Reconceptualizing the teaching and learning of Digital Writing

In August 2019 myself and Jessica Zacher Pandya held a seminar held at Deakin University in Melbourne. We invited a range of scholars to bring their different perspectives about digital writing to an open-ended discussion in which we explored some of the important challenges facing the teaching and practice of writing in the 21st century.

The results of the seminar are now available in a series of essays in a special issue of Theory into Practice where we have taken an interdisciplinary and international approach to ‘digital writing.’ There is no single or simple definition of this term that is widely accepted. We used it to encompass all forms of communication, expression and creativity taking place through, on or with digital technologies and digital platforms. It may include traditional forms of ‘writing,’ that is the use of alphabetic text, but it may also include hybrid forms that mix text with image, emoji, sound and music. It may mean the use of recognizable genres and media forms, advertisements, short films, essays or presentations, but may equally involve the production and circulation of these forms to a wide range of readers or viewers online or through direct one-to-one communication. By definition it might include different kinds of writing activities in the production of a particular artefact, such as the use of storyboards, script and directions in the making of a film. Finished products might encompass modes, voices, images and sounds that blend, mutate and continue to evolve. In the issue, authors from Australia, the UK, the US, Singapore, and Chile conceptualize all forms of meaning making, including selfies, being active on social media, contributing to blogs or forums, texting, extended filmmaking, animation, and complex design as what we are calling digital writing.

One particular area of focus in this issue is on the development, or progressions, of writing in curriculum and policy. A concept of digital writing (that is, the capacity to communicate across media rather than simply in print) ought to be amenable to being mapped along lines similar to those we already use to describe stages of print-writing development.The authors represented in this issue suggest, that principles of progression and development can thus be approached from looking at: individual learners’ growth; communication with and across peers and communities; and study of curriculum rubric and assessment measures

We also asked authors to make sense of the interrelationship of meta-literacy writing principles (narrative, editing, composition) across different media forms and, conversely, to make sense of the interrelationship of artistic traditions and forms through the lens of learning to write . Thirdly we asked authors to address policy and practice implications of the changing writing landscape for teachers and teacher education. These are always evolving, and the current health and economic crises will only pressure national curriculum and examination boards to reflect on and perhaps change writing standards in shifting times.

The joint introduction to the issue is available here.