The Writing Hub

Shetler, Angela, Susan Thomas, Frances Di Lauro, and Benjamin Miller. “Multimodal Writing Instruction in a Global World.” Kairos: A Journal of Rhetoric, Technology, and Pedagogy 17.3 (2013): n. pag. Web. 1 December 2013. http://kairos.technorhetoric.net/17.3/praxis/shetler-et-al/index.html.

All four authors teach in the “Writing Hub” at the University of Sydney. Shetler’s expertise is in professional writing, and her research includes various topics related to authorship, globalization, and digital environments. Thomas focuses on rhetorical history and theory, as well as writing across the curriculum, writing centers, and writing program administration. Di Lauro takes an interdisciplinary approach to teaching writing, and Miller researches contemporary Australian society through a lens of rhetorical theory.

This webtext presents the University of Sydney’s “Writing Hub,” a hybrid of a writing center and a writing program, as a new way to teach writing, suitable for a heavily digital society. In most Australian high schools and universities, the authors explain, writing programs are not founded in rhetorical studies, focusing instead on grammatical and mechanical correctness, and tend to stress single authorship of standard essays — much like many high schools, colleges, and universities in America.

The Writing Hub, however, incorporates a strong rhetorical foundation, focusing on five tenets: audience, context, collaboration, discovery, and writing as a conversation. In addition to common rhetorical concerns, this program also stresses approaching the writing process through the lens provided by the digital world.

Students are encouraged to write, revise, edit, collaborate, discover material for use in their writing, and receive feedback in digital environments. They also are encouraged to use multimodal composition in their writing assignments. The approach that the authors detail provides a useful model for us to follow as writing teachers.

While some of the webtext focuses on how the program is set up or on its treatment of rhetorical concerns, it treats digital literacy as a key undercurrent throughout most of its sections. Particularly, the discovery section discusses encouraging students to research topics online, using their digital exploration to arrive at a claim. Other sections — audience, context, conversation, and collaboration — incorporate discussion of writing in electronic environments in a similarly holistic manner.

When I read this in the course of my research for an assignment for Composition Theory, I was struck by this treatment of incorporating digital tools at every stage of the writing process. Digital and technological literacy need to be included as teaching goals as much as possible, and that means teaching students how to use technology to help them at every stage of the process.

Additionally, rethinking Invention as Discovery, using digital the digital world as a lens for this reimagining, is a very useful way to think about the rhetorical canons. One recurring element of my semester, at least in my two RHET classes, has been that I’m thinking more and more about what the canons really look like in the present day. If I weren’t on the portfolio track, anticipating graduating in May, and planning to seek employment outside academia, I might consider doing some major research on that topic. Alas, I really just don’t have time right now, and I’m not sure I ever will.

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