Digital Rhetoric

Daer, A.R. & Potts, L. (Fall 2014). Teaching and Learning with Social Media: Tools, cultures and best practices. Programmatic Perspectives, 6(2). Retrieved from:


McGrath, Laura and Guglielmo, Letizia (2015). “Communities of Practice and Makerspaces: DMAC’s influence on technological professional development and teaching multimodal composing.” Computers and Composition, 36, 44-53.

I was drawn to this article because of the use of makerspace pedagogy with digital tinkering, or what the authors called ‘messing around’ with digital space. I regularly design Quest days to engage these ideas, I aim to create an atmosphere drawing from makerspace theory with promoting playful experiences and tinkering. I then typically ask students to explore digital designing, digital creating so students can create useful artifacts for themselves from the class to help improve their writing.

In this article McGrath and Guglielmo discuss their experiences at a DMAC summer event in 2006, and the ways they’ve developed similar experiences in their own classrooms. I think the key to this is their aim to support “pedagogically effective use of technology” (p. 46). I also like their inclusion of Communities of Practice to model a supportive, engaged community within the classroom as a way to promote tinkering and assisting. McGrath and Guglielmo develop connections with makerspaces, digital rhetoric, communities of practice, and creative making.


Robertson, Liane, Taczak, Kara, and Yancey, Kathleen Blake. “Notes toward A Theory of Prior Knowledge and Its Role in College Composers’ Transfer of Knowledge and Practice.” Composition Forum, vol 26, 2012. 

Robertson et al view transfer as a dynamic activity where students actively use prior knowledge as they complete writing tasks. Important to note is prior knowledge used and applied does not guarantee effective use of transfer practices by students. To address this idea, Robertson et al discuss models of transfer and prior knowledge, building a working model of how people learn and how writing and reading operate within that framework.

Importantly for me, Robertson et al discuss Applebee and Langer’s work on absence of prior knowledge, especially pointing out that high school experiences focused on high-stakes tests often prevent students from understanding writing as a way to construct knowledge. Writing to learn and writing as a mindset would be absent from high-stake test approaches to teaching writing.

Additionally, high school curriculums and these high-stakes tests focus heavily on literature. While literature analysis, and literature in general help students understand how writers reflect the human condition and struggle with culture, they don’t prepare students for non-fiction reading and writing prevalent in college classrooms.

Both of these absences of prior knowledge points struck me as especially relevant to discussions of social media in the classroom.

  1. how do the situations teens experience social media in outside the classroom shape their writing practices? What should that tell digital composition researchers about composing practices?
    1. I’m beginning to read It’s Complicated to understand boyd’s experiences with teens and social media as a beginning to unpacking my own assumptions
  2. While students currently engage with social media, and write through social media, most don’t consciously rhetorically situate their communication with every post made. What assumptions do digital composition researchers make about student familiarity with social media writing as a genre? In digital composition research we’re often looking to social media writing as rhetorically situated, which it is, but if there’s a lack of genre awareness knowledge – as in what genres are and how we write differently to various genres transfer may not be happening the way we expect.
    1. I think this is really interesting for understanding how my own assignment shape student understanding of writing and my expectations for how social media writing as a genre aids rhetorically situated writing transfer. I plan to go through existing literature to investigate this further.
    2. I also plan to ask my students – i’m still developing these tools for Spring courses

Tess, P.A. (2013). The role of social media in higher education classes (real and virtual) – A literature review. Computers in Human Behavior, 29.

In this review article, Tess discusses articles published prior to 2012 that discuss social media in higher education classrooms. Tess found that most of the articles published about social networking sites in the classroom relied on surveys and questionnaires for evidence of outcomes.

While a bit dated in 2016 (year of my posting), his concluding question still stands up 4 years after data collection. Tess asks “Can the same affordances of social networking sites that support individual level use, commend the integration of SNSs into the higher education class?” (p. A66). This question continues to be researched. I continue to grapple with this question when I assign not just SNSs as required technology for the course, but with Web 2.0 technologies (such as Word Clouds and Infographics), and with the learning management system.

This is also a very complex question – do instructors use SNSs in similar ways that influence how a site is assigned? I’ve discussed Twitter with various colleagues, many implement the tool in their classrooms very differently than I do while our learning goals are similar. So in asking if individual level use can be integrated into the higher ed classroom, the researcher also needs to consider practices associated with the SNSs realizing practices are not uniform across users.

It’s this question that I want to focus on here. When I assign Twitter to students, I build the assignment as a “Live Tweeting Class Notes” and “Live Tweeting Reading Notes” assignment, that also requires engagement with peers in the course hashtag. Have I just recreated the discussion board differently? I drew on ideas of Writing about Writing in developing this assignment, where students write informally about their own writing and learning.

What I know so far:

  • students are writing about writing
  • students are practicing writing for a known audience
  • students are writing in a shorthand form that must convey an argument (elevator pitch)
  • students are more engaged
    • favorite created hashtag so far #drphelpmegetthatdegree

Next steps – beyond surveys and questionnaires, how can I measure the effectiveness of Twitter in the classroom?