The Impact of Word Processing in Education (page 2)

By — Pearson Allyn Bacon Prentice Hall
Updated on Jul 20, 2010

Issues in Using Word Processing

Educators seem to agree that although word processing is a valuable application, its use in education can be controversial:

  • When should students start word processing? — Word processing software designed for young children is available, and schools can introduce word processing to students as young as 4 or 5 years old. Some educators feel that word processing will free students from the physical constraints of handwriting and free them to develop written expression skills. Others worry that it will make students unwilling to spend time developing handwriting abilities and other activities requiring fine-motor skills.
  • Is it necessary to teach keyboarding skills? — Discussion is ongoing about whether students need to learn keyboarding ("10-finger typing" on the computer) either prior to or in conjunction with word processing activities. Some educators feel that students will never become really productive on the computer until they learn 10-finger keyboarding. Others feel that the extensive time spent on keyboarding instruction and practice could be better spent on more important skills and that students will pick up typing skills on their own.
  • What effects does word processing have on handwriting? — While no researchers have conducted formal studies of the impact of frequent word processing use on handwriting legibility, computer users commonly complain that their handwriting isn't what it used to be, ostensibly because of infrequent opportunities to use their handwriting skills.
  • What impact does word processing have on assessment? — Some organizations have students answer essay-type test questions with word processing rather than in handwriting. Many school districts also allow students to word process their writing tests. This practice introduces several issues. Roblyer (1997) reviewed research that found that students' word-processed compositions tend to receive lower grades than handwritten ones do. This surprising finding indicates that educational organizations that allow students to choose either handwriting or word processing must be careful to establish guidelines and special training to ensure that raters do not inadvertently discriminate against students who choose word processing.

Teachers and administrators are still deciding how best to deal with these issues. Despite these obstacles, education's dependence on word processing continues to grow.

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