Working through what it means to teach digital literacy

Since I had never had any classes on teaching digital literacy and no one else at my college was teaching digital literacy, most of these questions I worked through either by myself or by looking online.

One place I looked was the journals at school, which is where I found this.

“Teaching Digital Rhetoric: Community, Critical Engagement, and Application”
Pedagogy – Volume 6, Issue 2, Spring 2006, pp. 231-259 –Article
Course topics included exploring the history of the Internet and the World Wide Web; doing digital research, searching the Web, and thinking about information literacy; interrogating digital literacies (including a focus on reading and writing in digital spaces, dynamics of print and digital publishing, and video-game literacies); examining issues of access and divides (specifically focusing on race, class, and economies, and also on dis/abilities and usability); researching the histories of Internet economies; exploring the dynamics of digital ownership and issues of authoring, authority, and intellectual property in computer-mediated, networked spaces; exploring digital culture jamming1 and internetworked politics; examining issues of digital identity (including emphases on gender and online communities); exploring digital visual rhetorics; examining new media; and thinking about cyborg, biotech, and digital bodies. Course topics and readings were designed to equip students to
explore and understand digital spaces as deeply rhetorical spaces;
understand the sociocultural dynamics of digital writing spaces;
better understand the multiple and layered elements of digital writing conventions and digital documents;
become more sophisticated navigators of the information available in digital spaces; and become more effective writers and communicators in digitally mediated spaces.

Then, to get my mind going, I found a list of hard questions for teachers who teach blogging. While some of them are blogging specific, others apply to any teaching of writing.

What do you do about the student who is on-line more (has that luxury) doing stronger work than the student who has less experience with being on-line?

How do we help the student who isn’t getting beyond Internet chat language in his/her comments?

How do you teach students to have voice when it seems that no-one is listening; example a student writes 3-5 really thoughtful posts and receives 0 comments.

This post actually made a big difference in the design of my English composition course. First of all, I made sure I started at the very beginning (a very good place to start, h/t Mary Poppins) and I actually assign comments as part of their writing. This has made a big difference, I think, to the quality of the discussion online.

I found this work from UNC work interesting. It is a UNC English class guidelines for reading, analyzing, and creating a blog, then describing a blog community

This is
apparently another English class on blogging.
This one is group blogging, with collaborative writing by students, but uses individual grades. It includes a discussion of discourse community.
The class requires
an annotated bibliography,
a movie review for IMDb, and
a book review for Amazon.

I thought these were good ideas but I have not yet implemented them. I could easily, though. They would make good assignments for when I am out of pocket at conferences.

UT Austin’s Computer Writing lab,
has an introduction to the theory for using blogging in class: very theoretical, but lots of assignment ideas.

A Texas Tech teacher wrote about an unsuccessful blogging attempt within the classroom and why it failed. The main reason I noted was that there were no post requirements. I definitely took that to heart.

Unfortunately, on the net, information often disappears. I tell my students all the time that if they find something good, they should copy or print it right then so that they will have it. On a page that is no longer available I found a thoughtful list on the kinds of literacy skills students can develop from writing about one topic from multiple sources (synthesizing reading too), specifically involving computer research.

Consider the literacy skills necessary all by themselves, without any further involvement:
reading for comprehension
understanding cause and effect
organizing and classifying information
using tables of contents and indexes to locate information
restate facts, summarize main ideas
connect prior knowledge to new information in a text
distinguish between fact and opinion in informational text
prepare a document using technology
gather evidence in support of a thesis
use Standard Written English
demonstrate understanding of correct spelling, punctuation, and other writing conventions
apply appropriate manuscript conventions
support assertions using examples, facts, and relevant details
edit and proofread using an editing checklist
integrate quotations into a text
synthesize information from multiple sources

This research list indicates that we are teaching our students information literacy and using computers to do it, not simply teaching technology in the classroom. And I don’t want to simply teach technology in the classroom. I want to enrich the writing experience with technology, take advantage of technology, and let the students use technology well.

Top Ten Reasons Writers Should Blog include
A blog can become a writing workshop. Comments and linking allow immediate feedback on the poetry, articles and other types of posts presented by bloggers to their readers. Sometimes comments become the basis for extended online conversations about a given work or topic.

Build a writing portfolio. A blog can serve as an addition to a writer’s professional portfolio. The content and theme of a blog will influence how well it can be applied to this purpose. If a writer is going to spend the time building a public blog, it serves them well to view it as a true publication. Well written blog posts, articles, commentaries, poems, etc., are valid examples of a writer’s work. If done with portfolio building in mind, blogs can serve as a testimony to a writer’s abilities and professionalism.

Ideas I wrote down, though I don’t know where I found them. (I think they were advertisement for an online course on teaching blogging. But they aren’t there now.)

* Blogs as rough drafts vs. the importance of revising finished prose, and the expectations of the community of readers
This is something my students don’t understand. Because it is on the computer, those who use the computer often, ignore that ours is an academic blog. I need to stress this more.

* Community of blogs as dialogue – the importance of linking, addressing other writers, exposing your writing to a wider audience by becoming part of it

* Blogs as support group, the importance of commenting on other people’s writing and contributing positively to the community

After reading through these and other websites, I wrote:

Blogging is writing, writing in a context which is often decried as too public, but with some simple care, a class blog can be created, made public, and used as a forum for not only writing but reading and response to writing. If we introduce or steer our students into blogging, we may succeed not only in getting students through our courses cheerfully, with improved writing, but also in turning them into lifetime writers.

I suggest that this confluence of writing and internet will help our students in our classrooms, because they are writing for a real audience that is not just the instructor and which is much more likely to hold disparate views, articulate them, and request a response. It can also help some of our students overcome the socioeconomic status they were born in and facilitate their entry into a professional world.

2 thoughts on “Working through what it means to teach digital literacy”

  1. What was the end result of this research and your ruminations on blogging? Did you teach your students to blog? If so, was it one assignment or an entire course’s focus? What was their perception of blogging? How successful did you think it was?

  2. On the blog this post discusses this to some extent.

    I think that a single blog post is insufficient. I make part of the course learning to use the internet.

    I will say that it is WAY more successful when it is integrated with a single topic for a while. When all the early work was about politics, it was far more successful of an integration into the classroom, than when it is simply blogging.

    You can go to Davis English and see what my students have done with the blog.

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