Implementing Digital Genre in the Classroom

Online genres are playing an increasingly important role in the online sphere. Topic-specific blogs, video channels, forums, and social media websites, among others, are proliferating and more and more users are logging in to participate. For example, on a fan website for the TV show Gossip Girl, each individual post about the show can receive up to 100 comments.

As an educator you have a unique opportunity to introduce digital genres as a tool of analysis for your students. Analyzing digital genres can teach students to think critically about the way the world web works. Introducing students to different forms of digital genre will cause them to consider why digital genres exist online, how they gain participants, and which values are shared by individual participants. Introducing this critical analysis at the high school level will prepare students for college level courses which ask them to think critically about a subject and come up with their own set of conclusions. You will also help your students explore the uses of rhetoric in online genres. You can learn more about rhetoric here.

In the following paragraph, you will read an example of a digital genre analysis examining gymnastics blogs.

Gymnastics blogs serve as a community for fans to interact with each other and share information about gymnastics. Bazerman notes in his essay “Genre and Identity” that participants in a genre “orient towards a communicative social place [taking] on the mood, attitude, and actional possibilities of that place”[1]. He states that when engaging in a genre, “You know what you are getting yourself into, and what range of relations and objects will likely be realized there"[1]. Popular gymnastics blogs provide a mix of relevant news, opinion pieces, and discussion regarding the sport. Readers know what type of exchanges to expect from the popular gymnastics blogs they visit. For example, they might expect to engage in gymnastics discourse with other fans, read fun articles and features, and learn from gymnastics experts.

In this paragraph, the author explains why readers are attracted to gymnastics blogs and what is gained by participating in this genre. Helping students analyze the purpose of digital genres is one important step to help them think critically about a subject. In the following paragraph, the author moves into rhetorical analysis of the blog and makes a specific, original claim about this digital genre:

To gain viewers, gymnastics blogs use ethos to establish their credibility as gymnastics experts. This is important for bringing in viewers because readers need to trust the source of information they receive in order to be a frequent visitor of the page. Bloggers establish their credibility in a variety of ways. "The Couch Gymnast" establishes its credibility in their “About Editors and Contributors” section. This page lists all of the writers of "The Couch Gymnast" and their credentials. Most writers have a lot of experience in gymnastics; for example the creator of "The Couch Gymnast" has written for International Gymnast Magazine, a well-respected gymnastics publication. Other writers have press passes for major gymnastics events such as the American Cup and Olympic Trials. Bloggers for "Triple Twist Gymblog" and "Get a Grip Gymblog" establish credibility because of their past experience as gymnasts and with their detailed descriptions of complicated gymnastics scoring.

This paragraph shows how implementing digital genre analysis in the classroom can help students develop their analytical tools to make specific claims about a subject or set of data. From these two examples, it is obvious that implementing digital genre into your classroom has many benefits. Below I will outline the specific steps that you should take in order to introduce digital genre analysis to your students.

1. Introduce digital genre

Use one class period to show your class 3 specific examples of digital genre online. For example, you could use a forum for a popular TV show, a fan fiction website for a novel, and a subset of celebrity tweets.

2. Come up with a list of questions to ask students about digital genre in class

Using one specific example of online genre, ask students analytical questions about genre. For example, you could ask if participants in the genre participate frequently, or only once in a while. You could ask which rhetorical techniques they use to interact with other users. If students do not understand the question, then show an example of how the question should be answered.

3. Ask students to find one digital genre they would like to analyze

Ask students find an example of digital genre that fits with their hobbies or interests and that they feel they could analyze without difficulty

4. Provide a writing prompt with specific questions about the genre they have chosen and ask them to answer the questions in cohesive essay form.

By providing specific questions for students to answer about digital genre, you will help them learn analytical skills that they will need in the future without leaving them confused or overwhelmed.

By following these steps, you will be able to introduce digital genre into the classroom and help students develop analytical tools they need in the future.

See also Application of Digital Media in the Classroom

1. Bazerman, Charles. "Genre and Identity: Citizenship in the Age of the Internet and the Age of Global Capitalism." Rhetoric and Ideology of Genre. 1-34. Web. 13 Oct. 2012.
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