Reflecting on Digital Literature

My reviews for this assignment can be found in this blog post and on Goodreads.

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In The shallows: What the Internet is doing to our brains, Nicholas Carr writes “For some people, the very idea of reading a book has come to seem old-fashioned”. Digital literature is amongst us, everyday. The Internet is a ‘text-saturated world’ where reading on screens is fundamentally different from reading traditional, printed text (Cull, 2011). The what, when and how reading occurs has significantly changed and perceptions of what exactly a ‘book’ is, is beginning to adjust as well. A book being a tangible object with physical pages to turn is really only one of many options that we can consider to be a book (Hancox, 2013).
Reviewing three fundamentally different forms of digital literature for this assignment has significantly evidenced the fact that simply ‘avoiding’ digital literature isn’t possible. As educators it is imperative that we not only acknowledge this but develop, and in some cases transform our practice. This will ensure our students are provided with the best literature experiences, both print and digital, to enable them to achieve success as readers and writers in the digital age. Last semester I wrote about the importance of digital literacy not being viewed as an ‘add on’ by educators (Chase & Laufenberg, 2011), similarly it is my perception that the use of digital literature in the classroom should be seamlessly implemented. This means going beyond showing electronically augmented, linear narrative texts or ‘linear e-narratives’ (Unsworth, 2006) on Interactive Whiteboards and screens. This means providing students with a variety of good quality digital literature in multiple forms- digital literature that is described as enhanced and interactive eBooks (Itzkovitch, 2012) and hypertext and hypermedia narratives (Unsworth, 2006). If implemented effectively students will develop the skills of reading ‘digitally’ where reading goes beyond a static page (Hague & Payton, 2010) and understand both linear and non-sequential, dynamic texts (Bawden, 2008).
Digital literature most certainly has its place in modern educational environments. Today electronic books can do many things a print book cannot (Sadokierski, 2013), digital literature is able to provide both students and teachers with a variety of learning opportunities, creation formats and spaces for expression that were not previously available (Chase & Laufenberg, 2011). Being able to read a text together despite geographical bounds is one such opportunity evident in the ‘A Story Before Bed’ Google+ Hangout app, the swinging, panoramic-like camera in Sherlock- Interactive Adventure allows the reader to view the moving 3D images from different perspectives, adding context to the written word, is another. These features transcend the written word, offering versatility and accessibility that is impossible to print books (Sadokierski, 2013).
I am a digital reader. I love the convenience and digital affordances; clipping text, highlighting, in-built dictionaries, interactivity, portability, innate bookmarking. I personally am much more inclined to read something on a mobile device than I am a printed text. My love of social media and all things Twitter is what drew me to reviewing @TitanicRealTime, by far my most favourite piece of digital literature yet. I was mesmerised watching this Twitter stream live earlier this year and constantly found myself anticipating the next Tweets- or lines of the text. Listening to Andrew Fitzgerald in ‘Adventures in Twitter Fiction’ further sparked my interest in exploring what has come to be described as ‘Twitterature’.

Using @TitanicRealTime in the classroom would be easy- especially for teachers who already incorporate Twitter in their classroom as normal practice. Following the historical retelling on a daily basis would springboard a natural inquiry into all things ‘Titanic’. Students and teachers can explore and compare Tweets from different class systems and the idea of social equality, delve into the history of early 20th century, develop an understanding of character and different language features. Museum Victoria has a comprehensive guide to lesson ideas for students in years 3 and 4 which was put together to support the former Titanic Artifact exhibition, though specifically designed for those year levels, @TitanicRealTime can be used an enjoyed by older students and adults alike.
In the digital age we find ourselves in, it is essential that we take advice from Cull (2011) and “remind ourselves of the importance of teaching transferable critical reading skills, and the value of motivating our students to remain lifelong learners”. Critically reviewing digital literature is paramount before incorporating it into any teaching program. Digital elements and interactivity should not be included in a text without the view of enhancing the reading experience (Itzkovitch, 2012). Digital literature should be embraced in the classroom- go beyond linear texts on a screen and embrace a world of magical enhanced and interactive eBooks, book apps and the world of ‘Twitterature’. 
Bawden, D. (2008). CHAPTER ONE: Origins and Concepts Of Digital Literacy. In Digital Literacies: Concepts, Policies & Practices (pp. 17–32). Peter Lang Publishing, Inc. Retrieved from
Carr, N. (2010). The shallows: What the Internet is doing to our brains. New York: Norton.
Chase, Z., & Laufenberg, D. (2011). Digital Literacies: Embracing the Squishiness of Digital Literacy.Journal of Adolescent & Adult Literacy, 54(7), 535–537. Retrieved from
Cull, B. (2011). Reading revolutions: Online digital text and implications for reading in academe. First Monday, 16(6). Retrieved from
Hancox, D. (2013). When Books Go Digital: The Kills and the Future of the Novel. Retrieved
Hague, C., & Payton, S. (2010). Digital literacy across the curriculum. Futurelab. Retrieved
Itzkovitch, A. (2012). Interactive eBook Apps: The Reinvention of Reading and Interactivity. Retrieved
Sadokierski, Z. (2013). What is a book in the digital age? Retrieved from


  1. Bec, I have benefited from reading your post [and your additional references] as part of my journey with digital literature. Digital literature is changing rapidly, and while there might be many failures [mentioned by Hancox], the successful ones are amazing: not just the variety of digital texts you reviewed but others including those I reviewed which are more suitable for a younger audience.

    The single most important point for educators is providing exposure through authentic experiences, embedding digital texts into pedagogy. Easier said than done for some teachers who have yet to experience digital texts other than linear ‘reproductions’ of a print text [Unsworth’s e-narratives]. Just as educators expose students to quality print literature, sharing quality digital literature is paramount. From sharing quality print literature, students have been engaging in written responses and creative prose. Similarly, students must be engaged in creating their own digital stories, stimulated by their engagement with quality digital literature.

    Preferring print or digital? I am not a definite as you – I find that I often prefer paper when reading academic papers as the physical highlighting helps my attention and retention, and I find reading for pleasure is more relaxing with ambient light rather than the back light from a screen. [Liu, 2005; Jabr, 2013]. I suspect this will change for children in the future, as their norm will be digital. All that said and done, nothing beats travelling with a library saved on a tablet!


    Jabr, F. (2013) The reading brain in the digital age: The science of paper versus screens. Scientific American, April 11. Retrieved from:

    Liu, Z. (2005). Reading behavior in the digital environment: Changes in reading behavior over the past ten years. Journal of Documentation, 61(6), 700-712. Retrieved from


  2. I was most interested in your observations on incorporating digital literature in the classroom. And yet, as I attempt to respond to your posting, after a few minutes of futile scrolling up and down as I tried to reply and refer back to what you have written, in an attempt to resist printing out your post in order to do this successfully (how did everyone else do this?) I have taken an interlude to email myself with my fellow student’s blog post addresses and to open the posts on my iPad and with twisted neck and dual screens perched in discomfort I continue.

    And there lies the rub, that so many have hiccupped against – that lack of linearity, the unfamiliarity, the medium (Cull, 2011; Liu, Liao, & Guo, 2009; Nilsson, 2010; Skains, 2010; Walker, Jameson, & Ryan, 2010; Walsh, 2013). That need to jump around, and while jumping find the train of thought has escaped, perhaps to be regained perhaps not.

    I digress. I cannot avoid, you are right. But should I have tweeted my response? I just did. Because I could
    “@MissB6_2 I have read and appreciate your “Reflecting on Digital Literature” we are getting there, but the journey is arduous. #INF533″

    I see teachers all around me tweeting. But not to / with their students. I ask them about digital literature, and they look horrified. Too new, too experimental. It’s hard enough getting parents to appreciate YA ala John Green or Sherman Alexie (what is it with all that swearing? What about the classics? Why can’t they do Jane Austen?) – #Beow100 (Madrigal, 2014; Treharne, 2014) or The Lizzie Bennet diary (Francus, 2013; Pemberley Digital, 2013; Su, Noble, Rorick, & Austen, 2014) won’t cut it. And the students, they’re blogging! But they can’t write a letter or an essay. And the spelling is appalling. In my day…

    And yet it is wonderful.


    I think educators are afraid. And perhaps justifiably so. Sure, there are some for whom this is so distant that it may not exist. There are some with an inkling, some exposure and the tingling of excitement. They can incorporate what someone else has done into their lessons. The librarians can put bits of multi-media and multi-modality into their libguides (I know I do). But in attempting to create full blown authentic edutainment, the type that needs a cast of thousands and not “Captain my captain” standing on a table we are powerless. We do not lack in imagination, nor dreaming or envisioning the possibilities. We lack in the skills, the time, the patience to fiddle around and budgets to bring them to fruition. So we languish with other’s interpretations and like a person in a dark corridor with one faint glimmer of light, knock our heads and stub our toes, bumping alternately between our students who demand and need more and different and administrators and parents who hanker after a more certain and fixed past.

    Cull, B. . (2011). Reading revolutions: Online digital text and implications for reading in academe | Cull | First Monday. First Monday, 16(6). Retrieved from

    Francus, M. (2013, October 22). Pride and Prejudice Goes Interactive: “The Lizzie Bennet Diaries.” Video presented at the Pride and Prejudice: The Bicentennial, Paper 5. Retrieved from

    Liu, S., Liao, S., & Guo, J. (2009). Surviving in the digital age by utilizing libraries’ distinctive advantages. The Electronic Library, 27(2), 298–307. doi:10.1108/02640470910947647

    Madrigal, A. (2014, January 10). The Elegance of Beowulf in 100 Tweets – The Atlantic. Retrieved August 19, 2014, from

    Nilsson, M. (2010). Developing Voice in Digital Storytelling Through Creativity, Narrative and Multimodality. International Journal of Media, Technology and Lifelong Learning, 6(2), 148–160. Retrieved from

    Pemberley Digital. (2013, August 22). Emmy Award Winning, Interactive Web Series “The Lizzie Bennet Diaries” Immerses Fans into Jane Austen’s Timeless Classic [Press Release]. Retrieved August 20, 2014, from

    Skains, R. L. (2010). The Shifting Author–Reader Dynamic: Online Novel Communities as a Bridge from Print to Digital Literature. Convergence: The International Journal of Research into New Media Technologies, 16(1), 95–111. doi:10.1177/1354856509347713

    Su, B., Noble, K., Rorick, K., & Austen, J. (2014). The secret diary of Lizzie Bennet. London ; Sydney: Simon & Schuster.

    Treharne, E. (2014, January 9). Beowulf in a Hundred Tweets : #Beow100 [[Web log post]]. Retrieved August 20, 2014, from

    Walker, S., Jameson, J., & Ryan, M. (2010). Skills and strategies for e-learning in a participatory culture (Ch. 15). In R. Sharpe, H. Beetham, & S. Freitas (Eds.), Rethinking learning for a digital age: How learners are shaping their own experiences (pp. 212–224). New York, NY: Routledge.

    Walsh, M. (2013). Literature in a digital environment. In L. McDonald (Ed.), A literature companion for teachers (pp. 181–194). Marrickville, NSW: Primary English Teaching Association Australia (PETAA).


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