Crafting Digital Writing

Photo- Troy Hicks

by Guest Blogger Troy Hicks

Author, Associate Professor of English, Central Michigan University, and 2013 Literacy for All Conference Speaker

They text, tweet, and meet.

They skim, surf, and share.

They post, pin, and share their lives through the screen.

They are our children and students, our digital writers. Their work can go from the palm of their hand out to the entire web in just a few clicks.

But, digital writing is about more than pushing buttons. Just because our students can text, tweet, or post doesn’t mean that they are always doing it in productive, responsible, or ethical ways. We want them to find, evaluate, and synthesize information from a variety of sources.  We can help them utilize the information that they have found to develop multimedia texts. We need to teach them how to be critical and creative digital writers.

In my article published in NCTE’s Classroom Notes Plus, I describe how students can explore the concept of “copyright” by using Wikis as a tool for collaborative inquiry. By creating a shared workspace, developing authentic scenarios for students to problem solve, and making their work public, you can take advantage of the Wiki’s convenience while also documenting individual students’ contributions to the overall project.

Another possible use for Wikispaces comes in the form of crafting digital essays. Built on an idea from Jim Burke that he shared on the English Companion Ning, we can think about how to help our students create digitally enhanced essays with appropriate hyperlinks, images, and videos. But, this is about more than just inserting links or images; indeed, we want students to think purposefully about how they are crafting their digital writing for different audiences and purposes. We need to ask critical questions about why and how they are including such media. For instance:

  • How long is the writer’s overall digital essay, and what proportion of the essay offers links to outside sources?
  • Did the writer create additional pages with original writing to support his or her ideas, or are all the links to outside sources?
  • How do the images and videos chosen enhance the overall argument of the essay rather than simply decorate it?

By using questions like these during instruction and assessment, you will help guide your writers through the process of effectively crafting a digital essay where the sum total of words, links, and images really do equal more than the individual parts.

9780325046969In his new book with Heinemann, Crafting Digital Writing: Composing Texts Across Media and Genres, Troy Hicks helps teachers understand and explore the ways that writers have traditionally used writer’s craft while exploring new opportunities for crafting web-based texts, presentations, multimedia, and social media. 

 Troy is presenting at this year’s Literacy for All Conference in Providence, R.I., sharing ideas about how to help your students to craft effective digital writing across multiple forms of media. His sessions on November 4 and 5, 2013 will include Creating a Classroom Wiki For Your Digital Writers and Raising Digital Writers. 

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