Understanding Digital Literacies

Developing digital literacies ’"means more than mastering the technical aspects of digital tools. It also means using those tools to do something in the social world, and these things we do invariaby involve meanaging our social relationships and our social identifies in all sorts of different and sometimes unpredictable situations (Rodney H. Jones & Christoph A. Hafner, p. 13)



All documents associated with the class and all assignments will be submitted through dropbox.com. You will need to create an account at dropbox.com in order to submit your assignments. This account is free.


I created a folder for each of you within the course folder. Each of these folders will contain other folders for each assignment with a "Ready for Grading" folder within each. I will assume that any documents placed into the Ready for Grading folder are ready for grading. You are welcome to save any other documents in this space. Please do NOT delete any documents in the course folder or the Ready for Grading folder.


In order to ensure that all students have access to the course documents in dropbox, I will have to share the entire course folder with everyone, which means that everyone will have access to everyone else’s folder. We will work on the honor system, which says that no one will go into anyone else’s folder without permission.


1. Attendance, Preparation, Participation (100 pts)

Participation in this class means that you are fully engaged in what is happening both in the face-to-face classroom and the online context. In the face-to-face classroom, I expect that you will attend and prepare for class, participate in any discussions in class and online, and engage with the software with a willingness-to-learn attitude.

2. Response to the Syllabus (part of participation grade)

I want to be sure each of you are clear about what is expected from you in this class and to give you opportunities for raising questions about what I have planned. Look through the documents on this entire course website and in dropbox. Be sure to explore all documents. Write 250-500 words in a memo to the instructor and place it in your dropbox folder in the appropriate subfolder. Use the following questions to guide your response:

  • What are the main skills I am hoping you will gain by the end of the semester?
  • What do you think you need to learn or do to achieve those skills?
  • How will we arrive at your grade for this class? Are you comfortable with how you imagine this process to work?
  • What makes you most nervous about what I've written in the syllabus?
  • What do you think will give you the most pleasure in this class?
  • What are the skills you bring to class that you think will help you the most?
  • Can you envision the shape of the semester from the Syllabus & Weekly Schedule?
  • Does anything remain vague to you? Is there anything you can suggest now for improving what you see ahead?

3. Reading Response Blog (150 pts)

You will need to set up a blog dedicated to your reading responses. This blog is a means for the class to have discussions about the readings. If you already have a blog, that's great, but you will need to set up another blog devoted specifically to this class. If you've never set up a blog, I recommend going to Wordpress.com or Blogger.com. As soon as you have your blog set up (by Thursday of Week 1), please email me the URL so I can link it from this course website. If you have any questions, be sure to let me know right away.

Blog responses should be posted to your blog. Unless otherwise indicated, blog responses should focus on the chapter/reading identified. As described under Deliverables, blog responses should not simply reiterate the assigned reading. They should be thoughtful, critical discussions about the topic identified in the Online Category. Feel free to use examples from your own life to complement any discussion. Remember that blog responses should be posted on Thursdayby 11:59 PM of the week indicated on the Weekly Schedule. Responses to other blogs (2 per week/reading), should be posted on Sunday of the week indicated by 11:59 PM.

Three times during the semester, graduate students will be required to read an extra article/chapter and write an additional critical response on their blog. Graduate students are indicated with an asterick in the righ-hand column on each page of this course website. These additional responses are the equivalent of being the discussion leader in a face-to-face class. Graduate Students should read the extra reading and write a response intended to inform/teach the undergraduate students about the content of the reading. All undergraduate students should then respond to/engage with the graduate students' responses.

4. Technology Autobiography (100 pts)

An autobiography is a narrative that tells a story of your life. A technology autobiography tells the story of your life with technology. Write a 500-word narrative about your life with technology in general or focus on a specific technology. Example TAs are available in the course dropbox folder under Example Documents.

Your audience is the instructor and your classmates. The idea is to think about the role technology plays in your life, to share your views about technology, and to learn about and from each other’s perspectives.

The questions below are intended to spark your memories and to give you some idea about what others have written in a TA. You should not try to answer all the questions. Use them to get your brainstorming started. Choose questions that seem interesting or relevant to you. Or don't use the questions at all, if you can think of stories to tell on your own.

  • What early experiences with technological devices or artifacts can you recall?
  • What do you remember about your earliest use of technologies?
  • What stories do your parents tell about your interactions with technology?
  • What were the popular gadgets in your house while you were growing up?
  • Who do you identify as being most "technologically literate" person in your life? What makes that person’s relationship with technology so special; that is, what behaviors or characteristics does he or she exhibit? Give examples. What have you learned from him or her?
  • Do you think there are social consequences or potential impacts on your lifestyle that depend on your technological capabilities?
  • What might these social consequences or potential impacts be?
  • What will it mean to be technologically literate in the near future?
  • How do you learn technologies?
  • Among your friends, are you considered an “early adopter,” a “late adopter,” or somewhere in the middle?
  • What technology is on your desk at home?
  • What technological devices are you carrying now?
  • What's on your technological "wish list"?

Keep in mind that engaging narratives are generally focused around a singular idea and are rich in detail. Feel free to include images if appropriate. All the Technology Autobiographies from this assignment will be used as content for the Magazine Layout Assignment (see Assignment #4).

5. Magazine Layout (200 pts)

Engaging with print layout is an important part of digital literacies because print has an integral ideology that stems to all current media production. For this assighment, I will ask you to use InDesign to create a magazine layout of a special issue of a journal, using the Technology Autobiographies as content. I will create a folder in dropbox specially for all the Technology Autobiographies. You are free to create any kind of print magazine. You are responsibile for naming the magazine, using (or creating your own) cover image, and incorporating new images (or other visual devices such as block quotes) or use the images that the author included in the narrative within the layout. Example magazine layouts are available in dropbox. See the resources page for a list of available, (some) free stock images websites.

6. Standing Reserve Collage & Explanation (100 pts)

In the Question Concerning Technology, Heidegger argues that a standing reserve is an enframing that hinders our efforts to have a free relationship to technology. This enframing orders a certain reality, making it appear natural and fixed. Our goal, Heidegger argues, is to recognize (unconceal) the enframing to reveal it as a standing reserve. For this assignment, I will ask you to create an image collage of a standing reserve in your field. For example, in Literary Studies, the Literary Canon could be considered a standing reserve because it orders representative literature of a particular time period or genre. This enframing made it difficult in the 1970s and 1980s to include women writers, writers of color, or any other underrepresented group. It'll help you to begin by thinking about the concepts, assumptions, or ideas in your field that are taken for granted.

After creating your collage, write a one page response to the instructor explaining how your collage represents a standing reserve in your field.

7. Software Analysis & Presentation (Group Project) (150 pts)

What happens to you when you encounter a new program or software application? Do you panic, get excited, look around for help? How do you orient yourself and navigate within that program? How do you know when you’re functionally literate with a program? When (if ever) and how do you consider it from rhetorical and critical perspectives? Does/must functional literacy always come before rhetorical/critical literacies? This project will allow you to explore a specific program or piece of software and analyze it not only from a functional perspective, but also from critical and rhetorical perspectives. For this project, your group is to write an analysis of a specific software or program that you are not completely familiar with in a report to me (choose the from the list below or suggest another one). I will also ask your group to present your analysis to the class presentations should be 12-15 minutes maximum. Depending on the program, the presentation might include some hands-on time with the program, or a least a demonstration.

  • Illustrator
  • Premeire Pro
  • After Effects
  • Muse
  • Flash
  • Audition

Your analysis is not solely a review of the program (strengths and weaknesses), nor is it a tutorial, though both of these elements may certainly contribute to your analysis. Rather, using Selber’s multiliteracies, analyze the program carefully from functional, critical, and rhetorical perspectives—remember, these often overlap. Include consideration of applications of this program in your professional field(s), and also include at least two outside, credible sources about this program. (You would, of course, want to consult the program’s help menu, etc.) Click here for a handout that expands on Selber's three perspectives.

The purpose of this project is not only to help you learn about a specific program, but also to consider our process of becoming multiliterate and enter into a broader conversation about digital literacies. In addition, you will learn how to collaborate with a small group for a specific goal, and you will also carefully consider the best ways to present complex material to a larger group.

8. Zine Website (200 pts)

For this assignment, I will ask you to create a maga(zine) website using the Technology Autobiiographies as content. The zine should include a title, a splash page image, each student's autobiography, and multiple HTML pages (at least 10). If you have never constructed a website before, you should complete the Constructing a Website Module that I wrote to get started.

On the last day of class, students will present their websites to me and other students in the class. This presentation should be about 5-7 minutes and should focus on the process of creation. This process involves how you made the design decisions you made and why (possible types of decisions: layout, color, rhetoric placement, language, font choices, and so on). Do not focus on how you operated Dreamweaver to create the website. This is not a how-to presentation for software. When presenting, please do not simply list one design decision after another. Think about these decisions and your thought processes and find a way to focus your presentation in ways that will interest your audience.

9. Final Reflection (part of participation grade)

For this assignment, I will ask you to write a final blog post that provides a reflection on the class and your semester's work. This response should provide an honest and critical discussion of your semester’s work focusing on your understanding of the theories we discussed in class and your work on individual and collaborative projects. You should discuss what you have come to understand about literacy and technology, pointing to specific examples from your individual and collaborative work as well as the course readings to substantiate your discussion.