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Clarkson University Professor Writes Textbook on Writing for a Variety of Media

Clarkson University Professor of Communication and Media Johndan Johnson-Eilola has written a new textbook for first-year composition students on adapting writing for new technology.

Johndan Johnson-EilolaThe textbook, Changing Writing, published by Macmillan Education, outlines four concepts that students need to take into consideration for responding to and creating change with their own writing: purpose, audience, context and text. Johnson-Eilola said these concepts help students develop their communication strategies for various audiences and scenarios. For example, he said, an email to a friend has a different tone than an email to a professor.

"Neither of those tones is necessarily correct, it's just that one is more appropriate for each audience," he said.

Johnson-Eilola said many of the strategies in the textbook are developed from researching how people work. He observed expert knowledge workers, faculty members, graduate students and undergraduate students creating different types of text. Because students don't communicate strictly through traditional alphabetical text, Johnson-Eilola said, this textbook helps them adapt to rapidly changing media, from academic essays to podcasts, video, graphic design and more.

"This system adapts to new technology,” he said. "If you know your students are on Facebook, you apply this to Facebook. If your audience is faculty, you look at what texts they use and what they don't use."

Half the textbook is dedicated to real-world scenarios so students can practice applying the concepts in diverse contexts. Johnson-Eilola said his goal is to get students thinking about how to write effectively, so they can continue to apply this set of skills throughout their lives. Media have changed a lot in the past 20 years, he said, and it is important for students to learn how to use different channels to communicate.

"The whole concept of the book is to get students to run through different iterations of purpose, audience, context and text, and apply them to different technologies. When a new technology comes along in two years, it won’t jar them," he said.

Reviews of Changing Writing on the Macmillan Education website praise the textbook for its engaging writing exercises.

"Changing Writing provides a solid rhetorical framework for developing successful writing strategies across multiple media and genres. Its clear, engaging style will appeal to students and instructors alike, and the innovative writing scenarios provide opportunities to engage real audiences and to develop written products that would be valuable to any student's writing portfolio and résumé," said George Mason University's Douglas Eyman.

Other reviewers write that the lessons will appeal to students working in various media.

"This book assumes that students will write in many genres, using many tools, with text, images, movies and sound. Each of the scenario assignments is interesting and smart. The activities they describe are sure to get students thinking in interesting directions," said Kent State University's Derek Van Ittersum.

Johnson-Eilola teaches courses in new media, audio production, typography and design and coordinates Clarkson’s Communication Internship Program. He has authored more than 50 journal articles and book chapters and eight books. He received his doctoral degree in rhetoric and technical communication from Michigan Technological University.

Clarkson University launches leaders into the global economy. One in five alumni already leads as a CEO, VP or equivalent senior executive of a company. Located just outside the Adirondack Park in Potsdam, N.Y., Clarkson is a nationally recognized research university for undergraduates with select graduate programs in signature areas of academic excellence directed toward the world’s pressing issues. Through 50 rigorous programs of study in engineering, business, arts, sciences and the health professions, the entire learning-living community spans boundaries across disciplines, nations and cultures to build powers of observation, challenge the status quo, and connect discovery and engineering innovation with enterprise.

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