Project History


As noted on the Homepage, the primary purpose of this website is to share a variety of materials used to teach and to support the teaching of digital writing instruction in first-year writing programs at 6 institutions (more on that on the Current Project Background page). However, this website is just 1 output of a much larger, long-term project.

The 3 of us have been collaboratively investigating how teachers of first-year writing are prepared and supported in their teaching of digital writing since 2011, when we were graduate students at Bowling Green State University. The questions we have asked and the ways we went about answering them have shifted over time and have included multiple surveys, a matrix-based literature review, a pilot study, 6 multi-day campus visits, and numerous conference presentations that led to conversations with colleagues. 

In this section, we briefly describe the foundational work that got us to the place where we conducted the 6 site visits to gather the materials showcased on this site. This section specifically focuses on 3 earlier phases of this larger, long-term project: 

  1. Phase One (Jan. 2011–2013): an initial survey we conducted with a focus on how Comp/Rhet PhD Programs prepared their students to teach writing with technology where we turned to Directors of Graduate Programs as all-seeing, on-campus informants
  2. Phase Two (Oct. 2015–Oct. 2016): a matrix-based literature review where we turned to position statements, white papers, and similar documents published by well-established organizations in writing studies (i.e., CCCC, NCTE, MLA, WPA, and TYCA) and that discussed technology and professional development 
  3. Phase Three (Oct. 2016–Aug. 2017): a later survey, extensively redesigned in scope and target audience, that we designed using what we had learned from the initial survey and the literature review

Phases One and Two revealed that while there is agreement that digital writing is important for students, and thus instructors need to be prepared to teach it, there is not consensus in the field about what it means to teach digital writing, who teaches digital writing, and how instructors should be prepared to teach it. Phase Three revealed that in order to get the kind of situated and nuanced view of writing programs that we were looking for, we would need to conduct campus visits that allowed us to see the technopedagogical ecology/ies that existed at a few specific institutions.

Below, we trace our thread of inquiry, briefly summarizing findings from each of these earlier phases and discussing how they influenced our design of the study that led to the data showcased on this website. 

Techno-pedagogy: A Note on Terminology

From the beginning of our research, we’ve had to grapple with how to talk about what it is we are interested in studying. We have much more to say about that below. However, a foundational term that we have used since our earliest phases of research is techno-pedagogy. Others use similar terms like “technology pedagogy” or “technogogy,” but in our research and our conversations, it’s clear that people both use some of these terms interchangeably and also mean quite different things when they use these terms. When we use the term “techno-pedagogy,” we are drawing on foundational work done by scholars like Stuart Selber, Cynthia Selfe, and Johndan Johnson-Eilola (Selber, 2004; Selber, Johnson-Eilola, and Selfe, 1995; Selfe, 1992) that include historical, critical, and rhetorical components in addition to attention to a functional component (i.e., how to use a particular technology or digital tool). 

Phase One: A Tiny Survey with a Huge Response Rate (Jan. 2011–Jan. 2013)

Using Anderson et al.’s 2006 CCCC-research-grant-supported survey as inspiration, we created a 10-question survey that we sent to the 67 composition and rhetoric PhD programs that existed at that time (as identified by Brown et al. in Rhetoric Review in 2008). The purpose of our survey was to learn if and how PhD programs were preparing graduate students to teach writing with technology. As graduate students in a Rhetoric and Writing PhD program ourselves at that time, we were curious to see how our experiences in learning about digital writing instruction compared with other graduate students’ experiences. 

We received responses from 41 out of 67 Directors of Graduate Studies (61% response rate). When we published our findings in a 2015 issue of Pedagogy focused on graduate education, we noted that while there had been improvements in the availability of training since Anderson et al.’s study, most programs did not require any specific training, and most training was situated in practicum courses. We interpreted this to mean that although techno-pedagogical preparation was increasingly available, it was not standard or normed, if you will—not at the core of what the field then recognized as essential shared disciplinary knowledge or preparation.

In addition to drawing conclusions about the state of graduate student technopedagogy preparation at that time, the responses to this survey convinced us that we needed to expand our view, to look more broadly to try to answer questions about how FYW instructors learned to teach with technology. These 2 responses in particular urged us to expand:

Survey Question #1: Does your Ph.D. program require students take a [technology pedagogy course/courses]?

“The university is quite clear about the FDI [Faculty Development Institute] being *the* unit on campus that delivers instruction on the use of pedagogical technology."

Survey Question # 8: Select the appropriate answer, YES, NO, NOT SURE, for each of the following:

  • There is an elective course(s) WITHIN the department that students can take to learn how to teach with technology
  • There is an elective course(s) OUTSIDE the department students can take to learn how to teach with technology
  • There are DEPARTMENT-SPONSORED activities or programs whereby students can learn to teach with technology (e.g. a 3 hour workshop offered each semester)
  • There are seminars and/or workshops that are not sponsored beyond the department whereby students can learn to teach with technology (e.g. Center for Teaching and Learning workshops)
  • Other alternative ways for students to become prepared to teach with technology

“Your questionnaire seems premised on the idea that requirement is to be privileged and everything else is marginalization.”

And in coding the survey responses, we noted the following themes that also encouraged us to look beyond our initial scope and to consider: (1) the consistency with which Directors of Graduate Studies referenced opportunities for graduate students to learn to teach with technology beyond the PhD and writing programs, (2) the multiplicity of places on campus providing these opportunities, (3) the inconsistency in what Directors of Graduate Studies identified as techno-pedagogy opportunities, and (4) the braided nature of graduate student pedagogic preparation and the curriculum of the campus writing program.

Phase Two: A Matrix-Based Literature Review of Professional Documents (Oct. 2015–Oct. 2016) 

Because our 10-question survey did not give us a clear understanding of what the field agreed upon as providing expertise in and experience practicing techno-pedagogy, we turned to policy statements (e.g., position statements, guidelines, informational overviews, resolutions, white papers, policy briefs) published by CCCC, NCTE, MLA, WPA, and TYCA. As Jason Todd Stuart argues, “policy statements, as broadly applicable professional statements that reflect an accumulation of knowledge in a discipline, establish the context within which scholarly work is produced” (p. 149). 

Thus, we set out to determine how these documents (1) capture and convey the accumulation of knowledge about the role(s) of technology in reading, writing, and the teaching of writing and (2) how that knowledge is then being used to shape best practices that are communicated in these documents.

This approach to policy statements and their roles in shaping knowledge and scholarly work led to the major research question driving our literature review: What does it mean to be digitally literate (or perhaps “technologically” or “computer” literate, depending on the source) according to position statements central to the field? Our objective was to better understand: (1) how English Studies talks about “digital/technology/computer literacies,” and (2) How English Studies characterizes the curricula and teacher training necessary for educational institutions and teachers to support their students’ acquisitions of those literacies. Our study sought to more clearly characterize how we, as a field, talk about teacher preparation, PD, and technology—to identify where we are consistent over time and across contexts and where we diverge. 

To accomplish that goal, we used the keywords “digital literacy,” “media,” “new media,” “teacher preparation,” “graduate student preparation,” “teaching with computers/technology,” “digital writing,” and “web 2.0” to narrow our review to 69 documents published between 1971 (the earliest reference we found) and 2016. Then, we performed a close reading of these 69 documents, focusing on problem statements, key arguments or resolutions, key terms, and critical definitions, which we documented in the matrix shown below in Figure 1. After close examination of these 69 documents, we identified a total of 32 documents that attempted (1) to define “digital/technology/computer literacy,” (2) to express what it meant at that time to be digitally literate, (3) to express what it meant at that time to be prepared to teach in the digital age or any mention of any kind of media, and/or that (4) used exact or clear derivatives of the terms “digital,” “technology,” “teacher training,” or “professional development.”


Citation (APA)



Kind of text (policy statement, resolution, etc.)

Summary (few sentences)

Problem Statement

Key Argument/s or resolution

Key terms used (digi literacy, digi pedagogy, tech literacy, tech pedagogy, computerized writing instruction, etc.)

Critical definitions

Key quotes and pages with imp. passages

Key sources

Personal reaction/reflection

Figure 1: Literature Review Matrix developed to study policy documents

The initial intent of our systematic review was to identify authoritative language to use in our future research discussions about digital writing and techno-pedagogic preparation and support. What we noted, perhaps unsurprisingly, was that the language around technology did not remain static or stable, but changed as technologies and the ways we interact with them change. For example, in 1971, the term “non-print media” appears, and was used fairly consistently until the early 2000s. In 2003, the term “new media” emerges and, over the next ten years, becomes increasingly focused on texts rather than other forms of media (like videos or television). “Web-based texts” emerges in 2005, “electronic texts” in 2011, “born-digital texts” in 2012, and “digital writing” in 2016. The terminology used to describe what students are composing also reflected this focus on texts: moving from “multimedia composing” in 2003, to “compose digitally” in 2004, to “user-generated content” in 2012, to “digital writing” in 2017. 

Systematically reviewing professional documents produced by our field allowed us to trace terminological trajectories, but it did not reveal a neat set of well-defined terms that would assist us in talking with our colleagues, who, like us—and as we discovered from our literature review, like the broader field as well—used a multiplicity of terms to refer to what writers/composers/user-generators are producing (non-print media/new media/web-based texts/electronic texts/born-digital text/digital writing) in their writing classrooms. Claire Lauer’s work—especially her liberal use of slashes in her 2014 piece “Expertise with New/Multi/Modal/Visual/Digital/Media Technologies Desired: Tracing Composition’s Evolving Relationship with Technology through the MLA JIL”—also demonstrates changing and inconsistent terminology used within our field. 

While we did not achieve our goal of finding common language to guide our future inquiries, our review did bring into focus themes and patterns in documents about technology and teacher preparation and support, allowing us to better understand key considerations. Of the 32 documents we analyzed, 15 (46.88%) directly addressed the challenge of student and instructor access to tools and training/education. The 2005 “Beliefs about Technology and the Preparation of English Teachers” (Swenson et al.) puts this succinctly: “Many teacher educators do not have access to newer technologies, and, if provided access, will also require professional development opportunities” (emphasis added). Likewise, 10 documents addressed the need for infrastructure at the institutional, programmatic, and classroom levels. NCTE’s “An Administrator’s Guide to Writing Instruction” (2009) specifically calls for “adequately furnished computer labs and classroom computer access for writing instruction.” And, more expansively, NCTE’s 2005 "Multimodal Literacies” position statement calls for “our institutions to provide the necessary support and infrastructural, cultural, and technological adjustments, including access to technology for people with diverse abilities and needs.” 

Another prevalent theme within the documents we analyzed was the attention to pliability--the necessity of being able to conceptualize literacy and the teacher training necessary to foster it as flexible and responsive to changes in technology, students, teachers, and contexts. The 2015 "CCCC Statement on Preparing Teachers of College Writing" addresses this broadly, arguing “An institution, department, and/or program must provide ample opportunities for instructors to learn about and apply shifts in disciplinary scholarship, develop theoretically informed pedagogical practices that accommodate the learning needs of an ever-changing student body, and find intellectual and personal satisfaction in the process of continually enhancing their expertise and refining their craft," while CEE’s 2005 “Beliefs about Technology and the Preparation of English Teachers” (Swenson et al.) focuses more specifically on technology professional development, stating “Professional development for teachers and teacher educators must be ongoing, stressing purposeful integration for the curriculum and content, rather than merely technical operation. It also needs to provide institutional and instructional support systems to enable teachers to learn and experiment with new technologies.” 

Because the field is also in flux, key professional documents were revised and published as we were in the middle of our review. In 2014, the Council of Writing Program Administrators (CWPA) released a revised version of the “WPA Outcomes Statement for First-Year Composition [3]” (“OS 3”). The task force charged with this revision of the document was convened by CWPA President Duane Roen, and consisted of Dylan Dryer, Darsie Bowden, Beth Brunk-Chavez, Susanmarie Harrington, Bump Halbritter, and Kathleen Blake Yancey. In their article “Revising FYC Outcomes for a Multimodal, Digitally Composed World,” Dryer et al. explain that as they gathered feedback to inform their revision for a multimodal, digitally composed world—which was intentionally solidifying the place of digital writing in the profession—they consistently encountered people who were “questioning terms and assumptions (about outcomes, writing, composition, digital, multimodal),” including “the implications of word choice in a document that incorporates digital literacy” (133–34). Ellery Sills’s 2018 interviews with five of the ten task force members (published in CCC’s, “Making Composing Policy Audible: A Genealogy of the WPA Outcomes Statement 3.0”), documents how task force members “sought to ensure that digital and multimodal composing outcomes could be broadly and flexibly adapted across writing programs” (59).

Another year later, in November 2015, CCCC revised the 1982 “Position Statement on the Preparation and Professional Development of Teachers of Writing,” publishing the “CCCC Statement on Preparing Teachers of College Writing” to replace the former. The CCCCs task force that revised this document consisted of Lori Ostergaard, Sarah Johnson, Nicholas Behm, Sarah Liggett, and Dana Ferris. Synthesizing the changes between the 1982 and 2005 statements, Kristine Hansen argues that the 2015 statement shows signs of movement toward disciplinarity for the field of Rhetoric and Composition, noting that the statement “seems more focused,” calling for “teachers to have a ‘broad base of theoretical knowledge’ in rhetoric, linguistics, pedagogy, research methods, and technology” (147). One of the five highlighted areas of theoretical knowledge is technical knowledge, which is defined as “an understanding of how to prepare students to address the evolving nature of persuasion and written communication in the 21st century.”

The revision of these documents highlighted the ways in which technologies, and their continual development and evolution, shape the contexts in which people, including students, write. Further, they both emphasize that the roles technologies play in the production of texts deserve attention not only as part of the production process or the product, but as part of writing pedagogy. And if technologies are part of pedagogy, then learning about, using/experimenting with and critically examining various technologies is an essential part of both teacher preparation and on-going professional development for teachers of writing.  

Sills’ article lauds the CWPA Task Force’s “textual embrace of inclusivity and ambiguity” (66) as a meaningful attempt to “preserve the document’s kairos” (78). Though we went into our initial literature review hoping to identify key terms, a shared language to use in our research questions and dialogues with participants, we have come to accept the necessity of terminological ambiguity. Given this, a key goal of our current study is to show how this ambiguity is being interpreted in particular writing programs that are situated within particular campus techno-ecologies that emerge and are sustained by institutional missions and visions for teaching and learning—something we tried to begin doing through a second, more elaborate survey.

Phase Three: A Huge Survey With a Tiny Response Rate: Oct. 2016–Aug. 2017)

Using what we found in our initial survey and literature review, we conducted phase three, a second, more detailed survey revised from our previous study (Hauman, Kastner, Witte, 2015), which we again sent to directors of PhD programs. For this survey’s distribution, we used Jim Ridolfo’s RhetMap ( to identify Comp/Rhet PhD Programs. In addition to the 67 programs we contacted in 2011, in 2016, RhetMap included an additional 29 programs (totaling 95 programs). 

Our review of the literature affirmed the importance of understanding how professional position statements and best practices are interpreted based on the affordances and limitations of local institutional and programmatic contexts. Because five years had lapsed since our initial survey project, and because that survey feedback revealed a perceived bias in privileging a stand-alone course, we designed a new 25-question survey in Qualtrics, which allowed us to provide survey respondents with greater flexibility. Similarly to the objective of our first survey, we wanted the new survey to help us better understand techno-pedagogy for graduate students in PhD-granting institutions in Rhet/Comp. However, informed by our findings from the first survey and our literature review, we also wanted to understand techno-pedagogy preparation beyond the program’s curriculum, composition practicum, and departmental professional development activities and opportunities; we wanted to get a sense of the institutional offerings as well.

Ultimately, we had too low of a response rate to allow for generalizable findings about Rhetoric and Composition graduate curricula with only 18 people responding in any way (19% response rate), and only 11 people completing all 27 questions. 

Nevertheless, from the programs that did respond, we learned that 

  1. FYC/FYW appeared to be requiring students to write with technology at that time. Over 50% of our respondents indicated that their courses would require graduate students to teach and assess “Digital/Multimodal Assignments.” 
  2. PhD Programs in Rhetoric and Composition appeared to be requiring their graduate students to learn to teach (53.85%) and to write themselves (61.54%) with technology.
  3. Departmental opportunities to learn to teach with technology appeared to be robust: 50% of respondents indicated that there was a required course in technology pedagogy, over 60% indicated that there was an optional course, and over 70% indicated that there were workshops and opportunities facilitated within the department.
  4. Institutional opportunities for graduate students to learn to teach with technology likewise exist, as indicated by the survey response excerpted at the beginning of this section. However, although we feel confident that techno-pedagogy workshops are available across most campuses, few of our respondents (23.08%) indicated that there were workshops through the Center responsible for supporting faculty and GTA teaching. Even fewer (12.82%) indicated there were workshops offered by a technology unit.

Even with a low response rate, we learned valuable information, including that our inquiry was still relevant. There were three noteworthy responses: 

(1) a response to survey question #9 that drew our attention, again, to the integral relationship between institutional resources and intra-departmental and programmatic pedagogical resources; 

Survey Question 9: What are the strengths of your doctoral program's technology pedagogy preparation for graduate students?

“Many of our strengths exist at the college level -- workshops and training are offered. I encourage our grad students to ask for workshops on technology topics they're interested in, and in our department, our First-Year Writing program offers regular workshops, some of which emphasize teaching with technology. A key strength, but I'm not sure whether students are robustly aware of it, are the technological resources at our institution. We have more than 30 computer labs, state-of-the-art rendering and design facilities, several central Maker spaces, etc.”

(2) a response to survey question #10 that reminded us that visibility is as important as availability and that the organization of institutions likely meant that if we only asked one person about available resources, there was also likely a lot that wasn’t going to come into view; and 

(3) a response to question #10 that showed us integrating technology into writing instruction at any institution required the ability to intentionally and critically examine the “technological contexts” within and beyond that institution. 

Survey Question 10: How can your doctoral program improve its technology pedagogy preparation for graduate students?

  • “An area to grow is to more strategically and intentionally expose students to a variety of technology pedagogies across the doctoral core courses and in program activities. We do implicitly now; we should make this a more visible aspect of the program.”
  • “One of the things I'd like to do as graduate director, over the next three years, is enhance students' understanding of the technological contexts at our institution and, most importantly, beyond our institution. I'd like to make sure they're best equipped for the institutions within which they choose to work -- as teachers who excellently and appropriately integrate technology into their classrooms, as advocates for faculty technology needs, etc.”

So although we were asking broader questions in this phase, we were still only collecting one perspective (i.e., the program director), which did not represent the various stakeholders across campus involved in supporting the success of this PD. If we were really going to get at how and where techno-pedagogy PD was happening, we needed to look at the writing program, not necessarily as the center of techno-pedagogical support, but as one part of a broader campus techno-ecology. And we needed to collect information not only from the WPA, but from the various program-, department-, college-, and university-level stakeholders involved in supporting techno-pedagogy.

Takeaways that Inform the Research Design for the Data Showcased on

In listening closely to the open-ended responses of our colleagues who volunteered their time and energy to complete surveys, we were fascinated by the unique snapshots we were getting of what techno-pedagogy looked like within particular programs, including the differences among respondents. We saw differences, for example, in what was considered coursework in techno-pedagogy at one institution versus another and in how institutional priorities shaped required curricula and trainings. In each iteration of our survey project, we had follow-up questions; as we read through open-ended responses, we wanted to know more. We also wanted to talk with more people, like the person whose primary responsibility it was to prepare people to teach FYW on their campus; the WPA; and the people who were overseeing lab spaces, technology support centers, resources, and consultation teams, and who were responsible for introducing techno-pedagogy to the whole campus, including teachers of writing.

The follow-up questions we were posing to our, in many cases, anonymous and, in all cases, not-present colleagues, as well as our experiences in the field encouraged us to rethink the focus and nature of our study. Ultimately, we came to understand that how people are trained and professionally sustained in teaching writing with technology is complexly situated within writing programs, that are further situated within academic departments, both of which exist as part of broader institutional techno-ecologies. And so, we needed to talk with many more people than the director of one graduate program. Since we could see a clear connection between digital writing in FYW and graduate curricula in technology pedagogy, the WPA emerged as a good starting point for extending the conversation across campus. Our own work at a total of five different institutions between us since we started the project as graduate students at Bowling Green State University in 2010 (yet a sixth institution) helped to reinforce the importance of broadening our inquiry. We were learning that support for teaching, learning, and/or research initiatives with technology are dependent upon institutional visions, missions, and thus priorities. Finally, and perhaps most importantly, our experiences in the field showed us a major limitation of our investigation: graduate students are not the only, and at many institutions not at all or not the majority of, people who are teaching in FYW programs. If we wanted to get a more complete picture of how the varied people who teach FYW were developing (or not) as techno-pedagogues, we needed to expand our pool of participants and get a view of institutional structures and ecologies.

Works Cited

Anderson, Daniel, Anthony Atkins, Cheryl Ball, Krista Homicz Millar, Cynthia Selfe, and Richard Selfe. "Integrating Multimodality into Composition Curricula: Survey Methodology and Results from a CCCC Research Grant." Composition Studies, vol. 34, no. 2, 2006, pp. 59-84.

Brown, Stuart C. Theresa Enos, David Reamer, and Jason Thompson. "Portrait of the Profession: The 2007 Survey of Doctoral Programs in Rhetoric and Composition." Rhetoric Review, vol. 27, no. 4, 2008, pp: 331-40.

Conference on College Composition and Communication. "Statement on Preparing Teachers of College Writing." 2015, 

Council of Writing Program Administrators. “WPA Outcomes Statement for First-Year Composition (3.0).” 2014,

Dryer, Dylan, Darsie Bowden, Beth L. Brunk-Chavez, Susan Harrington, Bump Halbritter, and Kathleen Blake Yancey. "Revising FYC Outcomes for a Multimodal, Digitally Composed World: The WPA Outcomes Statement for First-Year Composition (Version 3.0)." WPA: Writing Program Administration - Journal of the Council of Writing Program Administrators, vol. 38, no. 1, 2014, pp. 129–143. 

Hansen, Kristine. "Discipline and Profession: Can the Field of Rhetoric and Writing be Both?" Composition, Rhetoric & Disciplinarity, edited by Rita Malenczyk, Susan Miller-Cochran, Elizabeth Wardle, and Kathleen Blake Yancey, U P of Colorado, 2018, pp. 134-160. 

Hauman, Kerri, Stacy Kastner, and Alison Witte. “Writing Teachers for Twenty-first Century Writers: A Gap in Graduate Education.” Pedagogy, vol. 15, no. 1, 2015, pp. 45-57.

Lauer, Claire. "Expertise with New/Multi/Modal/Visual/Digital/Media Technologies Desired: Tracing Composition's Evolving Relationship with Technology through the MLA JIL." Computers and Composition, vol. 34, Dec. 2014, pp. 60-75.

National Council of Teachers of English. “An Administrator’s Guide to Writing Instruction.” 2009,

National Council of Teachers of English. “Multimodal Literacies.” 2005,

Selber, Stuart. Multiliteracies for a Digital Age. Southern Illinois U P, 2004.

Selber, Stuart, Johndan Johnson-Eilola, and Cynthia L. Selfe. "Contexts for Faculty Professional Development in the Age of Electronic Writing and Communication." Toward 2000: Education, the Society, and the Profession, special issue of Technical Communication, vol. 42, no. 4, 1995, pp. 581-84.

Selfe, Cynthia L. “Preparing English Teachers for the Virtual Age: The Case for Technology Critics." Re-Imagining Computers and Composition: Teaching and Research in the Virtual Age, edited by Gail E. Hawisher and Paul LeBlanc, Heinemann, 1992, pp. 22-42.

Sills, Ellery. "Making Composing Policy Audible: A Genealogy of the WPA Outcomes Statement 3.0." College Composition and Communication, vol. 70, no. 1, 2018, pp. 57–81.

Stuart, Jason Todd. The Disciplinary Rhetoric of the 21st Century: The Emergence of Computers and Composition. 2010. Case Western Reserve University, PhD Dissertation. OhioLINK,

Swenson, Janet, Robert Rozema, Carl A. Young, Ewa McGrail, and Phyllis Whitin. “Beliefs about Technology and the Preparation of English Teachers: Beginning the Conversation." Contemporary Issues in Technology and Teacher Education, vol. 5, no. 3/4, pp. 210-36.