Responding to ‘In defence of writing’ by Håvard Skaar, published in issue 43.1 of this journal (April 2009), the present article argues that (1) compared with text production ‘from scratch’, producing texts through copy-and-paste requires a different type of – rather than less – semiotic work, and that (2) digitally produced writing may involve the same amount of semiotic work as texts produced through digitally retrieved images. Supporting the argument with data drawn from the writer's teaching experience in three first-year graduate courses of Scientific English for the Health Professions, the article discusses the changes in the abilities that are foregrounded/backgrounded (more/less required and developed) in the use of copy-and-paste for text production. The results indicate that rather than privileging one mode over another, the learners' semiotic work can be better assessed through a multilayered process of re-signification and re-elaboration of texts and contents into multiple modes. The conclusions suggest new priorities for teaching, learning and assessment in the light of the changes in our contemporary semiotic landscape.
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