What I Learned During Digital Writing Month #DigiWriMo

For November’s Digital Writing Month (#DigiWriMo on twitter for short), I pledged to write 50,000 words in digital environments like twitter, blogs, and my preferred course management platform, Canvas.

I didn’t succeed in fulfilling the 50,000 word goal.

I’m still happy with my results because of the kind of work I accomplished. Much of what I wrote was teaching-related.

During #DigiWriMo, I developed two, new capstone projects for the writing courses I taught this semester. 

Research Project
In Writing Across the Disciplines, students developed their own analytical inquiry question to (1) write a short, research-supported paper, and (2) create an annotated bibliography that could be used to contextualize and lengthen the essay. This project replaced the traditional research paper, yet it still encouraged students to refine key skills related to finding, evaluating, and using academic and non-academic sources.

Professional Digital/Web Presence
In Business Writing, students completed two project-based learning activities. The first familiarized them with the formal and rhetorical expectations of job application materials, such as the functional resume. In the latter activity, students also produced materials in support of a job search; however, they didn’t write towards a specific listing. Instead, they created a professional digital/web presence that potential employers in their field would find attractive. This activity encouraged students to synthesize their knowledge of business writing and also apply it to a context with different formal, rhetorical, and writing expectations.  

I would have developed these capstone projects regardless of #DigiWriMo. In fact, the purpose of #DigiWriMo spurred some questions—and even criticism.  Writing in digital environments is something that many engage in regularly. Why, then, must we only think, celebrate, practice—insert your favorite verb here—digital writing for one month? As one #DigiWriMo participant asks:

When people talk about…digital writing, what do they mean? …[T]he concept is appropriately nebulous and protean. Digital writing, to me at least, seems more straightforward–but perhaps this is why Marylhurst University started Digital Writing Month. If the dichotomy (if there even is ever such a binary thing) is between digital writing and pen-and-paper stuff, then doesn’t almost everyone privileged enough to participate in Digital Writing Month already do almost all of their writing digitally? Except the occasional post-it note, grocery list, or sentimentally archaic postcard to a lover or friend?

Like the blogger above, #DigiWriMo encouraged me to revisit my definition of digital writing. Not coincidentally, perhaps, I did so while writing digitally. In preparing this entry, I commented on the blog post excerpted above with this definition:

To me, “digital writing” is a term that refers less to the tool and more to the space in which it occurs: a collaborative, interactive, and/or social environment. (And I do think those terms are mutually exclusive in some cases.) For this reason, digital writing is shareable, actionable, and malleable. These qualities enable digital writing to be consumed non-linearly and in fragments. Added to this, digital writing relies as much on visual rhetoric as it does the written word.

I also was drawn to #DigiWriMo because it encouraged me to be more self-reflective about my production of digital writing. Moreover, being among a community of individuals who were engaged in dialogue about similar issues was another motivating factor in my participation.

Finally, I discovered during #DigiWriMo that I write in digital environments a great deal, but I don’t always have time to share that material beyond my institution, let alone my own classroom!

In light of this deficit and the commitment to public scholarship I’ve made, I’ll be sharing the digital presence project I developed for my business writing course in a subsequent post. Much of this project also could be adapted for use in first-year and other composition courses.

If you participated in #DigiWriMo, what did you discover? Did you come to a different understanding of digital writing? And how does your definition of digital writing compare with mine?

 

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Posted in Blog Lab, Life of the Mind
One comment on “What I Learned During Digital Writing Month #DigiWriMo
  1. Interesting post. I hadn’t thought much about NaNoWriMo in the digital world. I love your definition of digital writing not so much as the tool but the social, interactiveness of it. It definitely changes how one writes. Feedback can be immediate and changes can then occur rapidly. As the world of publishing changes–this is something to think about.

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Amy Rubens
Amy Rubens

I'm an Assistant Professor of English at a state-sponsored university in South Carolina and have over ten years of experience teaching at the college level.

I regularly teach courses in composition, professional writing, creative writing, and American literature.

My primary research interest is the medical humanities, particularly the depiction of contagious disease in American literature and lifewriting. I also have research interests in digital writing, social media, and the ways electronic environments shape notions of health.

I'm inspired by the great outdoors and enjoy hiking and backpacking. When I'm not reading, writing, or hiking, I like to blog and spend time with my family members (both human and animal).

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