Because Digital Writing Matters: A review

I feel I have to begin this post with the full disclosure that I was breathless with anticipation for this book.  First, I am one of the National Writing Project’s biggest fans.  Second, I have had the privilege of working with Troy Hicks at the Red Cedar Writing Project and with Dànielle DeVoss at our WIDE PATHS institute last year.  As for Elyse Eidman-Aadahl, she is NWP’s fearless leader and one of the smartest people I’ve ever met.  So, I came into my reading experience a tad biased.

That being said, the book definitely lived up to my expectations and then some. I was impressed to note the transfer of many of the ideas and concepts they presented: while this text’s stated focus is on writing, in many ways, the technological shift to the Read-Write web has positioned all of us as writers.  Any educator moving their pedagogy into online environments would do well to read this text.

The book does pull inspiration and thinking from Because Writing Matters, a seminal text on writing instruction.  What is so smart about Because Digital Writing Matters that distinguishes it from the earlier text is that it addresses the good pedagogy of pen and paper writing, but also points out the ways in which digital writing changes the rhetorical choices of the writer and the pedagogical choices of the teacher.

The authors address all of the issues that surround taking one’s students into online and digital environments.  They begin with a discussion defining the nature of this type of composition.  The text then moves into more prosaic concerns, those concerns that ultimately make or break the taking of instruction online or digital: issues of copyright, acceptable use policies, standards and benchmarks, assessment.  I was impressed that even the physical layout of a computer lab was considered: the very physical positioning of the students and teacher has an impact on the overall learning ecology.

In short, this book is jammed with high-quality instructional vignettes to serve as inspiration for those making the foray into online or digital composition.  I have every confidence that the thoughtful discussion of digital writing here will change the way we talk about education and technology.

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