Prof. Williams
[email protected]
Office Hours:
MWF 9:00 – 10:00;
other times available by appointment


E365: Writing in Digital Environments

Fall 2012


Bill Cope and Mary Kalantzis argue that “Design is a process in which the individual and culture are inseparable . . . [c]ulture is no more and no less than the accumulated and continuing expression of agency; of Designing.”  In this course, we will explore the ways in which digital composing can work as an expression of agency, explore the rhetoric and construction of digital media arguments and consider the cultural and social implications of making such arguments. We will learn basic audio and video editing skills, create a blog in WordPress, and produce a portfolio of digital and alphabetic compositions. Students will be encouraged to compose projects in areas of personal interest.

Although there will be lots of “how to” instruction and time, we’ll also spend time thinking about the cultural context in which we compose digital media.  How does digital media function in culture?  How does it potentially contribute to social change?  What are the access and equity issues related to digital media?  We’ll talk about academic theories of “how to read” digital compositions, relevant social issues like copyright, current events related to digital media, online circulation of digital texts like “memes” or viral Youtube videos, and so forth.

This class assumes absolutely no technological experience. You will be provided with all the software you need to complete this course—and I will provide instructions in basics of using them.  Even if you’ve never used a computer, web browser, or camera before, you are very welcome in this class.  


There is no printed textbook for this course.  All course texts and readings will be provided to you either online or in class.  Below is a list of highly encouraged hardware.

  • Headphones.  You may use whatever headphones you have but I strongly recommend noise-cancelling headphones.  These need not be expensive.  You can find a good pair for around $12-$20.
  • Audio Recorder.  You may check out an audio recorder from the Audio-Visual department for us in this class.  You can also use the Flip camera for recording audio (see below).
  • Video Camera.  You may check out a Flip camera from the Audio-Visual department for use in this class.  You can also use any device you may already have that allows you to capture video.  Our goal is to capture the highest quality video possible, so check and see if your iPhone or camera can capture 1080p.  An iPad, especially an iPad 3, might also work.  Many digital still cameras also have a video recording function.  Since there is no textbook cost for the course, you might also consider investing in your own pocket video recorder.  The Sony Bloggie Touch Camera by Sony ($79) and the Samson Technologies 1080p Handy Camcorder – Q3HD by Zoom ($299) are both possible choices.  Buying your own camera is not required and not necessary.
  • A Thumb Drive.  Something for saving and storing your work.  A thumb drive of about 16GB would be perfect.  If you plan to do video work above and beyond our Concept in 60 video assignment, you may want to have a large non-USB hard drive.  Something like the Western Digital MyPassport drives or the Seagate Freeagent Go drives are a nice compromise between portability and size of memory.  The LaCie Rugged All-Terrain portable hard drives are also excellent but cost more. will also work.
  • Laptop.  We will spend some days working in class on our blogging projects and other days on learning how to use software.  A Mac laptop would be best, if you have or can borrow one.  We will be working with GarageBand and iMovie.  You are certainly free to use Audacity and Movie Maker, the PC equivalents, but bear in mind that I will only be able to provide technical support for GarageBand and iMovie.


  • Knowledge of rhetorical best practices in digital environments.
  • Knowledge aesthetic best practices in digital environments.
  • Technological skills for writing in digital environments..
  • Knowledge of copyright law and best practices for representing the words, ideas and images of others in digital environments
  • The ability to identify a rhetorical need that could be addressed by writing in a digital environment, to make appropriate choices regarding genre, layout, and appropriate technologies.



Assignment 1: Ongoing Blog Project 20%
Assignment 2: Literacy Narrative 20%
1.  Alphabetic literacy narrative
2.  Literacy narrative music essay
3.  Literacy narrative audio essay
4.  Curated exhibit of literacy narratives with critical introduction
Assignment 3: Concept in 60 Video 20%
1.  Alphabetic project proposal
2.  Production writing
3.  60 sec concept video
4.  Alphabetic self-assessment
Midterm Conference 5%
Assignment 4: Final Portfolio Three multimodal projects that are connected in some way and are presented on your blog. 30%
Participation 5%


I expect you to be at class everyday and on time. After three absences, every additional absence, for any reason, will result in a one-third letter grade deduction for the term. Students who accumulate six or more absences should expect to fail the course. This means you should make every effort to schedule doctor appointments and the like at times that do not conflict with class.

If you are sick/depressed/in a crisis, contact SAS as soon as possible.  They can help make arrangements with your professors for managing your work.  They can be reached at 526-6113 or [email protected]

If you miss class, do not ask me what you missed.  Get that information from a classmate.  You are solely responsible for making up any missed work and/or getting notes from another student.  I do not distribute lecture notes.


Turning in Assignments
Don’t kill off a grandparent just to get an extension.  If you need extra time, just ask but do so 24 hours before the assignment is due.  If you do not ask for an extension 24 hours in advance, grades on assignments will drop one mark (i.e. B to B-) for each calendar day late.

I do not accept any assignment more than seven calendar days late.

Alphabetic texts must be in MLA format.  Look for a sample online if you don’t know what that is.  DO NOT improvise.

All assignments should conform to MLA standards in matters of citation.

If you are confused by lecture or an assignment, come to office hours.

I DO NOT accept assignments by email.


Consider email like a telephone call.  Business hours apply and manners count.  I teach other courses too so make sure you identify who you are and what your email is regarding.  And please use capital letters and punctuation.

Everyone has busy and complicated lives.  Part of being a college student is learning to juggle your competing responsibilities gracefully.

I expect you to do the reading and come to class prepared to talk.  Being prepared also means brining all relevant materials for the day—assigned readings, etc.—with you to class.

All students will take the final exam on the date and time mandated by the college’s exam schedule.  Please make your travel plans accordingly.

I expect integrity. This means refusing, in all circumstances, to turn in work that is not your own.

Copyright and plagiarism are important considerations when doing digital work.  Plagiarism is the unauthorized use of the words or ideas of another person. It is a serious academic offense that will be reported to Student Life and can result in failure for the course. However, the reality of composition is much more complicated than these last few sentences may imply; there are situations where it may be very to use “stock” language or images or using highly repetitive or structured genres in which opportunities for originality may be limited.  Copyright, which includes federal laws that offer certain protections to the creators of digital materials, is also an important consideration.

We will actively explore these grey areas of copyright together during the drafting and revising process, working together to consider the ethical issues involved. As more and more documents often involve visual elements, we will also describe issues of fair use and copyright to determine when and how images, audio, and video may be legally and effectively integrated into your own texts.

The truth is that plagiarism is often context-specific and situation-specific, so the best way to avoid plagiarism in academic situations is to ask questions. If you have any questions or concerns about plagiarism and/or crediting others’ work appropriately, please talk to me.  

Please see the English Department’s statement on plagiarism for more information.






Many thanks to Jen Michaels at OSU, whose many ideas, assignments, and advice appear throughout this syllabus.

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