Varieties of Text in the Digital Age: Teaching and Learning with Blogs, Wikis, and New Emerging Genres
In this course, we examine varieties of texts characterizing digital environments. Defining text broadly to include its verbal, pictorial, and multimedia aspects, we analyze how new genres and types of discourse are emerging. By focusing on the interplay between developments in literary theory over the past decades and the rapid technological changes occurring around us, we consider questions such as: How are personal and professional identities constructed in a world of social networks and online interaction and communication with others? Will electronic hypertext replace the book and transform the acts of reading and writing? Are the texts produced in blogs, wikis, and forums replacing traditional literary genres? How do these changes affect the ways in which we teach and learn?
We shall bring our own experiences as persons living and working in the age of new media to the center of the discussion and relate to these in light of the insights we gain from the selected readings and from our interaction with fellow course participants. Marshall McLuhan’s famous expression, “the medium is the message”, applies here and connects between the “what” and the “how” in the course as we discuss the new modes of text construction and social and professional communication in and through these same worlds of text.
Course participants will:
- become aware of the types of text created by the development of new technological platforms;
- experience interaction and communication in a variety of digital environments;
- understand how personal, social, and professional identities are constructed from interactions in the “real” world and within the world of digital text, and the connections we make between them;
- understand how developments in the field of literary theory and digital media are related and how they influence emerging types of discourse;
- apply theoretical understandings and personal insights gained in the course to educational settings and the classroom context.
Instructional Approach: The course consists of six units, each of which studied over a two- or three-week period. Independent study around course readings is combined with tasks involving asynchronous communication and interaction with fellow participants in blogs, forums, wikis, and social and professional networks. Two meetings, toward the beginning and end of the course, take place synchronously, thus providing opportunities for interaction in real time. The main course assignment is designed to allow each course participant to address an issue or problem from the perspective of his/her professional context.
Who are we? Introducing ourselves in personal blogs
The World of (Hyper)Text, and the World as (Hyper)Text
-Digital space as a world of text: Introducing the course;
-What is a text anyway? Words, images, and multiple media;
-What is hypertext?
-Journeys through hypertext and online encounters.
Living Online: Real Persons and Online Personae
-Online communication and personal identity;
-Social presence in digital environments;
-Synchronous and asynchronous communication.
Content, Communication, and Community: On Abundance and Scarcity in the Digital Age
-From Web 1.0 to Web 2.0 and beyond;
-Blogs, forums, and social and professional networks;
-The Way of the Wiki;
-Twittering ourselves to death.
Varieties of Text in the Classroom: The Community of Inquiry Model
-Developing cognitive presence in digital spaces;
-Moderating online interaction and teaching presence;
-Combining varieties of texts in the blended classroom.
Looking at Literature in the Digital Age
-Reading for pleasure: Touching the page vs. touching the screen;
-Is formal discourse really dead?
-Imagining the digital in the age of print;
-The future of the book.
Target Population: All persons interested in advancing their understanding and applications of developing technologies, emerging text genres, and the online world of life and work. The course will be of special relevance to teachers and teacher educators.
- English fluency
- An academic degree at the Bachelor's level
Bibliography (mandatory reading):
Alexander, B., & Levine, A. (2008). Web 2.0 Storytelling: Emergence of a new genre.
Educause Review, 43
(6). Retrieved from
Duffy, P., & Bruns, A. (2006). The use of blogs, wikis and RSS in education: A conversation of possibilities. In
Proceedings Online Learning and Teaching Conference 2006
, pp. 31-38, Brisbane. Retrieved from
Godwin-Jones, B. (2003, May). Emerging technologies: Blogs and wikis: Environments for online collaboration.
Language Learning & Technology, 7
Gunawardena, C. N., Hermans, M. B., Sanchez, D., Richmond, C., Bohley, M., & Tuttle, R., (2009).
A theoretical framework for building online communities of practice with social networking tools.
Educational Media International, 46
(1), 3-16. DOI: Retrieved from
Kanuka, H. (2005). An exploration into facilitating higher levels of learning in a text-based internet learning environment using diverse instructional strategies.
Journal of Computer-Mediated Communication, 10
(3), article 8. Retrieved from
La Farge, P. (2011, Oct.). Why the book’s future never happened.
. Retrieved from
Owen, H. (2010, May). What is the difference between blogs, wikis, and discussion forums? Blog post on ETHOS Consultancy Web site:
Richardson, J. C., & Swan, K. (2003). Examining social presence in online courses in relation to students’ perceived learning and satisfaction. JALN 7 (1). Retrieved from
Wardrip-Fruin, N. What hypertext is. HT’04
2004. Santa Cruz, CA, USA. Retrieved from
Xin, C., & Feenberg, A. (2006, Fall). Pedagogy in cyberspace: The dynamics of online discourse.
Journal of Distance Education, 21
(2), 1-25. Retrieved from
Bibliography (selections or optional reading):
Aragon, S. R. (2003). Creating social presence in online environments.
New Directions for Adult and Continuing Education
, 57-68. doi: 10.1002/ace.119 (optional)
Charney, D. (1994). The impact of hypertext on processes of reading and writing. In S. J. Hilligoss & C. L. Selfe (Eds.),
Literacy and computers
(pp. 238-263). New York: Modern Language Association. Retrieved from University of Texas at Austin, Digital Writing & Research Lab Web site:
Community of Inquiry Web site:
Gurak, L., Antonijevic, S., Johnson, L. Ratliff, C., & Reyman, J. (n.d.).
Into the blogosphere: Rhetoric, community, and culture of weblogs
. Retrieved from University of Minnesota Web site:
Keep, C., McLaughlin, T., & Parmar, R. (1993-2001).
The electronic labyrinth
. Retrieved from
Landow, G. P. (2006). Hypertext 3.0: Critical theory and new media in an era of globalization
(Chapter 1). Baltimore: Johns Hopkins University Press. (optional)
Mejias, U. (2005, March). Re-approaching nearness: Online communication and its place in praxis. First Monday, 10 (3-7). Retrieved from
Nelson, T. H. A file structure for the complex, the changing, and the indeterminate. Association for Computing Machinery: Proceedings of the 20th National Conference 1965
, 84-100. Retrieved from