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)

Syllabus Website

Welcome to ENGL/JOUR 4810/8816 Digital Literacies. Digital literacies refers to both the critical perspective necessary for understanding technolgical systems and their influence on content and design and the practical skills required for operating a particular software program. Therefore, the purpose of this course is to help students develop an understanding of how technology shapes and is shaped by culture and to prepare students with a basic competency for operating various software applications. Be advised, though, this course is not a "how-to" course. Students will mostly work at a self-directed pace. This course will be taught from a philosophy of "learning-to-learn" software (i.e., the transferability of competency to similar and dissimilar software environments) in ways that increase student's comfort level using various software applications. In this class, students will be introduced to various strategies for learning software as well as techniques for using specific software applications.

Although you will learn how to operate various software applications, another primary goal of the course is to develop a critical perspective of digital literacy and technology. Therefore, this class will help you develop a basic competency within a landscape of functional, critical, and rhetorical literacies. In the simplest terms, the aims of functional literacy will help you lean to do things with computers; critical literacy will help you recognize and challenge the politics of computers and other technologies; and rhetorical literacy will help you understand the persuasive nature of technology in a social context.

Hybrid Format

This class will be taught in a hybrid format, which means that it is partically online. We will meet face-to-face on Monday nights for 75 minutes from 5:30 to 6:45 and online for the other 75 minutes. Most of the Monday night activities will involve working with the software and presentations. In addition to your face-to-face participation on Monday nights, you will be expected to participate in discussions online through weekly blog responses. I will ask you to write blog posts in response to assigned readings (see Deliverables for more information.

Course Objectives

In this course, you will learn to

  • Develop a critical awareness of how people learn and think aobut technology and literacy
  • Consider and evaluate software applications
  • Develop a rhetorical approach to technological decisions
  • Develop a foundational competence with select software


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.

Required Books & Materials

Flash Drive

At least 1 GB

Course Book

Understanding Digital Literacies

Additional Readings

All readings listed here are available in dropbox in the course Readings folder.

Heidegger, Martin (1977). The question concerning technology. Trans. William Lovitt. New York: Garland Publishing, Inc.

Lanshear, Coliin, & Knobel, Michele (eds.). (2008). Digital literacies: Concepts, policies and practices. New York: Peter Lang. (Chapter 1)

Selber, Stuart A. (2004). Multiliteracies for a digital age. Carbondale, IL: Southern Illinois University Press.

Recommended Books (Optional)

These books provide how-to instructions for using the software indicated. You may learn the software any way that you choose, but these are the books I will reference on the weekly schedule. On the schedule, I indicate the chapter and its title so that if you choose not to use these books, you can search for the topic areas.

Dreamweaver CC: Visual Quick Start Guide

Photoshop CC: Visual Quick Start Guide

InDesign CC: Visual Quick Start Guide