Academic journal article Research & Teaching in Developmental Education

Let Developmental Students Shine: Digital Writing

Academic journal article Research & Teaching in Developmental Education

Let Developmental Students Shine: Digital Writing

Article excerpt


In a study designed to analyze faculty and student perceptions of the value of digital writing in the first year composition classroom, 21 first-year college students and a nationwide sample of 50 college composition teachers participated in conceptualizing digital multimodal composition and defining the benchmarks for first-year college digital writing. Based on the findings of this study and meta-analyses of literature, the following assessment criteria are suggested: 1. Rhetorical Knowledge, 2. Knowledge of Conventions, 3. Use of Modalities, Media, and Genres, 4. Originality/Creativity, and 5. Critical Thinking/Problem-Solving Skills. The implications for developmental educators lie in the necessity for developmental students to move into first year college-level writing classes and successfully navigate these classes in an increasingly digital world.

Key words: Digital writing, multiliteracies, assessment


In the digital age, advanced computer technologies have dramatically changed the landscape of communication. In particular, thanks to Web 2.0 technologies, people explore a new dimension of meaning-making by electronically integrating multimedia into conventional text-only writing. Since digital writing allows people to combine more than one mode such as text, sound, and video, the New London Group (1996) coined the term multiliteracies to explain an ability to construct meanings with "the multiplicity of communication channels and media, and the increasing saliency of cultural and linguistic diversity" (p.63). The challenge for the developmental educator is to balance the multiliteracies developmental students have already acquired with those needed in the modem educational setting. The developmental writer frequently presents with additional challenges such as disabilities, cognitive, and non-cognitive issues with which student and instructor must grapple. Technology can be a useful tool in dealing with these issues and, as such, may have even more application for the developmental student beyond the requirement for all students to be technological adept. Multiliteracies become essential for modem digital writers to express "linguistic, visual, audio, gestural, spatial, and multimodal meanings" (p. 83).

In fact, National Council of Teachers of English (2008) had to redefine literacy as an ability to:

* Develop proficiency with the tools of technology

* Build relationships with others to pose and solve problems collaboratively and cross-culturally

* Design and share information for global communities to meet a variety of purposes

* Manage, analyze and synthesize multiple streams of simultaneous information

* Create, critique, analyze, and evaluate multi-media texts

* Attend to the ethical responsibilities required by these complex environments

Furthermore, the Council of Writing Program Administrators (2008) included digital composition skills in first-year composition course outcomes along with rhetorical knowledge, critical thinking, and knowledge of conventions.

However, not all developmental literacy programs reflect this phenomenon. As a result, some developmental students lag behind in digital writing. In order to prepare them for technology-enhanced writing environments, it is important for developmental teachers to understand the multiliteracies that students bring with them to class with a view to augment or build upon these multiliteracies to allow the students to develop the required compliment of literacies benchmarked for the firstyear college level. The introduction of digital writing to their basic writing classes is an important component of this work.

There have been increasing efforts to define the construct of digital writing. In particular, the National Writing Project Committee (2010) notes that modem digital writers need a new skill set such as "creativity and originality; collaboration; management and leadership; evaluation and decision making; diversity; articulation; critical thinking and problem solving; observation and inquiry; communication in rhetorical contexts; knowledge making; information literacy; personal habits of mind; remix culture; technology knowledge and issues; and digital citizenship" (p. …

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