A must-read: The Digital Writing Workshop

I’ll start out by saying that the author of this fantastic new book — The Digital Writing Workshop — is Troy Hicks, a friend of mine through the National Writing Project and one of the chapter authors in my own book, Teaching the New Writing. So, this is not a completely unbiased recommendation to go out and get this book.

But you should, particularly if you are interested in the ways that writing can use technology wisely with students in their role as composers with digital media. In this book, Troy lays out an entire realm of digital tools that are out there than can support and enhance the teaching of writing. He also touches on such ideas as Choice and Inquiry, Conferencing with students, publishing student work to a world audience, and assessing such digital work (always a tricky endeavor in my opinion).

In his opening statement, Troy wisely lays out the rationale for his work:

I argue here and throughout this book that if we engage students in real writing tasks and we use technology in such a way that it complements their innate need to find purposes and audiences for their work, we can have them engaged in a digital writing process that focuses first on the writer, then on the writing, and lastly on the technology. (p.8)

Troy grounds his work in the foundations of the Writing Process movement — where the focus is on the writer’s exploration — but examines the potential of technology for students. Wikis can be collaborative publishing spaces, collaborative word processors (like Google Docs) can show revision history, podcasting gives students a voice to the world, digital storytelling as a way to merge writing with image and more.

Troy also provides plenty of information, such as his chart that shows the traits of effective and ineffective digital writers. He also wisely lays out the various technology and projects along a spectrum called MAPS: Mode, Media, Audience, Purpose, and Situation for the writer.

If you are a teacher interested in moving towards the digital writing world with your students, this is the book to get. Troy has made a useful and engaging book about the transformation going on in some classrooms, but not enough. I will be keeping this book on my desk at school and sharing it with colleagues when I can. You should, too.

Meanwhile, you can also join up with Troy and others who have read the book at Troy’s ning site: http://digitalwritingworkshop.ning.com/

Peace (in the exploration),


  1. Thanks, Kevin, for your kind words about the book and inviting people to join the Ning.

    I look forward to hearing about how you and other teachers are thinking about this blend of writing workshop pedagogy and digital writing processes. And, I look forward to seeing you and our NWP colleagues in Philly next week!


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