Book Review: Harnessing Social Media for Teaching Composition
Engaging 21st Century Writers with Social Media
By Kendra N. Bryant
2017, 306 pp.
By Shalin Hai-Jew, Kansas State University
When people think about writing on the Internet, various ideas may come to mind.
- There’s NaNoWriMo (National Novel Writing Month), which has named November as the month to write 50,000 words of a draft novel for its hundreds of thousands of participants. This endeavor, started in 1999, has been wildly popular among participants.
- There are variations on more traditional genres, such as so-called cell phone novels or mobile phone novels, written via TM-ing, and approximately 700 – 100 words each given TM character limitations. This started as a literary genre in Japan in 2003, and there are online publishers for such works. These work in some languages better than others simply because there may be brevity built into meaning-bearing characters than lettered words. Then, too, there are six-word stories, six-word memoirs, and other variations. These originated in 2006 and tap in the hyper-brevity of some types of online writing.
- Then, there’s also floods of writing in the pursuit of sociality and social performance and more utilitarian objectives (like job-hunting) on social media sites: blog postings, microblogging messages, SMS, folksonomic tagging, and others.
Kendra N. Bryant’s edited collection “Engaging 21st Century Writers with Social Media” (2017) begins with the observation that today’s millennial students (those born between 1982 – 2000) engage writing a lot online—through social networking sites, blog sites, microblogging sites, crowd-sourced encyclopedias, and other online venues—but they often come at traditional academic writing with anxiety and befuddlement. Bryant writes in the Preface:
“The 21st century student writer, however, is having to contend with the demands of academic writing—which are still quite traditional—while absolutely inundated with social media platforms that insist on 140 character tweets, emoticon-filled text messages, and status updates that are often composed of 3-letter words such as “lol,” “smh,” “wtf,” and “idk.” While 21st students are absolutely writing and composing more often than I and my peers did—more often than all the previous generations before them did—today’s student writer is not necessarily writing as well, or at least to the University’s standard.”
As an intrepid young college professor with a Ph.D. in English with an emphasis on Rhetoric & Composition, she wondered if it would be possible to harness social media to support composition. She herself had engaged in “pen palling” online with her own poetry, blog posts, Facebook updates, and text messaging and could envision some possibilities.
Updating Pedagogical Approaches in Composition
This way, she could align with what students were also engaging in. She encouraged the participation of students in the collaborative making of the world—by strengthening their social interests and encouraging the sharing of their voices and sensibilities in the world. She saw college writing assignments as “void of the freedom, flexibility, audience (community), creativity, humor, activism, profanity, and empowerment that social media platforms offer its users”; she is calling out writing professors informed by “pre-Google-aged” inspirations for not fully addressing technological writing requirements. As she explored further, she realized she could contribute to bridging the digital divide that she found in her students at Florida A&M University where she was teaching. (She is now at The University of North Georgia, Oconee.)
Lest readers believe that Bryant is being a little harsh, she included a refreshing Foreword by Andrea Abernethy Lunsford, Louise Hewlett Nixon Professor of English, Emerita, at Stanford University, who recalls her writing in longhand and transferring that to a typewriter, during her studies. Lunsford opens with: “When I was in college in the early 1960s, I wrote all my assignments by hand; then I ‘typed them up’ on a tiny manual typewriter, praying I could avoid typos, which were almost impossible to correct.” During her career, she started to compose digital texts by integrating sound and imagery. She recommends the book for both practitioners who’ve entered the social media spaces to teach student writing and those who are considering it. It is a solid recommendation.
Stephanie N. Phillips, in “Networked Digital Spaces: Twitter in the Composition Classroom” (Ch. 1), describes a writing assignment in which students research fictional characters and embody them on Twitter in order to benefit from interactivity. If compositions were only shared between the student and instructor, students would not experience such richness of networked communication. (What was not clear was if any outside participants on Twitter took part; if not, the same experience could generally be recreated using “discussion board” functions on learning management systems. Leveraging students to motivate each other has long been a common pedagogical strategy.)
In a memorable confession, Phillips describes how she had her students stow their technologies during class time because she was afraid that they would be a distraction. However, as she took graduate coursework during which she saw effective uses of online technologies for learning, she changed her mind and started incorporating social media. Social media can highlight the conversational and communal aspects of composition.
She also realized that the transition was not that earthshaking: “Although written in 1999, Anson’s ‘Distant Voices: Teaching and Writing in a Culture of Technology,’ aptly makes an assertion that holds true for 2015 writing classrooms: the basic layout, tools, and modes of assessment are largely comparable, and perhaps even identifiable, to a ‘mid-nineteenth century schoolteacher’ (p. 264, as cited by Phillips, 2017, p. 2). In academia, the conversation about how to creatively integrate technologies has long been a part of the space. If anything, the technologies themselves have been changing at breathtaking speeds.
Networked digital compositions may be harnessed to engage in local, national, international, and global discussions, with the simple adding of a hashtag (#Ferguson and #BlackLivesMatter), Phillips notes. Students can use their own writing skills to work towards positive social change for a healthier civil and democratic society. Other assignments can emphasize succinctness, such as having students summarize an argument with its supporting evidence…down to 140 characters. Students can analyze audiences by examining #hashtag communities engaged around particular social issues. By these examples, it is clear the instructional leadership and the pedagogical setup are important—for effective learning.
Another important feature is to debrief the learning to understand what worked or didn’t work for the learners. Philips asked her students the following:
“1. What is the process you used for selecting your fictional character? How did Twitter effect (sic) your character selection?2. Before creating your character’s account, what topical goals did you establish? Were the goals different for unilateral communication, communication with other specific Twitter users, or for communication with the larger Twitter network?3. Did your choice of fictional character assist or limit the communication goals you established?Did the account achieve the level of interaction with other characters and users you envisioned?What aspects of the character you chose limited your ability to successfully communicate with the Twitter network as a whole?4. How did Twitter assist or limit your communication goals?” (Phillips, 2017, p. 9)
On Blogs and Microblogs
“Blog Love: Blogging (and Microblogging) Communities as Writing Classroom Companions,”
By Clarissa J. Walker, suggests that for all the study of multimodal instructional activities that those in Composition Studies have been slow to integrate social media technologies like WordPress (blogging) and Twitter (microblogging) in the work. This chapter is an integrationist one which weaves earlier theoretical thinking about technologies in negative light—as symbols of dominant socially-oppressing culture—and then later works which explored practical ways to integrate blogging and microblogging into the composition classroom. Over time, texts have been conceptualized as being more social, in the eyes of literacy scholars. With that grounding, Walker set out to create learning experiences for her students using both WordPress and Twitter not in the “walled gardens” of closed learning management systems but on public platforms, with a variety of discourse communities and those with differing dialectic traditions. She worked to avoid dominating discourses but towards encouraging a multitude of voices.
She observed her students interacting around the reading of Amy Tan’s essay “Mother Tongue.”
“I observed a classroom full of students engaged in this cycle: their eyes moved from the Twitter feed to monitor their classmates’ critical analysis and to catch the next question; then, their gaze shifted to the essay searching out passages and evidence; finally, they went back to their devices in order compose a 140-character contribution to the discussion. The Tan essay and others selected for this activity carried familial and personal-level tensions (her mother being stereotyped), institutional-level discrimination (at department stores and local schools) and national-level debates (the merits and effectiveness of achievement testing).The texts I curated for this activity were intended to have diversity of content, making it possible for learners at all levels to possibly lead in an area of the discussion. Thus far, I have completed this exercise with more than 60 students and the incorporation of technology uniquely addresses level variance that is the norm in general education courses” (Walker, 2017, p. 21)
She also created low-stakes assignments to encourage her students to regularly blog and to try to ensure that their work continues even without direct instructor presence.
In the third chapter, Brian C. Harrell’s “Using Twitter to Scaffold English Composition” aspired to use the rules of Twitter to teach first-year composition students the “rhetorical moves” to write college-length essays (p. 32). The three main assignments, which have been used by Harrell for three years, included the following: “1) rhetorically analyze Twitter and create a formula for an effective tweet; 2) rhetorically analyzing an academic article 140 characters at a time; and 3) rhetorically analyzing a student’s own paper using these same 140-character sound bites” (Harrell, 2017, p. 32). He offered his students an appropriate (and funny) list of Twitter Do’s and Don’ts. Two don’ts: “Your muscles say something about you; never say something about your muscles. Enough said.” and “We all know you think you’re hilarious. But let others decide whether your tweets are Twitter gold. Don’t favorite your own tweets” (Harrell, 2017, pp. 44 - 45).
A Critical Pedagogy
Jill Darling, in “From Expository Blog to Engaged E-Portfolio: A Student-Centered Pedagogy in Process” (Ch. 4), envisions employing a Freirean critical pedagogy (2000) by blurring the lines between academic scholarship and in-world social activist writing to achieve social change, in a “democratic classroom” (Darling, 2017, p. 70). Strategic literacy enables social empowerment, but this requires designing writing for an audience without compromising the heart and power of a message.
Students engaged with social issues that were resonant to them—such as hunger in America, cyberbullying, and racism. They drew analytical mind maps showing interrelationships between topics. Even with the social media components, the learners also engaged in “in-class freewriting, short homework writing, group collaborative writing, and other activities” (Darling, 2017, p. 53).
The author experienced some challenges with on-screen peer review of each other’s writing:
“By the time groups started to peer-review their projects online, the process became messy and seemingly less effective. Working onscreen is distracting; students often have a hard time sticking with a linear process for reading through others’ sites, and the feedback is given in parts and pieces. Often students ended up working on their own sites-in-progress instead of focusing on others’ work. Because the sites are continually in process, they are never really completely finished before the end of the semester. Although I have tried to refine the guidelines for on-screen peer review from one semester to the next, I also believe some of the messiness is an important part of the process. The collaborative part of construction is counterintuitive to working in a linear fashion, but working in this non-linear way to read, comment, and help others create quality work can be especially beneficial” (Darling, 2017, p. 69).
Something not mentioned are the risks of a younger self’s work being shared and captured online, with a version that may be revisited based on an as-yet unanticipated future need. What is the state of human privacy if youthful works may be surfaced and used for as-yet unforeseeable purposes?
Shannon Butts’ “This is the Remix: Remediating Pedagogy Practices” (Ch. 5) places the “remix” framework at the center of social media use for learning compositional writing. The thinking is that creative thinkers are influenced by a lot of contents, and the flood of online information enables broad sources of inspiration. The author writes in her opening paragraph:
“Remix is not a new idea. Art, music, and writing have a long history of “cut-up” techniques, remix, and sampling from William Buroughs (sic) and Marcel Duchamp to Led Zepplin (sic) and Grandmaster Flash. Copying, recycling, adapting, and appropriating have all helped create art, culture, technology, and texts. In music, recording equipment and sound machines alter tempo, tone, instrumentation, intensity, and style to create something new – all while using common notes and chords. In writing, new media formats and technologies alter common composition methods for authoring texts and communicating ideas. As Mickey Hess (2006) notes, “Like academic writing, hip-hop sampling requires more than cutting and pasting existing material. Sampling, at its best, uses sources to create new meaning” (Butts, 2017, p. 74).
Remix is conceptualized as “a combinatorial generative device…encoded in evolutionary biology and culture” (Butts, 2017, p. 75). Modern culture is about hybrid influences. When applied to writing, remix is about how writing is created—in a nonhierarchical way which supports associative thinking across media. In this approach, learners disassemble and then reassemble texts and come to new insights and connections. The author explains: “Students not only write critically about objects of study, but also have the opportunity to produce original work in various styles and media. In mapping the remix process as well as the purpose of each composition, students are able to identify key elements of argument, style, and effective communication – taking ownership of their own writing” (Butts, 2017, p. 74).
By writing, the author means engaging with all sorts of multimedia contents. She explains:
“The course started with a podcast assignment focusing on sound and style, then moved to a film analysis that introduced components of visual rhetoric, and concluded with a remediation project emphasizing media form and adaptation. Additionally, students were periodically required to post to a discussion blog reflecting on assignments and commenting on various elements of remix writing. Each remix writing assignment coupled different forms of media with a specific agenda, progressively building skills as in any writing course, but used video, sound, digital media, images, and traditional text based writing as objects of study and methods of response” (Butts, 2017, p. 78).
In her podcast assignment, students first analyze podcast style and elements; write a 500-word discussion post of their analyses, then create their own 10 – 12 minute podcast after the style of the original, and then write up an argument validating their own imitation (Butts, 2017, p. 78).
Shannon Butts also has a “Remix as Remediation” assignment which combines several forms of social media (Instagram, Twitter, and others) to enable the re-telling of an issue multiple ways from multiple perspectives. The prompt reads, as follows:
“Prompt: You will document a story or event through three different forms of media, Instagram, Twitter and a media of your choice, using both images and written accounts to remediate the same source content. The first text will be a photo essay, composed through Instagram. Once you finish your Instagram narrative, you will remediate the same event through Twitter posts. You will then choose a third form to remediate your content. In addition, you will also write a short rhetorical analysis essay in which you reflect critically upon the differences between media forms and the changes remediation and remix brought to each composition’s meaning and method of communication. The assignment is an exercise in adaptation, understanding each format and how to best remix content and purpose through multimodal writing (5-6 weeks to complete).You will turn in:1. Instagram Narrative (40 posts – Due week 4).2. Twitter Narrative (25 posts – Due week 4).3. Third Remediation of Content (Due week 5).4. Rhetorical Analysis (1200 words—Due week 6).Building on many of the principles taught in the Podcast assignment that opens the semester, the Remix and Remediation final project challenges students to analyze, interpret, and compose across diverse forms of media. Again playing on imitation and adaptation, each remediation requires students to consider purpose, tone, format, and persuasive appeal in order to create content for a specific medium” (Butts, 2017, p. 83).
“This is the Remix…” is one of the more powerful and memorable chapters because of the meticulous nature of the assignments. There is the sense that the concepts and practices may apply for assignment design even as the technologies change. Butts evokes the sense of how people connect through what others have created, and she includes a powerful sampler of student works and the backstories behind them. The ideas are inspiring and applicable, and the pedagogical rationales are solid. Further, the author demonstrates a clear facility across multiple social media platforms.
Katherine Fredlund, in “Social Media and the Rhetorical Situation: Finding Common Ground between Students’ Lives and Writing Courses” (Ch. 6), conceptualizes social media as a tool to help students transfer learning from one context to another. As social media practices enable learners to be successful writers, so, too, formal writing assignments executed on social media enable learning in academia. A central assignment that she has created is about creating memes (persuasive and concise memetic communications) that are adaptable to a range of contexts, through “high road” transfer.
“By incorporating social media into short reflective writing assignments, my students are asked not just to consider transfer but to also practice this “high road” transfer. Such writing assignments do not simply tell students that they will have to use the skills we teach them in different ways later. Instead, they encourage meta-cognition by asking students to practice transferring their knowledge from rhetorical situations on social media to the rhetorical situations in our classroom. Thus, rather than hoping students will transfer the writing skills I teach, I try to teach them transfer skills as well as writing skills when incorporating social media into writing prompts.” (Fredlund, 2017, p. 99)
A visually engaging assignment prompt is “Making Social Media Honest” (Fredlund, 2017, p. 100). Whereas the traditional rhetorical triangle included the writer, the message, and the audience, the more modern rhetorical tetrahedron includes considerations of the medium, genre, and design (Morey, 2014, as cited by Fredlund, 2017, p. 100). In the spirit of multi-medial prompts, Fredlund shares some of her assignment sheets as figures in the chapter.
Figure 1: Meme Project Assignment Sheet (Part 1) (Fredlund, 2017, p. 106)
This author also shares some screenshots of her students’ works and the back stories behind some of them. She shows that messages are complex and nuanced, and the audiences for the communications are real-world.
In Chapter 7, Meghan McGuire explores “Reblogging as Writing: The Role of Tumblr in the Writing Classroom.” Her contention is that there is learning value in reblogging others’ contents on a blogging site and then commenting on the contents. McGuire writes:
“Outlining Tumblr as a writing space demonstrates its value in the writing classroom and that it can be used within the context of other writing courses. With strategic Tumblr use, students are first able to acclimate to the process of writing, rather than focus on the finished product. Second, they are able to understand the larger context of writing and how it benefits them beyond their role as students, and in this particular assignment, how they are preparing themselves for their careers and begin to situate themselves within that context. Tumblr can also be used to explore the many different ways of exploring how people write about a large number of issues and topics in a global context, including both text-based and multimodal writing. Finally, by allowing students to empower themselves by learning the various components and tools of Tumblr and assisting their classmates as well, teachers can give them some agency in their own learning and enable them to find pride and ownership in what they have done.” (McGuire, 2017, p. 130)
This approach seems to situate learners as analysts of social media contents through their own respective biographical lenses.
Theorizing to Effective Practice
Social networking sites—like Facebook—were conceptualized early on as spaces for friends and family, but over the years, have broadened out for a range of professional and educational uses. Ken Hayes’ “Socializing Composition: Entering the Conversation of SNS in Composition” (Ch. 8) describes that transition and suggests that SNSes affect learners’ awareness “of rhetorical strategies and considerations of audience in personal, professional, social, and civic situations” (Hayes, 2017, p. 136). Hayes provides a number of ideas for possible assignments, but it is not clear if the author himself directly employed these in his own courses. Ways to mitigate potential risks—such as data leakage or privacy compromises—were not addressed.
Erin Trauth, in “Creating Meaning for Millennials: Bakhtin, Rosenblatt, and the Use of Social Media in the Composition Classroom” (Ch. 9), takes a theory-based approach to explore how social media technologies may be effectively incorporated for learning. Mikhail Bakhtin’s social construction of knowledge and Louise Rosenblatt’s student-centered pedagogy are applied to learning applications enabled by Facebook and Twitter. Trauth writes:
“For Bakhtin, all language (and perhaps all thought) interaction centers on a dialogic, and a conversation between speaker and addressee must happen for true meaning to generate. Every statement made, then, always exists in relation to another statement made before it, and all language and ideas are dynamic and interrelational. Bakhtin even goes so far as to suggest that without social interaction, there is no perception: “Consciousness becomes consciousness only once it has been filled with ideological (semiotic) content, consequently, only in the process of social interaction” (as cited in Bizzell & Herzberg, 2000, p. 1212, as cited by Trauth, 2017, p. 153).
Social media systems like Facebook and Twitter are materializations of Bakhtin’s dialogic systems, with texts interrelated to prior texts, and users interacting in complex relationships “supported by a continual discourse and conversation with one another” (Trauth, 2017, p. 154). Likewise, social media sites embody a student-centered pedagogy by enabling students to act on texts and vice versa, continuously and dynamically. Trauth writes: “For example, if the average college student spends an equal amount of hours online and in class per day, their lives in social media contexts will intrinsically shape them as persons in classroom environments (and vice versa). As composition instructors, we should meet students “in the middle”—in the places they actually do their writing—to have an optimal effect on student writing” (Trauth, 2017, p. 156).
Theorizing enables practitioners to apply principled approaches to their uses of social media for teaching and learning—even if the social media changes forms and as student needs are perceived as changing.
The next chapter also engages theory, in this case Hans Robert Jauss’ “Reception Theory,” which originated in the late 1960s. The basic assertion of this was that readers engage aesthetically with (and pursue pleasure from) texts through catharsis, aisthesis, and poiesis. Elisabeth H. Buck’s “Slacktivism, Supervision, and #Selfies: Illuminating Social Media Composition through Reception Theory” (Ch. 10) suggests that there are benefits in applying reception theory in a classroom which harnesses social media—and a broader audience.
To simplify Jauss’s view, readers experience “catharsis” or “communicative aesthetic experiences” and through “aesthetic identification” with characters and what is depicted (Buck, 2017, p. 166). As to “aesthesis,” readers experience pleasure from “sensory and perceptory” experiences by engaging with texts or objects; beyond sensory reception of a text, individuals’ “morality and understanding of social codes” inform how they respond to contents (Buck, 2017, pp. 170 - 171). In terms of “poiesis,” this refers to productive aesthetic experience or the pleasure of creating something or recognizing one’s own “creative potential to generate a text” (Buck, 2017, p. 175). The three concepts may be applied to the learners’ creation of selfies (as a social media artifact) to communicate something about themselves to their respective audiences.
Christine Fiore’s “The Blogging Method: Improving Traditional Student Writing Practices” (Ch. 11) suggests that blogging offers a close mirror to traditional academic writing. The challenge? “Most forms of social media, while encouraging them to write all day long, do not help them find their writer’s voice and become better expository writers” (Fiore, 2017, p. 181). Blogs are a way to explore authentic writer voices particularly as people write what they know. The author describes her own time allocation while writing an “average blog post” (in descending order of time investment): writing / editing, ongoing research, checking social media, reading news stories, and “actual break” (Figure 2, Fiore, 2017, p. 192). Web logging (blogging) technology may be brought into a composition classroom with salutary effects. Fiore suggests a semi-rationalist universe in the public thinking space:
“Speaking with authority on any subject requires a combination of forceful, powerful writing, with facts and sources as back-up. Even the most moving and convincing political speech will ultimately be torn to shreds, if the arguments are not grounded in fact. While opinions matter, they must be supported by others, those seen to be experts or possessing convincing statistics, to make a stronger case. The beauty of the Internet is that there are always statistics to support any side of any topic” (Fiore, 2017, p. 187).
This author describes other learning tasks: outlining, maintaining an ideas notebook, working on capturing reader attention, applying logic, wrapping up a piece well, and others.
Interestingly, she adds a note about trolling that she’s received from her writing:
“I also get plenty of negative comments! Once again, these comments are not about my writing per se, rather about my stance on a certain topic. There will always be those who don’t agree with a blogger’s position, even when the most carefully researched facts back it up. Why? Because anyone who looks hard enough, can back any point of view with some “expert” opinion. I’ve written a blog about not believing everything one reads, with supporting links about fake articles! Negative comments come from people who have read those articles, from people with very staunch viewpoints on hot button topics, or from those who see themselves in a blog post, and not in a very flattering light. This should never stop students from writing or having opinions. Using links or citing sources, or even simply keeping records of sources, can be helpful in politely answering comments that question the validity of a blog post” (Fiore, 2017, p. 195).
The Professional Self Online
In Chapter 12, Amy Rubens suggests that Twitter and other social media platforms may be harnessed to market the students’ professional selves given the popularity of employer cybervetting of potential new hires. Employers not only go online to look for potential character issues, but they also try to understand an individual’s commitment to a field, his or her writing ability, and other aspects. As such, students would do well to not only engage using the informal language of social media youth but write in ways that speak to professionals. In “Teaching Casual Writing for Professional Success with Twitter: Digital Small Talk and the New Textese,” Rubens suggests that students should be able to “codeswitch” depending on their audiences because they are addressing multiple audiences simultaneously with every communication they share online.
Students have to be aware that they are not only exploring facets of their own identities but building their own personal brand when they communicate on social media. Erin Trauth, in “Curating the Public Self: Helping Students Present an Authentic, Professional Persona via LinkedIn” (Ch. 13), suggests that private social media personas may be turned into public ones “for job searches, graduate school applications, and the like” via LinkedIn (which was purchased by Microsoft Corporation in June 2016 for $26 billion). Trauth suggests that students should curate their contents—“to organize, sift through, and select for presentation” (p. 223). They should be selective about what is shown.
Kendra N. Bryant, in “#WordUp!: Student Responses to Social Media in the Technical Writing Classroom” (Ch. 14), emphasizes the importance of really listening to students about their social media use and their needs in technical writing studies when designing assignments. She demythifies the idea that students—even millennials—necessarily are comfortable with social media; rather, it’s better to provide learners with the necessary support.
Melissa Vosen Callens’ “Using Wikipedia to Teach Written Health Communication” (Ch. 15) describes the use of Wikipedia as an end destination for writing on health by students in the health professions. This professor chose Wikipedia because of its wide usage for accessing health information. She also selected it because her students could be positively motivated by writing for an actual real-world audience and contribute civically. They could contribute to a more racially diverse base of contributors to Wikipedia (Callens, 2017, p. 247). The MediaWiki understructure for Wikipedia is not the easiest interface to use, and Wikipedia itself has an image problem as a crowd-sourced resource.
What is intriguing here is that the students in the health professions are engaging others in the actual space. For example, a Wikipedia editor may take their work down:
“Finally, it is possible for a student’s work to be taken down by Wikipedia editors. Sometimes, taking down the material is justified (the student failed to follow the content guidelines), and other times, the reason for taking the material down is not quite as clear. This can lead to difficult conversations with students. While having work taken down would undoubtedly be frustrating, it can also be a great learning moment. It is important to encourage students to engage in a dialogue with the editors that removed their contribution. Learning how the community works is a great secondary lesson of this assignment.” (Callens, 2017, pp. 255 – 256)
She notes that there may be some “rogue, rude editors,” but that they are also part of the learning experience. Callens also uses resources from the WikiEd Foundation (https://wikiedu.org/).
The final chapter of the book is by Ahmed Abdulateef Al Khateeb, and this describes the employment of a wiki to enhance medical students’ learning of English. “Designing a Wiki-Based Course for Enhancing the Practice of Writing Skills in the 21st Century: Moving from Theoretical Grounding into Practical Knowledge” is based on the use of the Process-oriented Wiki-mediated Collaborative Writing (PWMCW) framework for English assignments in a 16-week course at King Faisal University in Saudi Arabia. The course itself involves only 28 instructional hours total and covers a range of features about English: punctuation, parts of speech, sentence structure, outlining, and writing. Given the speed of topic coverage, the medical students likely have some in-depth prior trainings leading up to this course. Based on a theoretical framework including constructivism, Vygotsky’s Zone of Proximal Development, collaborative learning, and computer-supported collaborative learning, this course was designed to enable various learner activities on the shared wiki (Al Khateeb, 2017, p. 259).
“Engaging 21st Century Writers with Social Media” provides some ways forward for composition instructors who may want to integrate social media to enhance student learning. The works engage various software tools: social networking sites (Facebook), blogging sites (WordPress, Tumblr), microblogging sites (Twitter), wiki sites (MediaWiki, WikiSpaces), a crowd-sourced encyclopedia (Wikipedia), image-sharing sites (Instagram), professional networking sites (LinkedIn), and others…in a variety of applications for both college-level composition and for work-seeking.
The proposed ideas are generally fairly cautious, with reasoned applications to enhance learning but not as much direct engagement of the larger communities online (except for in Ch. 15, which involved students contributing health information to Wikipedia articles). For some of the learning endeavors, unless a broader audience is engaged, non-social media technologies may be sufficient (such as “walled” discussion boards, wikis, blogs, and other integrations into LMSes). In some of the works, it seems that imagined audiences stand in for actual ones, and the actual affordances of social media platforms in the wild are not fully capitalized upon.
Kendra N. Bryant’s “Engaging 21st Century Writers with Social Media” seems somewhat spare given that there have been two decades of research into social media use in education. That said, it is an engaging read with some inspiring ideas for using social media to encourage effective student learning of compositional writing.
About the Reviewer
Shalin Hai-Jew works as an instructional designer at Kansas State University. She may be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Thanks! IGI-Global provided a watermarked electronic copy of this manuscript for review. Their consideration is much appreciated.
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