Digital Humanities

Nathalie's Thoughts

Tumbling & researching for chapter

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I’m thinking about digital pedagogies in class this week because of my work on wordpress with my writing group. As a group, we’re working on keeping a log of our uses of the digital as grad students and as instructors. Last week, I focused on the use of tumblr in the composition class I teach. It’s one of the digital writing spaces we use – where students blog about writing, about our readings and respond to one another by using text, photos, videos, links, etc. In “Weaning Isn’t Everything: Beyond Postformalisim in Composition,” Miles McCrimmon describes the importance of teaching students to aggregate, annotate, reflect and publish. Blogs allows for this to happen. For McCrimmon, tools such as Facebook, Tumblr, Twitter, etc succeed to do what he advocates. He argues that we, instructors, must wean ourselves away from one-size fits all assignments (Carbone). I’m specifically interested in this idea as a way to have students navigate the large amount of information they find in digital spaces. Such a digital space, emphasizes collaboration, dialogue about writing, navigating pages and pages of information, echoing what McCrimmon describes. Charles Tryon says in Pedagogy that blogging provides a way “for students to take charge of their writing, to provide them with a sense that writing matters” (128). I see the idea of taking charge in the collaboration, audience and genre mode analysis students must do when blogging. Students have responded well to tumblr in class. Many have stated that they’ve never used it before while others have. But, part of my introducing the tool has to do with creating an awareness of digital writing, writing for a large audience and also thinking about research. Many students choose to post a unique picture or text they created, but most use tumblr as a search engine, find something they want to write about, re-post it and then write about it and how it relates to our class. This requires critical thinking and aggregating as McCrimmon says, then annotating as the student must help the class understand its relation to the conversation occurring in class, then students are required to reflect on the tumblr page and what it means to write in a digital space (reflect) and lastly they must publish the post and reflection piece. Tumblr and other digital spaces for writing allows for these thinking and writing skills to develop. Lanette Cadle writes about blogging as vital for writing instructors and students. She begins her article by stating that blogging is not a new thing. Even though, we need to recognize the importance of the blogging space in relation to building an identity. She quotes the following, which I will share because I think it summarizes the importance of digital writing as part of being aware of multipleliteracies and growing literacies:

J. Elizabeth Clark (2010) asserted that Kathleen Blake Yancey’s (2009) call for 21st literacies cannot be ignored and details how student blogs fit into what she calls “The Digital Imperative.” In this vision for the composition classroom, the blog format itself is studied as a rhetorical construct; links are used to lend source support, and most of all, students gain experience in argumentation the way it is happening now—in “an online arena” (p. 34). Clark added that student blog entries then become high stakes writing, writing that has real consequences: The instant publishing feature of blogs, however, makes blogs one of the highest stakes (although graded as low stakes) forms of writing that my students do; in a single click, they become authors with the responsibility for what they have written. They are also aware of the possibilities for revising if someone in the class challenges the reliability of something they have written. In this way, blogs may be seen as a popular form of Bakhtin’s “cultural software” that gives meaning to the act of writing and help students to develop new habits of thought about writing and its role in their lives. (p. 34)

Blogging allows for multi composition, digital writing, recognizing new literacies, audience awareness, genre awareness and the creation of an online identity. It’s important for students to learn and understand these spaces. As I think about this week’s reading, blogging and tumblr also raise the question of original work, especially when students are using the search engine on tumblr to find something to post. In Eisner’s Introduction piece, she writes, “Instead of policing student writing, teachers need to acknowledge the existence of ‘different discursive communities with different practices and activities.” They urge readers to reframe the discussion of plagiarism in universities and in the media; rather than focusing on theft and morality, teachers should encourage students to understand different genres and contexts and to use academic citation practices.” Tumblr is a space where students can understand a specific digital genre while also encouraging creativity and voice as staed in Eisner’s piece, “even first-year students often prefer to follow a formula, a formula dictated by the organization of the five-paragraph essay. Anne Berggren focuses on classroom techniques for fostering originality in novice writers; she argues that rules may build confidence in the short run, but are destructive in developing a writer’s voice.” Digital spaces and digital writing allows students to explore their use of voice, what impacts their voice, different modes of expression and creates an awareness about the   choices they make while reflecting on those choices to become stronger communicators.

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