Troy Hicks: Crafting Digital Writing

Troy Hicks is a professor of English and education at Central Michigan University. Hicks wrote the book, Crafting Digital Writing, focusing on introducing ideas for teaching digital writing in the classroom. In a youtube video of Hicks, he mentions that the writing process has changed so much over the years, with more interrelated and overlapping steps with the use of technology.

There are five principles of digital writers workshop that Hicks discusses: Choice & Inquiry, Conferring, Author’s Craft, Assessment, & Share the Writing. Choice and inquiry means the students should be able to choose topics that they are interested in and through their chosen topic, natural inquiry will lead students to participate within a community of writers. The principle of conferring means students need to work with one another and get their writing in front of a digital community to receive the feedback they need to continue to fine tune their work. Author’s craft refers to students determining what is good writing in all the digital avenues that they explore in their writing projects. Assessment is both formative and summative, and teachers must find ways to assess students in the digital age. Not only will teachers need to consider what makes the various forms of digital writing “good”, but there is also a strong focus on citing information throughout the process of writing. The final principle is how to share the writing beyond the classroom. Hicks discusses that digital writing is meant to be shared and in his book each chapter discusses different forms of digital writing that can be shared to an audience, such as blogs, wikis, and podcasts.

To go along with Hicks book, there is a website that has all the links that are discussed throughout each chapter.

Here is that link:

I agree with Hick’s perspective on technology needing to be taught as a tool to our writers. In today’s world, I cannot see teaching writers workshop in my classroom without teaching how to write digitally. The five principles that Hicks discusses in his video are relevant to students and I can see using all five in my own plans for digital writing workshop. I would be interested in reading more about Hicks views on workshops, however the amount of information I could find for free online was limited.

Hicks says, “So, my advice, in short — keep the bigger picture in mind, give yourself and your students permission to play (and fail) with the tools, and then work intentionally as you model the digital writing process.” I look forward to implementing the use of technology into my writer’s workshops in my own classroom. Although it can be uncomfortable and scary to try new things, students will greatly benefit from exploring various platforms of writing.

As one example for my own classroom, I would love to implement blog posting, similar to what we are doing in this course. Students could create blogs based on their interests, however, instead of writing on what the teacher assigns. Then students could be assigned different blogs to read each week to deliver that feedback to the author, creating an online community.



6 thoughts on “Troy Hicks: Crafting Digital Writing”

  1. I chose to do some research on Katie Wood Ray and her stance on the writer’s workshop. Katie’s opinion on the beginning stages of the writers workshop was interesting. She first explains right away in the “content and choice” section that students should always get to decide what they are writing about—it is not the teacher’s place to decide what topic their students are going to write about. In fact, she even compares this to what writers do on a daily basis—writers are in charge of their own writing, and its not like anybody is dictating what they should and should not write. Our job as the teacher is to merely act as a guide and almost be a tool in our students’ toolbox and if they want to use us for support, they sure can. Now, when we are having our students write about a specific genre—they also can choose what they are going to write about as long as it fits within that genre. By allowing your students to have full reigns of their writing, they feel like they are in control of their writing and they are owning it—it is theirs and nobody else’s. Giving your students this is empowering and we should not take that away from them by dictating what they can and cannot write. Lastly, the other thing that Ray mentions is that we must show our students how to select a topic—we need to show our students that when we write, we must write with purpose, and write about something that is meaningful. When something is meaningful and strong, it tends to be easier to write about anyway. As the teacher, we might need to give our students that extra push and show them how to write about a topic that is meaningful. This I believe too often times is why kids are not interested in writing because if their teacher is picking a topic for them—what if that topic is not meaningful to them? Immediately your students are going to be turned off and that is not what we want.
    Ray says that the only time that we can really take charge of our students’ writing and decide what they can and cannot write is when what our students are choosing to write is detrimental to the community, or, if it does not even support the community they are writing in. So for example, if you have a student that is wanting to write about violence but there is no purpose or meaning to it other than just a violent story—this might not work. However, if violence, racism, sexism, etc. are things that your student is intrigued by I think as long as your student can pose a solid argument or provide research about this topic that of course they can write about it—as long as it fits the genre. It might be academically stimulating for not just the student, but for their classroom and peers as well. So I am not sure if this is what Ray meant as far as damaging the community, but I would have to disagree because I think as long as a topic such as any of the above is written about in a tasteful manner, that it would not hurt the community, in fact, it would support it through allowing that student, and others to think critically about problems.

    Here is the link that I used :…/Essential+Characteristics+of+the+Writing+W…

    It is actually a microsoft word document.


    1. Hi Ali!
      I definitely agree in letting students have choice in topics for writing, but I am not sure I would never assign a specific topic. I think students need to learn how to write both ways. When they get to college, for example, they may have to write on a topic they are not interested in and will need to work through it to still produce quality writing. In the younger years choices should probably be more wide open, but in middle and high school I think students need to learn both ways.
      Your example of writing about violence was very interesting. i agree with you that there could be a place for that in the classroom as long as the teacher guides the writing appropriately.


      1. Hey Michelle!

        Thanks for sharing your thoughts on my post. Actually, now that you mention it, it would be more beneficial for students to have experience with topics being selected for them. I guess I was thinking in a broader sense like writing about a topic under a genre, or at least giving students choices. With that being said, I think you’re right maybe it is better to sort of let students have more freedom at a younger age and then expose them to teachers choosing their topics for them as they get older. That way they can develop that interest in writing and gain that experience, and perhaps be more confident in their writing. I feel like if they have more freedom of choice they will naturally develop that love of writing (hopefully) and then as they get older they will have the tools to write about a topic that is chosen for them.

        Thanks for sharing! 🙂


    2. Hey Al!
      I agree with the initial statement that students should mostly have control over what they write about as it motivates them to produce greater work when they are writing about a topic they are interested in. But I also agree with Michelle that when students get into higher grades, they will have to write about topics that do not interest them. Allowing them to write about what they are interested in earlier on gets them writing in general and through that writing, students can work and improve their skills. So by the time they get to high school, they will have the proper tools to write concise and well written paper because of all of their past experiences writing. As for students writing ‘out of context’ so to speak, maybe providing a journal for students to write in daily, about anything they desire, is an alternative to them writing inappropriately for assignments. The student and teacher would have to decide, though, what is tolerable and what is not.


  2. Hi Michelle!
    This is an interesting take on writing, especially since we are currently taking a social media education class and are also experimenting with digital writing in this class. Student based inquiry is important in writing because students will produce better work if they are writing about something that they are interested in or are passionate about. I also agree with the importance of teaching digital writing because it is such a major part of student’s lives currently. Implementing blog posts in your classroom is a great way to get students writing, and the more they write, the more fine tuned their skills will become.


  3. Hey Michelle!

    I really enjoyed reading your post. For me, it is scary to think how much technology can take over the classroom. It really is about finding that healthy balance, and using it as a tool as Hicks says. When students view technology in that light, I think they will have a different perspective on technology vs. just as an outlet such as social media like Ally mentioned, and they can really see the beauty of it. Something that I struggle with as a future teacher is if our students are using technology as a tool, how are we going to have them write when they are doing these blog posts or perhaps using an app via their computers or phones that is very reminiscent of how they would interact and write on social media, as teachers, are we allowing them to write in that style when they are using these tools in the classroom? Or, do we say to write in a “normal” style (say, how I am writing right now vs. abbreviating and using slang.) It’s an interesting thought!


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