Wake Up And Smell The…Digital Writing

“Digital literacy is no longer a luxury, and we simply cannot wait to build the capacity in our students and colleagues, as well as ourselves.”

This idea of digital writing is something completely new in education. The use of laptops and iPads are becoming more and more prevalent in schools across the world although, we have only been able to uncover a few layers of what digital writing has to offer. With the pace of technology in schools becoming more rapid every year, it is imperative that educators and students learn the most effective to use digital writing to their advantage.

With that being said, there are still so many questions to be answered about digital writing. Jen Rajchel author of, Consider the Audience, wrote her thesis on web-based writing and talks about the many questions she still has about it. She writes, “When I began my work of a web-based thesis, the most beneficial experience was not jumping into the backend of WordPress (a skill a still use on a daily basis) but learning what kinds of questions I should ask when considering web writing of any sort” (Rajchel, p. 1). I think that using this skill- taking a step back and asking questions- before you start your web-based writing is so important. The crazy thing is, once you post something online, you have completely lost all control of it. We are living in the age of digital writing now but it will take time before we have a greater understanding of it.

Andrea Baer, author of, Keeping Up With… Digital Writing in the College Classroom, is able to use her article to so easily relate to college students. In her second paragraph, she says that, most simply defined, digital writing is writing that is composed and read through digital environments and tools. Things like wikis, blogs, social media, videos or even SMS messages could all be considered digital writing. Whether I knew it or not, I have been exposed to digital writing ever since I’ve had my first cell phone and Facebook page.

She concludes her second paragraph by trying to get the reader to further understand digital writing. Baer says, “Moreover, understanding the multi-modal nature of digital writing requires an understanding of not only how individual media like text and image work separately, but also how they interact with one another to create new meanings and multiple potential interpretations” (Baer, p. 1). One thing that is important to note is the idea that you can interpret digital writing in a ton of different ways. One piece of writing can hold one hundred different meanings to one hundred different people and with this writing now online; the piece is visible to all those different people.

Baer also goes on to talk about the importance of teaching digital writing correctly. Traditionally, it is important to look at writing and research as two processes that are interconnected. Now with digital writing, it is necessary to revisit the relationships between writing and information use. What Bear means by this is since all of the information being used is, for the most part, all at our fingertips, it is easy to try and load in a bunch of information to your writing. There has to be a point where you realize too much information will hurt your writing. Being able to understand the relationship between these two will extremely help your digital writing. Baer ends her piece by first touching on the difficulties that are brought upon by trying to teach digital writing. Since it is so new right now, it can be tough to be able to effectively teach it however, is also presents new opportunities for students. Their knowledge can be vastly expanded on thanks to digital writing. Once instructors are able to attain enough information on digital writing to create new models for teaching it, there will be numerous openings for students to learn and explore even more.

In a piece done by Suzanne McKee-Waddell and Katie Tonore, they use their opening paragraph to share a quote by Elyse Eidan-Aadahl. She says, “Digital writing assignments match the real world and give students experience composing in a form people will actually read.” In keeping this quote in mind, the authors believe that it is imperative to have K-12 teachers incorporate digital writing into their classrooms. We are starting to deviate from the traditional paper and pencil type of writing and are moving into the use of more and more technology. Teachers are starting to understand and develop ways to integrate traditional writing with a range of digital tools for literacy instruction. One example of these new digital tools is Google Docs. On a Google Doc a student can write a traditional-style essay but instead of handing it in to the teacher in the form of a hard copy, it can be looked at digitally by the teacher. Then the teacher can do all the grading necessary on the document. This allows students and teachers to work on essays and projects collaboratively.

The use of these new digital tools is excellent if used correctly by teachers. The authors go on to say that it is important that teachers find a way to have the most effective digital tools meshed in with the various traditional teaching styles that are done so well. In other words, teachers should not just force in digital writing in their teaching styles just because everyone else is. They should find a way to smoothly incorporate it in their teachings. With the proper use of digital writing, students will be able to greatly expand their thinking on certain subjects and in turn, prepare them for the future better.

James Zappen author of, Digital Rhetoric: Toward an Integrated Theory, explores the issues, characteristics and constraints of the new digital media. He says that this new era of digital rhetoric is, of course, exciting because of the vast opportunities that lie ahead, but also could be troublesome because of the challenges that will come with it.

“…it reveals the difficulties and the challenges of adapting a rhetorical tradition more than 2,000 years old to the conditions and constraints of the new digital media” (Zappen, p.1).

The point Zappen makes here is quite interesting because he brings up that we will be, and currently are, changing something that has stood for over 2,000 years. Zappen goes on to talk about four main characteristics of digital rhetoric- speed, reach, anonymity and interactivity- and shows their positives and negatives. It is so quick and easy to write a post and send it out to the world. This could help get your point out to your audience but could also make you post something you never wished to post. This also leads into the idea of reach. By posting that blog or comment, the amount of people who could potentially see that post is more than you would ever imagine. Of course, this could be extremely beneficial or can easily be the opposite. Anonymity could somewhat help you in this case because not everything you post has your name attached to it. If you feel the need to get something off your chest and post it to the Internet, you could do so without anyone ever knowing it was you. With interactivity, you can now more easily put your blog post in conversation with others, which could increase opportunity for discussion and feedback.

On the flipside however, it also increases the opportunity for intrusion on your personal posts. Zappen brings up these four characteristics to clearly show the pros and cons to digital writing. It can be as easily beneficial and important, as it could be disastrous. It is crucial to first get familiar with digital writing before taking it on head on.

Troy Hicks and Kristen Hawkley Turner, authors of No Longer a Luxury: Digital Literacy Can’t Wait, write in depth about two made up schools, Access Academy and Exodus Elementary. The first is completely tech-savvy and the second does not have nearly the same amount of technology. The authors go on to talk about how much more potential Access has over Exodus and how Exodus’ teachers use a lack of technology as an excuse. This article brings up the point of opportunity. The students at Access have much more opportunity to strive in the classroom because of all the extra resources they have. This problem can easily be seen in schools around our country today. Growing up through the public schools in my town, we were fortunate enough to have technology all around us. I can definitely say that this enhanced my knowledge on certain subjects and helped me be where I am today. At the same time, it is important to realize that all of that was a privilege and it is certainly not to be taken for granted.

After reading these five articles I have definitely enhanced my knowledge on this subject. Before taking this class or reading anything on digital writing I only thought of digital writing to be simply news articles and Facebook posts. I didn’t understand the vast amount of works that fall under digital writing. Since I have taken this class, I have experienced the hardships and benefits of digital writing first hand. I think the hardships that arise are only because of how new digital writing is and I think that it should, in no way, detract students from experimenting with it. I have learned that the trial and error approach has worked pretty well for me. I am able to test different things out, acknowledge what I did wrong and learn from it. So, the next time I write a piece or post a blog, I know from experience what to do or not to do.

I think digital writing fits so well into being a college student. Everywhere you look around a college campus, you will see students with their laptops, iPads, iPhones, etc. in their hands. Since we are so wrapped up into our devices, something like digital writing should come somewhat natural to us. I think that with proper guidance and teaching, college students can effectively contribute to this new age. I am already contributing to it by working on my semester project. Having my own blog is easy and fun for me because I am able to share what I love to do with the countless number of people in the online world. Writing these blog posts also gives me the experience I think I will need for the real world. Being able to effectively talk and post things on the web is such a crucial part of the real world. In dealing with that kind of stuff now, as a sophomore in college, I feel like I will be more prepared than most other people who have not yet dealt with digital writing. I am by no means an expert in digital writing- in fact I don’t think anyone is an expert quite yet- but I do believe that experiencing digital writing first hand will be extremely beneficial for me during my remaining years here at Dickinson College and then into the real world.


Works Cited


Baer, Andrea. “Keeping Up With… Digital Writing in the College Classroom.” Keeping Up With… Digital Writing in the College Classroom. N.p., 15 Apr. 2014. Web. 29 Oct. 2015.

Hicks, T., & Turner, K. (2013). No Longer a Luxury: Digital Literacy Can’t Wait. English Journal, 102.6, 58-65.

McKee-Waddell, Suzanne, and Katie Tonore. “Embracing Digital Writing in Today’s K-12 Classrooms.” National Teacher Education Journal 7.4 (2014): 49-52. Print.

Rajchel, Jen. “Consider the Audience.” Web Writing: Why and How for Liberal Arts Teaching and Learning. Eds. Jack Dougherty and Tennyson O’Donnell. Trinity College ePress edition, 2014. EBook. 30 October 2014.

Zappen, James P. “Digital Rhetoric: Toward an Integrated Theory.” Technical Communication Quarterly 14.3 (2005): 319-25. Print.


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