good digital writer means that you understand the techniques that are effective on the web. To be effective on the web means that you:
- Engage with the audience with your voice and presentation through text and multimodal features (videos, photos, links, colors, layouts, etc.)
- Be familiar with other platforms so you are able to link specific audience with your own (Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, Pinterest, etc.)
- Don’t be afraid to take chances (be creative, express yourself by taking risks over and over again to get a final product you are happy with)
- Own your voice online (digital writing gives you power and access to other conversations and authors that you never had before, so engage with them! (comment/like/subscribe/write)
Before taking a course in Digital Writing this past semester, I used to use the Internet passively. I would scroll through nonsense simply to avoid awkward eye contact with someone, or just be on Facebook just to be there; not knowing why. But through this class I’ve learned that digital writing gives you opportunities that shape your writing that have never existed before, ultimately giving you more power as a writer.
How is Digital Writing Used as a Pedagogical Tool?
Now, more than ever before, we are able to engage with our community, build our own networks, express ourselves and be creative all in an inclusive learning experience. As technology is shifting from flip phones to smartphones and tablets, so is their use and influence in classrooms and the educational experience. Digital writing creates a world of collaborative knowledge between the students and the teachers. Together, they face the pros, cons, and opportunities of the new digital world.
Here are some influences that digital writing has and is making in classrooms and the educational experience:
Digital writing in classrooms upgrades methods of teaching and classroom dynamics to help students develop digital literacy. Suzanne Mckee-Waddell’s article states that with digital writing, the role of the classroom, teacher, and student shift.The classroom is more of an inclusive learning experience where students are able to work together, listen to each other, and collaborate with the help of technology and social media platforms. As technology evolves, so must pedagogical practices. As students are more distracted, fast paced, and technologically advanced, teachers need to be able to engage, and in a way, entertain their students with new platforms. The article includes a chart of new programs that are used for that very reason and some of those include, GoogleDocs, Essaypunch, Easybib, and Wideo. New platforms like these allow the classroom to be more of a group learning experience while being part of a bigger conversation outside of the classroom. Students are able to continue conversations and the creation of ideas outside of the classroom with peers as we have access to tablets, phones, computers at all times and are able to engage in material at any time; whereas before, that was not a viable option for students. Using Twitter and WordPress and similar platforms engage, motivate, and enhance the classroom writing environment, without losing interest or motivation from the students.The same shift occurs for teachers, teachers are now introduced with new methods of interacting with students. They no long have to carry “red pens” and mark papers when they are handed in. Instead, tools like Trackchanges on Word and emailing makes it easier for students and teachers to interact and get feedback. Ultimately, the new roles and settings of classrooms reinvent the methodology used to teach writing. It focuses more on enabling and engaging both the student, the writer, and the audience.
- The use of social media is introduced in classroom settings in our digital world which also increases the use of digital writing in class. Dan Åkerlund’s article supports the idea of social media in classrooms and also explains that when introducing social media to a classroom setting, students become more engaged, motivated, and creative. Social media changes the relationship between students’ own produced texts and the school subject that is studied. When a student is able to use personal photos or stories or links to pages they are interested in or have created, they have a sense of ownership which makes their work more authentic and personal. Digital writing with social media allows students to be motivated to share their ideas not only with their class, but to a larger public. Once the audience is bigger, students feel more motivated to be creative and engaged in their world. Social media is there to provide an outlet for their work to be seen. This addition to the educational process also adds a new role of the teacher as they are responsible to teach students copyright laws and how to be private/public on the net and how to handle sensitive information. Classrooms benefit from this aspect of learning as students are able to learn about the power of the internet and social media platforms, combine personal/authentic images and stories to their writing which makes them a more rounded, and creative (multimodal) writer through digital literacy.
- Digital writing creates a new sense of “audience” that motivates students to do their best. In Åkerlund’s article and Jen Rajchel’s article, there is proof that there is a change in writing, for the better, when an audience changes for the author. Digital writing shifts the audience of a paper or writing piece from just the instructor to the entire web. She states, “When students feel an increased level of investment in their projects and a heightened sense of responsibility to an actual audience, the work becomes less about grades and more about shaping their scholarship.” Rajchel’s article explains that when writing for a public audience, the writer is inspired to write the best they can, knowing that their work will be broadcasted; adding pressure to the writer and their ownership of their work. Digital writing disjoints the traditional role and pressures that a teacher has on a student as they no longer are the only ones reading or having access to their work. This idea introduces the double edged sword aspect of digital writing in classrooms and in general. There are some dangers brought by digital writing, which are introduced in Roxane Gay’s article. You have to think about what you say, how you say it, and the fact that it’ll be there forever. She states, “The vulnerability of online exposure is infinite. The internet is permanent as it is ephemeral. Everything is archived somewhere, lurking.” Digital writing makes you more of an aware writer as you have to think before you write something, knowing that your words and posts will always be traced back to and related to your persona. Although sometimes this aspect of writing online makes you hesitant to provoke a conversation or state your opinion, but those are risks you as a writer have to make.
My Experience with Digital Writing
As a 21 year old student, I’ve been involved and exposed to many digital writing environments and have had a lot of experience with digital media, writing, and social networks. With a Facebook account, Twitter, Instagram, Snapchat, Portfoliobox, and WordPress account, I’ve had a lot of practice with different digital platforms. As an International Business and Management major at a liberal arts school, I have had numerous amounts of group projects and could scroll for what seems to be forever in my GoogleDrive at previous group projects I’ve done for classes. Digital media and writing is extremely important in the marketing and business world; a career path I am most interested in. Being able to be creative while informing customers and the market about a good or a service is more important now than ever before. We are constantly being thrown at with ads online, with social media campaigns, and hashtags. All of these new concepts of marketing and creativity spark from our efficiency in digital writing and the use multimodal aspects of the web.
Although these new ideas and ways of branding and marketing are new and creative and have more of a sense of ownership, they also have higher stakes to fail. For example, when abroad in Copenhagen, my digital marketing class was assigned to present a campaign to the DIS buddy network program to the head of PR at DIS. My group and I collaborated on Google Doc and Prezi which allowed us to present to a larger audience, ultimately making more room for criticism. However, being able to use these tools effectively and be able to convey a message in just a simple hashtag and logo that catches on to millions of people, we are able to create a larger conversation and gain more credibility and awareness.
(logo and bike seat we created with link on it to promote awareness and access to campaign)
These skills are especially important for us, students, to nail and perfect before getting hired for jobs as employers are looking for people who will be able to enter the fast and technologically integrated world. Jobs like Social Media Manager and positions in PR are more important and fast growing than ever before; and with classes that integrate digital writing and digital skills are those that will produce the best candidates.
So, the next time you find yourself driving to school or work and realize you left your phone at home, don’t panic. Sometimes you have to disconnect from the networks and conversations had in the virtual world and appreciate those in the physical world. Balancing both will allow you to integrate your ability of being alone and “alone together” in this digital world.
Åkerlund, Dan. “Social Media in the Classroom Different Perspectives on Young Students’ Use of Blogs and Digital Cameras in Their School Work.” Social Media in the Classroom (n.d.): n.p (2011). Web. <http://klassbloggarna.se/wp-content/uploads/2012/03/%C3%85kerlund-Dan-2011-Social-media-in-the-classroom-T%C3%B6nsberg.pdf>.
GAY, ROXANE. “The Danger Of Disclosure: Cultural Criticism Online.” Creative Nonfiction 49 (2013): 58-61. Humanities Source. Web. 28 Oct. 2015.
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.
Mckee-Waddell, Suzanne. “Digital Literacy: Bridging The Gap With Digital Writing Tools.” Delta Kappa Gamma Bulletin 82.1 (2015): 26-31. Academic Search Complete. Web. 28 Oct. 2015.
Rajchel, Jen. “Consider the Audience.” Web Writing: Why & How and for Liberal Arts Teaching& Learning. 15 September 2013. Web. 3 Oct. 2013.
Turkle, Sherry. Alone Together: Why We Expect More from Technology and Less from Each Other. , 2011. Print.