New technologies are constantly changing our concepts of text and composition in our daily and professional lives, by augmenting and enriching traditional texts and genres or by adding new texts and ways of communicating. These changes require from readers to become more ‘writerly’ in exploring and evaluating these new texts and genres. Similarly, writers are called upon to better understand and meet their readers’ needs in producing and communicating with these texts and media. Being effective communicators with these diverse tools and media calls however for strong rhetorical and compositional skills from their writers and producers. Such skills will allow writers to attract readership in various venues, since they will have something important to say in powerful and effective ways through these new texts and media. On the other hand, weak and poorly communicated messages are unlikely to gain wide response from readers, and as such, they may lose the opportunity to change and influence people’s thinking and ideas and even their lives. This has been the purpose of effective communication and writing for decades.
As writing teachers, we want to help our students to understand the foundational rhetorical constructs such as the mode, audience, purpose and the ways writers and content producers negotiate these constructs to produce powerful messages in various genres and media for various audiences and purposes. To do so, we must bridge the artificially perceived binary of technology and English language arts that, as Swenson, Young, McGrail, Rozema & Whitin (2006) argue, “position[s] literacy and English language arts (ELA) content here and technology over there; similarly, old literacies and their social practices here, and new literacies with newer technologies and their social practices over there” (p. 353).
Instead, these researchers and educators advocate for Myers’s (2006) approach that “erases these divisions, by describing [new litleracies and technologies] as ‘evolving social practices that coalesce new digital tools along with the old symbolic tools to achieve key motivating purposes for engagement in the literacy practices’ (p. 62) ” [p. 353].
Hicks (2009) adopts a similar mindset in the Digital Writing Workshop, and offers some practical ways for educators and students for accomplishing this goal. Today’s class discussion will examine these ideas. Join our conversation.
Swenson, J., Young, C.A., McGrail, E., Rozema, R., & Whitin P. (2006). Extending the conversation: New technologies, new literacies, and English education. English Education, 38(4), 349-367.
Hicks, T. (2009). The digital writing workshop: Learning to teach digital writing in K-12 classrooms.