This book is easy to read. Right from the start, it sets up a nice, neat narrative as to why, as the title suggests, digital writing matters. Because teachers have always been interested in tools of the trade, they’ve been “early adopters of new digital tools for writing.” The book’s main author, per se, is the National Writing Project (NWP) which started in the early 1990s with teachers and early online communities began the groundwork for “sustained attention to the new networked and digital technologies at local Writing Project sites.” Through the years, decades, in fact, networks have been fostered to raise questions about the nature of writing and the learning of it. The new millennium began with a bang.
In 2003 the NWP got federal support and in 2007 a conference was held with the Bread Loaf Teacher Network (BLTN) which made strides in emerging classroom changes to keep with the digital times. This was an “important shift in emphasis” in how the NWP thought about digital writing. The query was how to integrate technology into the classroom. “The issue was no longer ‘technology’ or ‘tech integration’ per se. The issue was writing itself.” My takeway was that writing today is pervasively digital, using digital tools “created out of word, image, sound, and motion.” This blew my mind because I’d never considered aural components. As a writer, I was fixated on the words, grammar and punctuation. I had overlooked any consideration of image and sound. In short, the book’s already opened my eyes to the “wide range of digital platforms.” After all, as the preface clearly sets forth, even when we read and write…”we bring to that paper a different understanding” of what writing can be, based on our digital experiences. This is as ever-evolving as our networked world. There is no going back because, “quite simply, digital is.” My only trepidation is in how to incorporate these multi-modalities into my writing since clearly this is the way of the future. Resistence is futile. I have a musical background and a literary one, but combining them is a new frontier for me.
Since 2003, the landscape’s changed in what it means to ‘write’ and ‘be a writer’ due to social networking which have allowed collaboration to take hold like never before. I love two points the book states without doubt. First, regardless of technological advances, writing is still important and essential. Secondly, the book declares (to my relief) that “computers will not replace teachers.” As a child of parents who were both teachers, I must say this stance made me respect and trust this book more than I would have otherwise. The 2008 Digital Youth Project’s three-year study of young peoples’ use of technology was interesting. It’s the first time I had ever seen a study verifying what I’ve observed for over a decade, mainly that young people are “always on” unlike school which is “unplugged.” The book mentions several key videos about the shift that happened and is happening. The key reason for this shift is the “networked computer and related devices.” I remember dial-up internet that was notoriously slow and frankly, overpriced by modern standards. The digital realm is more than technology in that it considers the human aspects that result in a “whole new ecology.” More than merely “learning about and integrating digital tools [it considers the] dramatic changes in the ecology of writing and communication and, indeed, what it means to write–to create, compose, and share.” Part & parcel to defining digital writing, it is no understatement that digital media has transformed the ways we write. The result is that we must re-think our writing. Consider multiple possibilities. The book tackles what the public says about it and addresses what the classroom will evolve into so that new digital tools are utilized fully. The changes don’t negate the many core elements of a good classroom environment. This digital landscape may be a new terrain, but I felt consoled by the fact that teachers and learning are still viable.
National Writing Project, et al. Because Digital Writing Matters: Improving Student Writing in Online and Multimedia Environments. 1st ed. San Francisco: Jossey-Bass, 2010. Print.