(1st Edition, 2018)
Authors/Editors: Eleanor Kutz, Denise Paster, and Christian Pulver
Publisher: Fountainhead Press ISBN: 978-1-68036-392-0
Price: $48.00 eBook; physical textbooks* ~$35 from third-party sellers on Amazon
*The publisher doesn’t appear to sell physical textbooks directly in service to their “Green Initiatives,” though university bookstores and booksellers may submit orders for physical copies.
The book is structured in primarily three parts. Part IV, “Digital Toolbox—List of Online Content” lists the URL and a table of contents of the materials available online. The book also includes “A Brief Guide to Citations” that offers guidance on citing digital sources students are most likely to encounter in both MLA and APA format.
- Materiality: The book’s eBook publication fits well with its praxis (composing in the digital age). The physical book is paperback with a workbook-like feel, making it easy to lay open flat when reading/studying.
- Structure: Each chapter follows the same basic format to scaffold the concept for the student (Exploring, Making Connections, Composing). Though chapters follow a logical trajectory, they also work out of sequence, giving instructors flexibility.
- Content: The best part about this book is its effective use of actual student projects as the primary basis from which to learn a concept. Most chapters include a student-created example that readers can use as a model for their own writing.
- Pedagogy: The editors draw from the latest research on digital literacy and composition studies, often incorporating excerpts from said research into discussion. The text also works hard to translate the threshold concepts of writing into students’ everyday experiences of living in an increasingly digital world.
- Design: The book incorporates many elements of good print design — headers, call-out boxes, images, charts/graphs, marginal “side notes,” and creative text formatting — to guide students through the density of content. It also effectively uses a fun, energetic color palette to draw attention to the most important elements on a page.
- Materiality: While pages are made of light-weight paper, the book’s size and use of color make the book heavy and cumbersome. It’s a sizeable textbook with a real “textbook” feel.
- Structure: Repetitive. If instructors stick to the text’s format, classes will become highly predictable/boring.
- Content: The biggest danger with this text is obsolescence. While it speaks well to what it means to compose in the current digital environment, its references and digital frameworks (social media, blogging, etc.) may quickly fall behind the times. The content also privileges written text over other forms of digital media composition (like videos or podcasting).
- Pedagogy: Though presumably a student textbook, the text reads more like an instructor manual. Much of the conceptual content assumes a tacit familiarity with comp/rhet studies, though presumably the extensive reference lists are meant to help those who are new to the field. Unfortunately, they actually feel intimidating to students for whom writing isn’t a fascinating, fun, or engaging activity.
- Design: Curiously, the Digital Toolbox fails to make use of UX design and the interactive flexibility of online publication (links, video, etc.). It merely replicates a print-based format, and students must click through each page to access the content.