Creating Writing Assignments that Leverage Digital Literacy
When students are assigned a research paper or other writing assignments, their first stop isn’t usually the library—it’s the Internet. The rise of internet technology has changed the way students research and learn, necessitating a new type of literacy. Digital literacy is using the Internet and other technology to research, evaluate, share, and create content, offering ample opportunities for teachers to expand their writing curriculum outside of the traditional in-class essay format.
Below we’ve put together four writing assignment ideas that incorporate digital literacy.
Online Academic Research Reviews
Research is relevant for every academic field, from the humanities to science to social issues. The Internet offers students almost limitless information at their fingertips, enabling them to investigate a variety of sources about a given topic and reach and communicate new conclusions. For high school students or college freshmen just learning how to conduct independent research for a paper or literature review, offer a workshop on how to use the web to obtain and evaluate credible sources about a specific topic. At the end of the workshop, ask students to write an informal narrative about which sources they found about the topic, how they found the sources, and which sources would be best to use in a research assignment.
Source Evaluation Summaries
Not all online sources are created equal. With the proliferation of “fake news” and increased politicization in the media, uncovering biases and propaganda is crucial in developing critical thinking skills and evaluating texts. Teach the differences between fact and opinion and the importance of understanding perspective when reading a source. Then have students use the Internet to find and evaluate different types of sources—a fake news article, an op-ed, a blog post, and an investigative journalism piece, for example—and write an analysis of how the author’s perspective influences the text, its credibility, and its appropriateness for research.
Sharing Techniques Across the Web
Shakespeare once wrote that “…brevity is the soul of wit.” With attention spans becoming shorter, students must learn how to convey complex ideas with concision and intrigue. Have students find scholarly articles from academic databases or credible media sources, and ask them to share it on social media with succinct and captivating language. Twitter’s 140-character limit is particularly useful for practicing concision. For added incentive, create a competition to see which student’s post gains the most views, clicks, or shares.
Creating Online Resources
After students have become adept at researching and evaluating sources, they can begin creating content on their own. Break away from the formula of assigning a research paper that only teachers will read, and instead have groups of students work on editing and creating new content for an online medium, such as a class blog, a Wikipedia article, or an online literary magazine. Ideas include writing a review for a book they have recently read for the course, conducting an online survey and evaluating the results, or working with a local organization such as a library or archive to perform primary research and publish research essays online.
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