Tag Archives: digital writing process

Digital Media Literacy Opportunities Galore!

[Note: This post was originally featured on the Media Education Lab]

 The Consequences of Attending the URI Summer Institute in Digital Literacy

I peered across the dim expanse of the art space, AS220 as I participated in “speed dating.” In a whirlwind I met librarian, Brooke; media consultant, Jen; and English educator, Erica. We formed dyads, shared lots of laughter, and together experienced the first weeklong URI Summer Institute in Digital Literacy. Brooke and I collaborated on a Storify called “Upstanders, Arise!” that helped students to advocate against bullying, and I later incorporated the composition into a Sports and Popular Culture curriculum unit I had designed in my position as a secondary English teacher.

Could that fabulous Summer Institute really have happened five years ago? Padlet, Socratic, Kahoot!, Edmondo, and Animoto were the Cool Tools that year, but curricular cohesion and literacy learning were just beginning to merge with digital education then. So it was in that latter direction I ran, and so many proverbial doors opened for me as a result of the conceptual framework I obtained from participating in the 2013 Summer Institute in Digital Literacy.

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Ways that Digital Tools Can Help Students to Read Their Worlds

Sometimes called “affordances,” the digital world offers advantages to students.  Teachers’ repertoires today likely include Twitter, Glogster, Kahoot, Prezi, a comic creator, Ted Talks, LiveBinders, podcasts, Animoto, Quizlet, a class wiki, white board illustrating, screencasting, and blog posting. These and other platforms infuse ways for students to become better readers of their worlds through nuanced textual interactions, inquiry, analytical thinking, and composing.

Textual Interactions 

Source: Wikipedia

Online tools transform students into text detectives who have fun while hunting for clues.  Start with quickly paced e-learning modules that point to key evidence; primary sources offer a wealth of possibilities. A Civil War era journal entry, sheet music from the Roaring 20’s, an eggless-butterless-milkless World War II cake recipe, or civil rights protest photo can spur conversations and engagement— and each can be accessed digitally.  Alternatively, daily digital newspapers and blogs allow students to explore local and global perspectives, and e-readers and audiobooks bring professional narration to  combined reading/ listening experiences.  It’s fascinating how digital book chats, Amazon student book reviews, or one book/ one school programs can foster a school community through common literary experiences.

Student Inquiry 

Source: Greg McVerry

E-learning centers immerse students in appropriately challenging investigations.  Online design tasks might include image-based visualizations that spur language acquisition.  Vocabulary games, multi-level/ tiered questioning, close reading wikis, or online discussion boards introduce new concepts.  Moreover, social justice simulations can unveil lives that have been affected by race, class, language, gender, or religious difference.  Further, a curation tool like Storify can help students to develop critical perspectives and to become more curious about others who don’t fit their own community’s definition of “Normal.”

Analytical Thinking 

Source: NASA

Do science/ English collaborations seem a bit avant-garde? Scientific texts can fulfill various English and literature standards through readings available at National Geographic, NOAA, NSF, NASA,  Sierra Club, and Nature Conservancy websites. Follow up with a computer lab gallery walk, cartoon slideshow, Ted Talk about study skills, sports podcast to spur argumentation, or celebrity media evaluation.  Add in online guided questions, dictionaries, and translation tools to help struggling readers. Visual texts are important in our symbol-based society, so digital classic works of art, stylized comics, minimalist advertisements, and short films can be “read” as balanced, integrated elements.

Composing  

Source: The Abundant Artist

Infuse background and context into writing-to-learn activities then let students blog!  Because blogging is a reflection of identity, student bloggers gain insights into the human side of composing; they discern the complex interplay of words and ideas for an audience, making sense through print, sound, images, and videos.  Digital photography can also bring personalization and purpose to the writing process.  And don’t forget how fan fiction creates an outlet for imaginative mediation of the demands of audience and genre.

Ultimately, it is the richness of the digital world that resonates with students, for, as W. Somerset Maugham said, “The only important thing in a book is the meaning that it has for you.”

Carolyn Fortuna, Ph.D. is the recipient of the International Literacy Association’s 2015 Grand Prize Award for Technology and Reading.  She teaches high school English and is an adjunct faculty member at Rhode Island College. If you’d like information about workshops in digital and media literacy and learning, contact Carolyn at c4tuna31@gmail.com.

The Digital Writing Process

One of my earliest and richest professional development activities was with the National Writing Project.  As a newly certified English teacher, the NWP’s process approach to writing seemed a whirlwind:  how could I help my students to see the possibilities within all the stages of pre-writing, organizing, drafting, and revision?  Slowly, I came to understand the process approach to writing and became a particular fan of Donald Murray, who made visible the struggles of writers and the joy of discovery through the written word.

Now, with nearly 20 years of middle and high school teaching behind me, I still respect the writing process approach and its benefits.  I also recognize that the nature of writing has changed tremendously over those two decades due to the significant influence of digital tools and sources.  Of course, today’s composers still must meet the commonly accepted conventions of the genre in which they are engaged, but our visual digital culture creates different demands than did the primarily print text-based world.

Digital environments mediate the navigation, length, and complexity of texts, requiring composers to adapt to audience, tone, and purpose in ways that previous generations were never required. Digital environments have disrupted the writing process as we once knew it due to an interwoven combination of traditional narrative sequencing, hyperlinks to other digital sources, infusions of multimedia texts like videos and podcasts, and interactive response fields.

A new Digital Writing Process SOARS!

Source: Carolyn Fortuna

Source: Carolyn Fortuna

  •  Survey: Have students surf the web and a large body of texts as a way of frontloading concepts and language. One way to ensure that students’ research meets your institution’s guidelines for social appropriateness and keen content connections is to curate a collection of digital models through which students can surf. (Here’s a sample curation from a sports and popular culture course I teach.)  A curation helps to illuminate what works among digital design, multimedia choices, and narrative structure.  And, so they learn to embed a pattern of attribution, it’s probably best for students to grab short phrases of direct excerpts from the sources they find, using quotation marks.  Otherwise, students might find themselves part of a plagiarism controversy.
  • Organize: Students need to sort through the chaos of all the fabulous texts and direct excerpts they’ve gathered from the web. Have students group their direct excerpts according to commonalities, and then have them narrow those commonalities into hierarchies. Students will also benefit from exposure to different methods to code evidence, such as color coordinating, charting, doing in-document keyword searches, or categorizing. Eventually, move students from an integration of patterns into a systematic, theoretically embedded explanation.
  • Address: One of the truly marvelous benefits of surfing the web is the capacity to see how other composers design their ideas and formats.  Commonly called conventions of the genre, these expected ways of adhering to a particular type of compositional style take a bit of scrutiny.  Have students analyze a variety of texts within a particular genre and identify certain predictable characteristics.  As students move into drafting their own compositions, they should practice different approaches to establishing mood and tone through deliberate word choices.  And, because their digital design should be visually appealing to appeal to a targeted audience, they should recognize and incorporate pointed design techniques, a clear message, and a professional look. 
  • Revise: Believe it or not, the revision stage of the digital writing process is the most time-consuming.  That’s because a first full draft of a composition, in all likelihood, lacks depth of ideas, language cohesion, and/or an interrelated design structure.  Moreover, when one aspect of the digital composition is changed, the other areas are immediately affected.  Guide students through a series of directed steps to consider how each part of the digital design process interacts with others.  Provide opportunities for 1-to-1 teacher: student conferencing, small group collaboration, and focus group feedback so that students have a balance of ample creative time and constructive responses.
  • Survey again:  Often, a full and revised draft of a composition still isn’t polished enough. That’s why the digital writing process requires composers to return to the web and to continue to survey mentor models of published digital compositions.  This final step is often lacking in classrooms, although new digital technologies and pedagogical tools have emerged to help teachers in the teaching of revision.  Students need to revisit the digital sources that originally inspired them, study them with a newly formed composer’s point of view, and decide what additional strategies they can adopt to infuse more nuance, voice, and authenticity to their own original compositions.

Many teachers now incorporate multimodal texts into their instruction as ways of making meaning. Because digital realms mediate content and meaning, curricula must also change to address new possible digital composing pathways.  Teachers in a PEW Research Center study report that their students have a broad audience for written material due to pervasive social media production opportunities. It’s time for teachers and cultural workers across disciplines to embrace a new Digital Writing Process as a necessary way to help guide our students to their highest levels of digital compositional excellence.

Carolyn Fortuna, Ph.D. is the recipient of the International Literacy Association’s 2015 Grand Prize Award for Technology and Reading.  She teaches high school English and is an adjunct faculty member at Rhode Island College. If you’d like information for your school or non-profit organization about workshops in digital and media literacy and learning, contact Carolyn at c4tuna31@gmail.com.