Jenny identified Reilly and Atkins’s key elements of assessing digital writing as “generalizable, generative, and aspirational,” elements intended to encourage students to play with the options afforded in a digital format.
From “Assessing Civic Engagement,” Suzanne identified Zoetewey, Simmons, and Grabill’s key elements of assessing civic websites as “alternative use, technical literacy, and interactivity.”
Considering these different sets of criteria makes obvious the distinction between usability and usefulness that Suzanne explained from her chapter. While usability and usefulness are not mutually exclusive, the distinction does seem to be an important one for consideration when assessing digital writing. Usability addresses how well a user can find information and/or resources as a result of the design. It seems in the atmosphere that Reilly and Atkins describe, usability is more about the designer as the user. Encouraging students to play with formatting, linking, and design options allows them to make choices about what works well for them aesthetically and functionally.
In contrast, Zoeteway, Simmons, and Grabill’s focus on usability is audience-centric: how useful are the information and resources provided? Considering how an audience will use the information and design of a website seems to further the approach advocated by Reilly and Atkins. Whereas Reilly and Atkins approach to assessment might work well for a lower-level course, Zoetewey, Simmons, and Grabill’s approach seems appropriate for more advanced students–students who already understand the affordances and limitations of working with digital writing.
Which brings us to the network aspect of these chapters. I think that we can begin to see a network of learning digital writing. The fact that assessment is so difficult highlights its complexity. It’s unlikely that students will be able to fully learn how to effectively write in a digital environment in one class, so thinking about curriculum design as a network might help educators see how classes can work together to create a comprehensive learning environment. What course options are available to students? Can looking at the network help educators shape the digital writing experiences for students in a way that is scaffolded?