Digital Writing Across the Curriculum -
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Digital Writing Across the Curriculum: Writing is the lifeblood of a liberal education: almost any course taught by a university can be taught better, and in more ways, if entering students are good writers. Student writing ability is also crucial for many forms of assessing learning.

This web site is devoted to gathering evidence to help colleges and universities investigate and debate this assertion:

There are courses in every department of our institution where teaching, learning, and assessment could be improved if students entered with some skills in digital writing (e.g., able to edit and annotate images, video, animations, and audio for inclusion in academic papers; able to write collaboratively online).  Therefore we should systematically develop those skills, in addition to the skills we now teach in traditional formats of academic expression (e.g., short essays, term papers)  (For more on why we're calling this 'digital writing across the curriculum,' click here.)

As we have collected examples of digital writing assignments from courses in various majors, the following defining strengths of digital writing across the curriculum (DWAC) have been emerging:

  1. Many kinds of resources included, annotated, and synthesized (by the author and then by the reader) e.g., primary source text, images, music, quantitative data, services, and video.  The scope for student research can be widened considerably. Click here to read, and contribute, examples.

  2. Multi-linear and nonlinear argument can be expressed: Linear text suggests certain kinds of reasoning, e.g., beginning with a single thesis, citing literature, presenting fresh evidence, and drawing a conclusion. But there are other forms of reasoning that are sometimes more appropriate for disciplinary content.  Click here to read, and contribute, examples.

  3. Engaging an audience and thereby engaging the student: Student authors are more likely to learn if they are actually teaching, and interacting with, a meaningful audience, during and after the course (e.g. with work in a portfolio sent to graduate schools or employers, or made publicly available in a social networking site). Click here for examples.

  4. Collaborative writing: online writing tools such as wikis open new possibilities for students to learn by writing together and, sometimes, teaching one another as they do. Click here for examples.

  5. The writing can continue to evolve, even after the work is graded and the course ends. Through interaction with collaborators and with readers, the writing can continue to develop over time (even after a course ends. Click here for examples.

  6. Learning to write in the different voices (genres) appropriate for the disciplineClick here for examples.

  7. Engaging topics that are emotionally as well as intellectually challengingClick here for examples.

Helping students learn skills of  digital writing does not mean ignoring traditional forms of writing. In fact, a college education should also help students learn how to decide when it's better to use traditional forms and when to use digital forms of expression.

For more resources and references about digital writing across the curriculum (and to contribute your own), click here.

Developing Digital Literacy Across the Curriculum at Your Institution

I'm not aware of any college or university that is currently requiring and helping all its students to be digital writers as they enter advanced courses in their majors. Nor would it be possible to move to that stance overnight.  Click here for ideas about how an institution can gradually move in this direction (and to post your own ideas and experience, too.)

- Stephen C. Ehrmann


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