Writing in Digital Environments

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First Day’s Class and HW in Canvas

John Lennon quote


This class is designed to be different from any other high school or college writing class you have taken. The objective is not to write in order to prove to a teacher that you have learned the course material or that you have learned to write an academic essay or research paper—those are genres of writing that only exist in school and you will not be in school forever (thank goodness). The objective is for you to figure out what you want to do with your life and learn how writing can help you achieve your goals. And I hope you will not confuse means goals with end goals. That is, if your goal is to be happy (an end goal) and you confuse that with being a doctor or an engineer (a means goal) then you might only care about getting an A so you can get into med or law school; however, if you know that what makes you happy is working to better society, then you might discover that writing can help you promote social causes that you care about and you might discover that being a doctor or lawyer is one of many ways to better society. (More on all this in a future class session.)

I want you to think of what you do in this class as art. That doesn’t mean you will be painting, sculpting, or dancing (unless you want to). For the purposes of this class, art is part of what is required to communicate in the new connection economy made possible by the Internet. Here is how Seth Godin defines it in his book The Icarus Deception: How High Will You Fly?:

Art is not a gene or a specific talent. Art is an attitude, culturally driven and available to anyone who chooses to adopt it. Art isn’t something sold in a gallery or performed on a stage. Art is the unique work of a human being, work that touches another. Most painters, it turns out, aren’t artists at all—they are safety-seeking copycats.

Seizing new ground, making connections between people or ideas, working without a map—these are works of art, and if you do them, you are an artist, regardless of whether you wear a smock, use a computer, or work with others all day long.

Speaking up when there’s no obvious right answer, making yourself vulnerable when it’s possible to put up shields, and caring about both the process and the outcome—these are works of art that our society embraces and the economy demands.

Furthermore, this class will be different than your other writing (journalism, composition, or other English classes) in that we are not just interested in what you are writing (and how you are composing) but why you are making the choices you do when writing. The why takes center stage and you will spend a lot of time articulating your choices to convince me and your classmates that your choices are sound and appropriate for your particular audience and the context in which you are working.

Today’s Agenda:

  1. Welcome & syllabus overview
  2. What is Web 2.0 and 3.0?

  1. Introductions
  2. Brief Tutorial of Canvas


Below is our first Canvas Discussion question. Post your answer there by class time Thursday. If you have problems, answer the question offline in Word and bring the file to class Thursday so that I can help you post it.

Write a 250-500 word post answering the question “What role does the web play in your daily life?” Think about how (smart phone, laptop, tablet, etc.) when, where (home, school, coffee shop), and why you access the web. What applications do you use (gmail, Snapchat, Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, etc.) and why? What would you like to do online that you haven’t had the opportunity to do yet (start a YouTube channel for example)? What do you do online that you wish you didn’t have to (answer work email for example)?