Digital Writing: Trading in the Page to Make Your (Power) Point

by Jim Burke

ec.com_screenshot_duarte ebookNancy Duarte just released an exciting new digital book titled Slidedocs, which is about composing visual documents to be read (not presented) in PowerPoint or Keynote. (You can download it for free by clicking here.) What intrigues me most about her book is the degree to which it signals a further transition toward both multimodal composition and personal publishing. A colleague’s wife works at Genentech where, he tells me, his wife and her colleagues write almost exclusively in PowerPoint for others to read not to view as a presentation.

I have experimented with digital composing or “digital essays” in my classes in recent years, allowing students to use everything from PowerPoint to Prezi, Word to Blogger, Keynote to Google Presentation. Increasingly these are meaningless distinctions as platforms will gravitate toward some common features and functions so as to allow for reciprocal use.

The So what? here has to do with the expansion of tools but also the evolution of our textual intelligence that will demand we think as much about which forms and features we should use when composing as we do the means, medium, and message. It will sound less and less strange to hear a student ask the teacher if he or she has “watched my essay” yet and if so, what do you think?

Come to think of it, I suppose this is the sort of writing I am doing here, isn’t it?

Is this sort of composition included in the Common Core State Standards? Of course it is, under the subheading of Presentation of Knowledge and Information:

Make strategic use of digital media (e.g., textual, graphical, audio, visual, and interactive elements) in presentations to enhance understanding of findings, reasoning, and evidence and to add interest. (Speaking and Listening Standard 5)

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