Monday, October 31, 2011

Digital Reading and Writing

In preparation for the National Writing Project's Annual Meeting in Chicago this year (Nov 17), I was exploring NWP's "Digital Is" website, a portal to digital resources that will amaze even the biggest skeptic. I was inspired to take a closer look at the Digital Is website after hearing Chris Anson, of North Carolina State University, give a presentation at a writing conference I attended this past weekend at MIT. In his talk, Anson immersed us in the statistics surrounding digital writing in the past 5 years. For example, by the end of this year, 2011, residents of the planet Earth will have sent a total of 8 trillion text messages to one another. Anson also showed us how authorship has skyrocketed in the past 10 years, primarily due to the Internet and the digital media it has inspired, and how digital writing has changed the way people read and write.

The reason I'm telling the story of how I ended up here is because it is a Writing Project story. Like many Writing Project stories, it begins at a conference. I went to a writing conference, and I heard a good teacher talk about teaching writing. After his talk, I was moved to investigate the NWP's digital writing resources, to start breaking down the barrier that exists in my own mind around "digital writing" and all of its promises. So, I explored, and in my exploration, I came across a post by Troy Hicks, where I was linked to an article from a research team at the University of Connecticut, titled "Toward a Theory of New Literacies Emerging From the Internet and Other Information and Communication Technologies" by Donald J. Leu, Jr., Charles K. Kinzer, Julie L. Coiro, and Dana W. Cammack. (Access the article here:

In that article, I read this passage, "Consider, for example, the changes experienced by students who graduate from secondary school this year. Their story teaches us an important lesson about our literacy future. Many graduates started their school career with the literacies of paper, pencil, and book technologies but will finish having encountered the literacies demanded by a wide variety of information and communication technologies (ICTs): Web logs (blogs), word processors, video editors, World Wide Web browsers, Web editors, e-mail, spreadsheets, presentation software, instant messaging, plug-ins for Web resources, listservs, bulletin boards, avatars, virtual worlds, and many others. These students experienced new literacies at the end of their schooling unimagined at the beginning. Given the increasingly rapid pace of change in the technologies of literacy, it is likely that students who begin school this year will experience even more profound changes during their own literacy journeys. Moreover, this story will be repeated again and again as new generations of students encounter yet unimagined ICTs as they move through school and develop currently unenvisioned new literacies."


I then made my way back to the resource page on Digital Is, where I found a description of "Inanimate Alice," a born-digital novel. I read about the novel, and I had to know more.

If you have an hour or so to explore something really worthwhile, read and experience Inanimate Alice. I guarantee that it will leave you with something to think about.

The Writing Project teacher keeps following a thread, even if it leads down paths that may be unfamiliar. And, at all the stops along the way, the Writing Project teacher asks, "What might this mean for my students? For my classroom? For my school? For my conception of a reader and a writer?"


  1. Troy Hicks is a great editor of the transmedia collection on Digital Is, but the actual compiler of the material is transmedia expert, Laura Fleming, a librarian and media specialist teaching in New Jersey. Her own blog is at:

  2. Thanks for the clarification, John!

  3. Jenn, I find this so fascinating ... since Friday is a day off thanks to our wonderful veterans ... I will spend some time looking at these sites. Thanks!