Word Processing

Word Processing in the Classroom

An XtraNormal summary of this chapter ┬╗
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  • Conflicting research on the benefits of word processing to quality writing suggest that other variables may have an impact on those benefits. Word processing, alone, isn’t a magic bullet.
  • Word processing should serve specific purposes, not just be a default tool or something just to make writing easier to read.

  • Aside from making student writing legible, word processing offers many tools and features to improve student writing that often go unused in the classroom
  • Considering the purpose for a piece of writing can help determine whether or not word processing should be used.  Sometimes, a hand-written piece will not only suffice, it will save time as well.

Further Reading:

Helpful in setting up and running a writer workshop classroom in a digital environment
A great resource for ways to use computers throughout the writing process

Supplemental Materials:

Using Google Docs in the Classroom

A Discussion on Digital Writing


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I admit it.  I am one of those teachers who used to take students to the computer lab for the sole purpose of making their writing legible. If I was going  to spend time reading it, they were going to make it pretty (and easy) for me to read. This chapter asks us to consider why we use word processing in our classes as well as encourages us to explore the tools and features available to our students that can improve the writing, revising, and editing processes.

Now, when I take my students to the computer lab, we are doing searches for commonly misused (or overused) words, labeling the elements of our own stories, or commenting on the writing of another student. Move over, Spellcheck.  We have more effective tools to use!

  • In what ways do you use a computer for writing? Has your use of word processing changed the way you approach writing tasks–and does your use vary depending on the writing you are doing?
  • What changes–either good or bad–have you noticed in  your students’ writing with the increased use of word processing?

Research shows that students writing can benefit from using word processing, but there are also some situations where word processing isn’t as helpful.

  • What are some of the benefits and drawbacks you have noticed with the use of word processing in your classes?

We should not try to adapt existing practices to the tools of technology (including word processing), but instead we should “design new strategies for teaching writing that are suited to computers.”

  • What are some of your past strategies that don’t work well with the use of computers? What new strategies can you envision to better teach writing with the tools your students use?

“Writing on computers may also give students a false sense of audience.”

  • What are some of the ways you have noticed this issue with your students? What are some ways teachers might be able to help students gain a better sense of audience when they are using computers?

  • What are some of your students’ writing needs that could be met by using word processing tools? When in the writing process would it be best for you to introduce those tools?
  • Since the effective use of word processing to improve student writing requires a shift in the classroom structure, what can you do or plan that will create the kind of supportive, collaborative classroom needed?