Chapters 3-5

In the next three chapters, Coley shares his research results, supporting his arguments with commentary from the general surveys and from his interviews. He also draws on current research, with Selber’s Multiliteracies for a Digital Age figuring most prominently.

Chapter 3: The Social Nature of Morality: Audience Awareness as an Ethical Construct

Coley argues that the idea of ethics is inherently about audience and audience awareness because one cannot commit an immoral action alone (43). In addition, his interviews with the instructors and WPAs at both institutions support the notion that audience awareness is important to digital media composition. Since the audience is (typically) greater and more immediate for texts in online settings, then, students must develop knowledge about audience in order to write ethically (in morally justifiable ways) (43).

The question then becomes, how do instructors teach and model audience awareness? Coley argues that instructors need to create safe environments for students to interact with others who have different viewpoints than their own (45). Gordon, the WPA at the private Christian college, believes that it is important to hold students accountable for their interactions as authors. It shows them respect and shows them that their writing has real-life consequences. Students need to be aware that they exercise some power over their audience by constraining interpretation. Students and teachers alike need to be aware of their respective audiences’ values.

Student choice and comfort level are also important ethical dimensions when using digital media in the writing classroom. Digital media can blur public/private spaces, and teachers need to inform students about this so they can make informed decisions. Therefore, Coley argues that teachers need to be aware of who their students' audience might be beyond the classroom setting.

Coley concludes this chapter by reminding us that instructors should not only teach audience awareness to students with specific regard to writing, but we should also consider what audience awareness means for ethical literacy in general. While he says that we all teach "audience" because it is bound up in the origins of our field, we do not always hold discussions about developing moral character—whether that morality is based on a God, virtues, or "general social civility" (56).


Chapter 4:  Ethics, Academic Integrity, and Concerns Over Student Work

When interview questions were related to ethics and digital media use, all four of Coley’s participants spoke first and foremost, he says, about academic honesty, equating the term with such concepts as plagiarism, source attribution, and ownership of ideas (59-60). Participants also tended to link academic honesty with ethics.

Coley notes that most schools treat the concept of academic honesty by focusing heavily on the notion that violators are dishonest. In other words, schools imply that students have ill intentions. Yet, scholars such as Rebecca Moore Howard and Kathryn Valentine argue (as Coley discusses in his book) that all plagiarism is not intentional deception—especially not in the digitally mediated classroom. Because students often value efficiency over quality, this can lead to less concern about ethics. But it does not mean that students are intentionally being academically dishonest. So, Coley argues, first, that students need to be taught to properly cite information found in digital sources. According to Coley, teachers often presume students already have this knowledge and therefore fail to cover it fully. Second, Coley argues that writing teachers cannot assume students are intentionally plagiarizing, and they cannot assume that digital media necessarily give students more opportunities to plagiarize.  Intention should be considered for fair treatment. Chapter 4 of Teaching with Digital Media in Writing Studies: An Exploration of Ethical Responsibilities reminds us that we should teach students "new conceptions of academic honesty in digitally mediated environments," and those conceptions should be based upon the notion of respect for others’ work and ideas (70).


Chapter 5: Answering the Need for Critical Digital Literacies of Writing

This chapter offers ethical "obligations" that participants noted when asked to consider the teaching of digital media composition (75). Coley states that we (writing instructors and WPAs) are "morally obligated and duty bound" to teach students the following: "digital literacy," "rhetorical principles, functional literacy, critical literacy, information awareness" and "technological and administrative assistance/support" (76).

Coley defines digital literacy as "a general familiarity with and ability to critically evaluate and use for one’s own purposes the digital tools that compose networked environments" (76). Instructors have an ethical obligation to teach students digital tools because these are part of a 21st-century literacy that they will naturally be integrated into.  We also have an ethical obligation to teach students the rhetorical principles that are needed for them to write effectively in digital environments. It is important to remind ourselves, then, according to Coley's research results, that digital media can sometimes distract from these principles and from teaching the writing process. Therefore, students need to be reminded to use those rhetorical principles when composing with digital media.

Coley defines functional literacy as "the ability to use and manipulate digital technologies for one’s own (often educational) ends" (80). Students will need to understand how to use various digital media for their future occupations, but one problem is finding the time to teach these literacies in class. However, Coley's surveyed instuctors, for the most part, feel it is an ethical obligation because students will need these literacies and might not learn them elsewhere. In addition to functional literacy, students also need a critical computer literacy, which boils down to the ability to analyze and critique technology, its institutional and public forces, and the "grandiose claims of technophiles" (84).

Coley also argues that information awareness is a key ethical obligation; this can include informing students of the blurred boundary between public and private information online. Instructors should endeavor to give students choices, such as offering the use of an anonymous screen name to protect their identity. Instructors should also talk to students about the potential audiences that might view their work online.

Technological and administrative assistance are also ethical obligations. Sophie (the WPA at the public university) supports this notion in a personal communication in which she argues that WPAs should be familiar with a technology before presenting it to instructors, and instructors should be familiar with the technology before presenting it to students. There is an obligation on the part of universities to provide support—"technological, expertise, administrative, financial, training" (93). Administrative support also entails giving some level of freedom for instructors to be creative and experiment with digital media use in the classroom.