It is no secret that digital media has grown since the invention of computers and therefore has created a space for writers of all backgrounds to share ideas with an overwhelmingly large audience. But what does writing online mean? Navigating the online world of writing can be tricky, even for the millennials who are known to have a pretty tight grip on how technology works. For this reason, it is important for digital writing classes to exist in order for students and future online writers to understand the power of writing online
Why is it important?
Sarah Murray wrote in her article that technology allows millennials to spread ideas and information in a way previous generation could not. This allows for more opportunities to be created and potential solutions to the problems that this generation faces.
They are now able to share their ideas to a “audience of millions,” which in itself holds a lot of power. It allows people to connects across the globe in hopes that they can unite in order to solve big world issues. Today, there are a lot of huge global issues such as climate change, where the solutions must come from everyone across the globe. Through technology, Murray argues that people are able to connect with one another in order to create these solutions that will impact everyone. This makes technology extremely important to study in order for people to connect in meaningful and productive ways. There is a sense of community and safety online that did not exist before. This has caused many millennials to move away from government and traditional institutions and turn to each other for guidance via social media.
“ millennials believe they must rely less on institutions and more on themselves and their peers.”
Who has access to it?
Unlike traditional printed texts which are popular for their “timeless immortality” Richard Lanham discusses in his article the difference between digital writing and print writing. When a book is published and sent of to print, the author can no longer alter their writing, it will forever remain in it’s original form despite the comments and critiques that will be made after people read it. In digital media, the author can constantly change and update their writing based on the comments that his or her readers provide. Lanham explains the complexities of digital media, stating that there are three components that exist within it: words, images and sound. These bring another level of analysis to the text that print simply cannot give. It also creates quicker analysis skills as readers become trained to read and understand texts faster. Lanham concludes by saying that
“ the new digital literacy is thus profoundly democratic. It insists that the rich mixture of perceptive talents once thought to distinguish a ruling aristocracy must now be extended to everyone.”
This relates back to Murray’s point about the interconnection of the web that allows people to share their ideas so a wide audience. Theoretically, everyone has access to the internet, despite their class or race. Previously, only the wealthy were literate and therefore could read printed texts. Since then, global literacy has expanded, and now with the internet people have even more access to information than ever before.
What is the digital divide and why is it important that we address it?
Schools across the US are are implementing more rigorous requirements for technological services according to Gregory Clarke Sr. and Jesse Zagarell in their article discussing the technological divide that exists in schools across the nation. Technology is a growing field that provides many resources, which is why schools want their students to have access to its services, but technology also comes at a high price. According to Clarke and Zagarell, the administration is demanding that teachers are trained in up-to-date technology yet due to lack of funds, teachers are having to train themselves on their own time. This limited access to technology puts students and teachers at a disadvantage in a world where technology is becoming the new job market. Its is essential that students and teachers are capable of using technology to its fullest potential.
“Individual educators remain the deciding factor in whether or not technology is successful integrated into classrooms.”
This quote presented in Clarke and Zagarell’s article sums up perfectly the difficulties teachers are facing across the nation. Though there are teachers who are opposed to teaching technological skills in the classroom, it comes down to funding. How is it fair that teachers must make this decision that will have a heavy impact in their students lives? One can argue that students can learn these skills themselves at home, and some may also argue that students may be more advance than teachers when it comes to technology, but what students may not understand is the power the internet holds and how careful they must be when using it. This is the reason why teachers must be able to educate their students on how to use the internet properly and in a safe way. The web is a spider web of information that is very useful and informative, but can also be very dangerous when students can no longer discern the truth from lies.
Is the Web dangerous?
There is so much information on the web, how can students sort the facts from the made up stuff? The beauty of the web is that anyone can publish something, whether or not they have a PhD or graduated high school. Who said that in order for your ideas or opinions to be valid, one has to have graduated from Harvard. As Tavi Gevinson, the editor of Rookie Magazine once said in a TED talk:
“you don’t need permission to have a voice.”
In a country where freedom of speech is our first, and very important right, now has a new meaning when applied to the web. Though digital writing allows people to spread and share ideas and information, it can be dangerous due to the overwhelming amount of information that exists on the internet.
In his article , Hubert L. Dreyfus tries to answer the question regarding the web being a useful tool for teachers trying to spread knowledge to their students when it is not clear when a source is reliable. On the web, people do not take responsibility for what they post and therefore readers often become lazy in trying to distinguish between a reliable vs unreliable source. It can be overwhelming when there is a wealth of information at one’s fingertips, and people often take the lazy route. Students especially with sources such as wikipedia or yahoo answers often to not dig for more credible sources to check their facts. This is why it is so important that digital writing classes exist, otherwise without them, students will not become critical thinkers and therefore believe anything that they read.
“Learners need to develop the capacity to search, select, and synthesize vast amounts of information to create knowledge.”
Dreyfus brings up a good point, just because you read something, does not mean it is true. Digital writing courses can help students analyze what they read online in the hopes that it is indeed truthful, engaging information that they then can turn into knowledge. Teachers need to show students how to use the internet as a useful tool, rather than taking everything they read at surface value. Because the internet is such an accessible tool, this can become very dangerous for young people who are searching for online rather than checking with friends in real life. More and more, young people are turning to their online peers for advice and a sense of community rather and then people in their everyday life. This can be dangerous for students who do not understand these critical analysis skills, they become very easy targets for manipulation.
Feeling Isolated on the web?
In his article Michele Dickey explores the effect that blogging can have on students who are engaging in “web based learning”. The experiment was trying to see how blogging either made students feel part of a community or make them feel more isolated. Dickey states that learners should have access to information and connections that would advance their knowledge and create conversations about the information being shared. In the experiment, 111 students and 12 teachers were split into small groups and given one blog site. On the blog, students were told to post reflections as well as update the class on the main project assignment the class was working on over the course of eight weeks. The blog would be the only form of class discussion between students and the teacher, any questions would be sent to the teacher via email.
The results of this experiment were quite fascinating. Dickey found that the use of blogging actually created a sense of community between the students. Rather than feeling isolated, students felt connected with one another more than they might have in a classroom setting. By forcing students to reflect on their progress in their projects and emotions throughout the weeks, students were able to bond based on the mutual feeling of satisfaction and stress.
For the sake of Digital writing classes and our class in particular, I think it is important to understand the importance of blogging as a positive aspect of the web.
“They (blogs) afford a diary-like monologue, invite dialogue and promote a learner-centered approach because they afford personal expression”
Going back the Tavi Gevinson quote I mentioned earlier, blogs give individuals a space on the internet for their voice. To share their ideas, opinions and most importantly, their opinions which is what brings people together and unites them. In order for millennials to solve the world issues we face ahead, the internet is an essential tool, but first students must understand how to use it which is why digital writing classes are essential in this generation’s education.
From the perspective of a Digital Writing student
Studying digital writing is a very important skill that every student should have the opportunity to study. As a student in a digital writing course, this class has offered an entirely new perspective of digital writing that I was unaware of before. This class has caused me to be a critique of online, not always believing what I am told as well as being aware of the sources I am getting my information from. On the contrary, this class has also exposed me to the major advantages and opportunities digital writing can give anyone, when used correctly. In the texts we read, we are exposed to the political and social aspects of online writing that as users of the internet, we should be aware of. Older generations are often impressed with the millennials ability to understand the complexities of the internet. While this is true, we are just at the surface of the iceberg. No one really knows the full potentials of the internet and therefore we must be careful as users and a generation that heavily relies on the internet for information.
Any student at any college will benefit from a digital writing course. As a student at Dickinson College, I am constantly being updated by emails and Facebook messages about campus activities and frequently use email to communicate with our teachers. The internet is a huge part of our daily lives, not to mention we use it to do research for our classes and papers. Yet, we do not talk about the language of the internet and how that can affect us as readers and writers. As a college student who relies heavily on the internet for resources and information, it is essential that students understand the full capabilities of the internet as well as how to use it safely.
Writing online is community writing, as the author your voice is not the only one that is being considered when people are reading your work. There is a conversation that happens in the online community that does not exist in printed books. In our digital writing class we talk a lot about this conversation that exists and the community that is created in the online world. There is no end to the writing that is published online, in fact, what is posted online is only the start of the conversation. This is the beauty of online writing, but it is important that we study the language of online writing in order to produce effective work. For our digital writing class, we are required to make a blog on any topic that we would like. In the beginning I thought it would be easy, write about my emotions, and reflect on my thoughts, but it is much more serious than it seems. There is no telling who will stumble upon your writing in the online world which is why writers must be cautious of what they are posting. This is why digital writing classes are so important because although the internet gives people a voice, people must be cautions about what they post.
As a history major, I rely heavily on the internet for primary and secondary research, but there is so much information online it is hard to sort through all of it. Going along with that, it can be difficult to find reliable sources. You often have to do more research about the author of the article to make sure they have the proper credentials. The internet is also a great place to find other opinions and ideas about historical events. History is a lot of facts, so when writing a paper or trying to understand a particular event in history, I find it useful to look for other opinions. There are a lot of blogs that are written by people who have contradicting opinions and ideas about history. Using my analysis skills that I learned in our digital writing class, I am able to sort through all the research and opinions that exist online in order to draw educated conclusions.
After Dickinson I am not exactly sure what I want to do, but a lot of the ideas that I have are heavily influenced by, if not take place on the internet. I would like to work for one of my favorite magazines which has a large presence online. There is a huge creative scene that exists online through social media and online blogs, websites, and magazines therefore this class has been so useful in my understanding of the web. Writing online is a completely different world, if you have not gathered that already from my paper. The internet is the future, there are so many jobs that exist in the online world, there are people who make their living online whether on youtube or through a blog/website. There are so many opportunities that exist for people on the web, especially the younger generation which is why it is so important students understand how to use the web to their full advantage. Digital writing classes are so important for students in a world where the internet is expanding and becoming more advanced every day.