Still thinking: Response on Digital Writing

Thanks, Kevin for the quote tweet and comment here as we continue the conversation on “What is digital writing?” It’s a start.

I’m considering your words in your comment in this post.

My own grapple keeps me wondering and thinking and trying to fall into the trap of getting too comfortable.

It’s true that those of us who write digitally find the tools ubiquitous; we are comfortable with the process and tools and must remember those who are just learning, especially adults. Our students seem to see, observe, choose, and do from our assignments and modeling. They often suggest tools for us, and we guide them in more demanding and intellectual use of them. We are comfortable in these shoes, and continue our forward walk. It is Kevin’s thoughtful questioning that leads reflection so that others may begin the journey. At least, that is my goal, to nudge the novices into the adventure students already explore.

For example, now you have me reconsidering my words about a blog post. You may be right. Your insight to not just bring design into the equation, but to make it a central idea, seems right, to me, too. But if we are not the designer, if we use a template made by others and just add words into the template, does design matter?

This is a great question — templates. I’m reminded of years ago when our school subscribed to a website platform for schools. It included pages for  teachers to communicate to families in a newsletter/blog format, places for lesson plans [and diligent monitoring by administration], and much more. It was designed so teachers could just add text and perhaps a photo. In order for it to work for me, I had to search for html coding because the ‘template’ was so rigid (and boring). I wanted to share and show what we were doing in class in images, video, and text way back then. That’s a template without flexibility, and dictated to me; not my digital writing. Fortunately, we dropped that expensive cost and became a Google Apps for Education school.

Yes, I can choose a blog — and I can choose the design that fits my purpose for my audience. I can tweak the colors and display, choose the content of the widgets, and determine the content of my posts. So I’m thinking that this allows the author the design choices of a digital writer.  I’m not sure about other LMS [Learning Management Systems] because we don’t use them, except for Google Classroom, which is the classroom; the parent and community information are posted in blogs and websites. Are LMS rigid in teacher design of his/her classroom website or blog, and thus limit the design choices of the authors? Does design matter? I think so.

What about blog design when it comes to an RSS reader, which strips all design from the source in order to stream the words and image only?

I’m thinking this is the researchers choice — to gather information, which is part of the design and digital writing process. It’s part of the system the author chooses for connections and research. It serves its purpose for those gathering information, inspiration, and collaboration.

Certainly, Margaret’s point about expanded audience plays a role … yet, I can create a piece of digital writing (say, a poem with hyperlinks and embedded audio and video) and share it with no one, and so, it is digital writing with no audience.

Because digital writing is at first personal, until work requirements and academic protocol causes our revision to those mandates, that makes no audience but oneself as important as any audience. Writing helps us grow our ideas, values, and beliefs. I once participated in a group with Ben Wilkoff and others calling ourselves “Open Spokes.” We wrote personal statements as videologues which we shared with each other to build on the ideas. So the audience at first was ourselves and then shared for our fellowship. Writers keep their ideas for fuel when needed. Today’s non-audience may be tomorrow’s team audience.

Like Kevin, Margaret, and Karen LaBonté, I continue my digital writing and its many nodes.

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