The Digital Writing and Research Certificate is a digital competencies program developed by the Digital Writing and Research Lab (DWRL). I earned my DWR Certificate in 2015. You can learn more about the program in this overview, or get into the details of the program’s components. The DWR Certificate program was designed in part to help staff members make the research, teaching, and administrative work that we do in the DWRL legible to scholars outside of the Lab. We came up with a series of badges that could be earned in different skill areas with the submission of digital artifacts that reflect each skill. You can click on any of my nine badges below to see my completed work for that area.
The work that these badges represent has shaped me as a scholar, a teacher, and an administrator. For example, I chose Immersive Environments as my area of specialization. My interest in rhetoric and games in some ways bookends my experience in the DWRL: the first project group I worked on designed an alternate reality game (ARG) that students’ played in a Writing in Digital Environments class. The game wove rhetorical puzzles together with digital skills. Even though it was built by amateur game designers, it was a big undertaking that required lots of effort to produce. Four years later, my interest in digital games has turned to a much simpler form with a smaller footprint: text-based games built with the open-source tool Twine. Playing games, teachers tend to hope, can deepen student motivation—but designing your own game can also change the way you think about games, about writing, and about identification, as I argue in my dissertation chapter on Twine.
Social media is another area where my digital work has a clear influence on my academic work. I’ve been a user of the social media platform Tumblr since 2009. Tumblr puts a premium on sharing content, and on a diversity of media: audio, images, text, and video. In 2015, I asked students in my prose style class to keep commonplace books throughout the semester on Tumblr. The students’ tumblogs served as a storehouse of styles to imitate, emulate, and revise; they introduced images, excerpts, and articles to our class that reflected their own interests and positions. Because students could read each other’s commonplace books online, they could see how their differences were influencing their respective styles. I’ve even experimented with using Tumblr as a conference presentation tool, using it first as my own commonplace book while composing, and then in place of a slideshow to accompany my talk.
I’ve also been an advocate for research on social media in the DWRL, establishing the Excitable Media project in 2014 and advocating for the inclusion of social media in the DWRL’s standing research areas in 2015–this semester, the research priority focuses on Twitter & activism. Twitter has become a major artery for me in making connections in the field. Live tweeting at conferences has helped me introduce myself to presenters and audience members I might not otherwise have met, and it creates an archive of those conferences experiences you’d hate to have missed—two of my Digital Dialogs badges capture such transformative talks through Twitter and the Twitter-remediating tool Storify (“Never Mind Geoffrey Sirc” at CCCC 2014 and “Mutha Werk” at CCCC 2015). Storify could easily be put to use in a writing course on public issues as a way of teaching students about ethos, stakeholders, citation, paraphrase, annotation, and arrangement.
Not every student has the same access to digital technologies; just like other writing tools, such technologies have to be taught. This is true for instructors, too: we have to learn to about how students are already taking up emerging digital literacies, and that should inform how we might use them in our classrooms. As an Assistant Director in the DWRL, I trained other rhetoric instructors in several of the digital skills and technologies represented in the DWR Certificate program. I’ve taught workshops on visualizing writing with screencasting and Photoshop, on digital workflow and productivity tools, social media, and on building websites with both Drupal and WordPress platforms.
As an AD, I not only worked toward completing my own DWR Certificate, I also revised the criteria for the Certificate program, and I designed and built a Drupal site for program participants to keep track of their progress. In addition to a public-facing site that explains the program and its components, I also built a members-only dashboard where program participants could submit their work and see what other participants had completed. As more staff members of the DWRL earn their DWR Certificate, I proudly predict the Certificate will become a recognized and respected credential for digital scholarship and teaching.