My experience with writing for a digital format is regrettably limited. When I worked for a public school, each teacher had a web page on the school’s main site. Each teacher was tasked with writing a short description to describe ourselves. After that, we were permitted to add features that suited our needs. I followed the general writing format for my description – several paragraphs of prose and an academic picture for introduction. I was able to add links to a homework page, a calendar, and even third party sites with resources for my students. When I wrote something for the homework page it was sort of like a blog because each entry was dated and I had a description of each assignment. I could link those entries to the calendar where I simply gave each assignment a title and a due date. Over time, I got pretty good at making those components work for me because of the positive feedback from students, but time constraints and dropping-off levels of technical support impeded either my exploration or (even more regrettably) my curiosity.
When the teacher pages were implemented there was a special inservice to introduce the site and how to use it. Each of us was given a handout with screenshot-type graphics and explanations so we could refer to it as needed, and in future. The “tech guy” said he was available to help any time. I wish he had visited on a regular basis, or that at the next several inservices there could have been follow up. I would have like to see what other teachers were up to, the great things they were using and problems along the way. I wish there had been a framework for us to talk with each other in a constructive way, and with the tech guy, to make the best use of the tool. Essentially, once something was up and running the administration seemed to forget the websites were there, to check on their status, or offer feedback unless something went wrong and the teacher inadvertently put the school in a precarious position.
Genre-specific instruction and practice would not only have helped us all become better, more effective, educators, but the problems that stemmed from lack of guidance could have been totally avoided. Good teachers know how to make mistakes and learn from them, but like anyone they/we need support and a “safe” environment in which to make them. As far as good writing goes, people naturally use different modes of language for different purposes, and we need to know that in a digital world all of them have their place. There is no one way to communicate because our purposes differ depending on task and goals. Students also need us to show them that example in order to value the varied uses of language. I realize I’m currently writing in standard English using educational conventions, which is OK, and if I wanted to write this in a poem or as a conversation that would be awesome, too. The point is to be open to experimentation.