Gresens, A. (2006). How Would Using A Word Processing Program Affect Student Writing?. Instructional Technology Monographs 3 (2). Retrieved <insert date>, from

How Would Using A Word Processing Program Affect Student Writing?


Albert Gresens
University of Georgia



In my research, the questions that I want to explore are: How would utilizing word processing affect students’ motivation in the area of writing? How might instructors utilize word processing to improve students’ writing? Writing is an essential part of all areas of the curriculum, and it is a fundamental for success. Word processing programs have been used to assist with the writing process, but how does their use affect students’ written expression skills and motivation for the writing? Many instructors have an optimistic outlook regarding the potential of computers to assist with writing instruction. I will review the literature and studies that focus on using computerized word processing tools to see if there has been any reported impact on writing motivation and performance versus traditional writing methods. Those differences, if any, will be duly noted. My exploratory study will document the findings and results of my research.


Literature Review Methods Results and Discussion Conclusions References



In my experience with writing, I find it almost impossible to write without using a word processing program. I have also witnessed, in my many years of teaching, how students gravitate toward computers for school work and for their own interest as well. I have seen how motivational the computer can be, when I’ve been working with students in a variety of settings.

Writing is an imperative part of students’ learning. It impacts all areas of the curriculum, and it is critical for success in school, as well beyond the walls of the classroom. A recent United States government published report indicated that effective writing skills were paramount in determining job success, and that writing aptitude was also used as one of the main job promotion criteria (Kerrey, et al. 2005).

As important and significant as this skill is, there are many students who still do not possess the necessary skills that they need in order to be successful with their writing. Many Oxford University professors have observed a degradation of students’ skills in the core fundamental curriculum areas, including writing (Pitel, 2006). Students in my school district must pass a writing gateway test in order to be promoted. Providing instruction and support for students in the area of writing is vital in my role as their teacher. This high stakes assessment is a significant concern for me, as in previous years, some students did not pass this test.
My personal interest lies in improving students’ mechanical and creative writing abilities. My goal is to accomplish this task by integrating the computerized word processing tools of Microsoft Word into students’ writing repertoire. Once equipped with these capabilities, I want to explore how students’ writing quality and skills might change? This is the essential question that my research will examine.

There have been some researchers who have explored the effects of using word processing in the educational setting. However, there has not been any specific measurement designed to assess the impact of how computerized word processing tools affect students’ writing performance abilities.

The research that I plan to conduct will be important to many stakeholders. I obviously have an interest in the results of the study. In addition, my students, my colleagues, and my administration team will all benefit from the findings of my research.

The purpose of my study is to identify whether the strategies in a computerized word processing tool may have an impact on my fifth grade students’ abilities to write proficiently.


Literature Review

I researched print versions of magazine articles, as well as extracting information from the Internet, and online databases. I was able to find a broad selection of sources. However, some of the online journals that I attempted to access required subscription service to access the information, and many of these subscription services were quite expensive. Also, in searching through the Galileo and ERIC archives, there were several articles that appeared to relate directly to my project that were not available in full text formats. Even with all the available information, I was not able to find any definitive source that identified the advantage or disadvantage to using word processing tools to aid students’ writing abilities. 

Writing is a skill that is vital for success, important in and of itself, as well as imperative for achievement in all areas of the school curriculum. Many other curricular subject areas are dependent on effective writing skills. Expert authors of books regarding the writing process like Anderson (2005), Buckner (2005), and Routman (2005) agree that the ability of expressing oneself through the written word is an essential skill that all students must possess in order to be successful in school. Anderson (2005) explains that there must be a way to instruct students on how to write proficiently, even though their overall exposure to the written word has diminished. Currently, there are standardized grammar and writing assessments from the fourth grade through high school, including the SAT, the Iowa Test of Basic Skills, Gwinnett County Public School’s Gateway Writing Test, and the Criterion-Referenced Competency Tests. These new standardized tests represent a growing trend that will not likely go away any time soon, and in fact, these types of evaluations will likely increase (Anderson, 2005). 

Buckner (2005) echoes these same sentiments by pointing out that the writing process is essential to students’ success because there are increased mandates on curriculum and pressures from required testing. She further develops her point by stating that students should write everyday, and specifically in their own personal notebook. Writing instruction should be delivered in such a way that students begin to internalize the importance of it (Buckner, 2005). Routman (2004) makes it very clear that writing is vital, and it should take place everyday as well. Additionally, Kerrey, et al. (2005) state that the United States Government, in a recent publication, indicated that effective writing skills were paramount in determining job success, and continued by saying that writing aptitude was also used as main promotion criteria noted how important writing skills were in the work place. The government report indicated that deficiencies that currently exist in state employees’ writing skills cost taxpayers nearly a quarter of a billion dollars annually because their employees do not meet states’ expectations. Human resource directors stated that they frequently consider writing skills when they interview and hire personnel (Kerrey, et al. 2005). The literature exemplifies that writing is a fundamental skill important for success in school, and a valued asset in the real world settings as well.
There are some essential questions that need to be considered. How can educators help students to become better writers? What tools exist that can assist students in the area of writing? How can teachers motivate students to write? There are numerous ways that have been explained, taught, and delivered through a variety of methods for many years. Although it may be difficult to ascertain which writing method may be the most beneficial to the student, each instructor may have his own preferred method (Barrera, et al. 2001). 

Buckner is very strongly in favor of using a notebook and pencil for her writing instruction. When asked why, she replied that the students can better connect with the written word when they physically compose it (personal communication, Buckner, 2006). Conversely, other findings indicate that utilizing a word processing program can have a valuable advantage over tried and true paper and pencil tools (Russell, et al. 2002). 

In Materi’s (2001) review of the media comparison study between the work of Richard Clark and Robert Kozma, who draw conflicting positions in the debate, she explains the position of each author. Clark’s main position is that all the progress that students make is directly related to the teacher’s instructional methods, and that no bearing can be placed on any specific medium to deliver the instruction. She further explains that Kozma’s perspective is juxtaposed to his counter part. Kozma, she explains, states that the media can indeed play an important role in student learning. Although both authors make strong points, Kozma’s perspective is in direct alignment with several educators. Materi (2001) adds that further credence to Kozma’s position is highlighted by Jack Koumi (1994). He explains that many research studies do not consider the learning style of students, the purpose that they have for using technology, or the inherent motivation for using said media. This raises a question; is there an advantage to using a word processor, and if so how can it be employed to aid student writing?

Many instructors have expressed their optimism about the existing and the future potential of computers to support reading and writing instruction (MacArthur, 2000). The use of computers to enhance students writing skills can benefit students of all abilities and all levels. Barrera, et al. (2001), found that first grade students consistently wrote more when using the computer versus writing with paper and pencil. 

Padgett (2000) examined the comparative effects of using word processors versus paper and pencil journal writing with her fifth grade students. In documenting her findings, she noted an increased interest and motivation toward writing with the use of word processors, and she found that extended use of word processors changed the students’ favored method of writing. They enjoyed using the word processors in place of writing with paper and pencil. Although the collected data did not specify a noteworthy difference in the overall scores of the students’ journal entries, she reported an increase in the number of words per entry produced by students using word processors. The students who used word processors stayed more focused on their writing tasks, and they demonstrated far fewer behavioral problems as compared to the students who used paper and pencil for their assignments. The results of her findings should be noted, because she did observe an increase in motivation toward writing when using word processing (Padgett, 2000). 

Her records align with the opinions that students can benefit, not just from the instruction, but from the tools that are used to deliver the instruction. If the tools aid in motivation or add to the enthusiasm for the work, then there is indeed a viable reason to use a specific media for the instruction. Can a technology tool be used for more than just motivating learners to perform a task? Lam and Pennington (1995) found that word processing emphasizes the process rather than the product of writing, encouraging students to write more, but not better quality. Padgett (2000) discovered that students did not show any noteworthy difference in writing with word processing or writing with paper and pencil. Barrera, et al. (2001), noted that student use of computers had no effect on students’ concentration on their writing tasks. Hunter, et al. (2001), suggests that no advance in writing quality can be expected regardless of the sophistication of the technological tools; the word processor cannot be used to replace the teachers’ abilities to teach students how to write. 

In order for technology to have the most significant impact on students, it cannot be used in isolation or as a means to an end in itself. There must be sufficient planning and instructional development as well. MacArthur (2000) notes that the computer, program, or software will not make a difference, unless the teacher has put in the time and effort to maximize its effectiveness. Although this statement feeds into the media comparison, he clarifies this statement by pointing out, “Technology by itself is unlikely to produce major improvement in students’ writing. Instructional planning must take advantage of the capabilities of the technology to improve students’ abilities to plan, revise, and write fluently,” (p. 86). MacArthur (2000) further states the purpose of a writing assignment must be clearly communicated to the students in order for them to understand and produce an appropriate piece of work. Students need to know their audience while they work. They must also observe their audience as those readers make sense out of what the students have written (Brown, 2003). This same claim and observation is substantiated by Phenix (2002) as well. Additionally, students must realize that there are different expectations according to audience. For success in today’s world, they must learn to shift back and forth between language and expressions suitable for home, school, and the workplace (Hagemann, 2003). 

One critical element of student learning and a key to improvement is timely feedback. Teachers may provide the necessary criticism in a number of ways. Typically with pencil and paper assignments, the instructor scribbles and marks the document with hand written notes. This process, as Buckner (2005) points out, can actually be detrimental the students’ level of confidence, and this method can actually stifle their creativity. However, they still need a timely and attentive response. How do we, as teachers, provide for them what they need without breaking their spirit or motivation?

Brown (2003) indicates that the students of today have been reared on video games, high speed Internet, digital music, and television. These media have trained them to be accustomed to immediate responses. The need for speed can be solved through the use of technology (Brown, 2003). When utilizing electronic documents or word processing, an instructor can provide comments and feedback to the student almost immediately. Depending on the environment that is being used, those critiques from the teacher can be reviewed by the students quickly as well. As Brown (2003) indicates, there is no delay in the electronic commenting process, as is often the case with paper and pencil or journal writing. With this immediate feedback, student motivation and spirit can be maintained. As Schunk and Swartz (1993) noted in their study of fifth grade writing students, feedback was critical to student self-efficacy and performance.
The tools that exist in Microsoft Word can be utilized to improve writing instruction as well as improve students’ writing productivity and proficiency. The ease with which text can be copied, pasted, or relocated is a significant advantage over traditional paper and pencil. Writers can move the text any place they want at anytime. There is no need for the obligatory circled text with an arrow pointing to where it should go; text can instantly be relocated to the desired place. This feature allows for a completely different opportunity to work on writing skills without the drudgery of recopying over and over. 

Several excellent strategies for providing feedback were illustrated in Zeitz’s (2003) article, where the author makes use of the many tools available in Microsoft Word in the assigned lessons. Zeitz suggests setting up an electronic portfolio for each student to contain all their writing examples in one location, much like a writer’s notebook. He comments that the reviewer can then routinely use the track changes and insert comments features as a very powerful editing tool. He further remarks that the track changes feature is ideal for collaborative writing assignments and explains how these features in Microsoft Word can be used to assist students in the editing procedure. One of the clear advantages to this editing tool is that the changes are colorfully depicted and will remain in the document until the student either allows or discards the changes (Zeitz, 2003). The fact that the marks noticeably stand out allow the student quickly to see the editing that needs to take place (Zeitz, 2003). He further explains the virtues of the insert comments tool for included feedback. As stated earlier, teacher response is critical for students’ improvement. It is necessary to give students the guidance they need in order to help them improve their writing. As Zeitz (2003) notes, it is important to indicate grammar and spelling errors, but true learning takes place when the reviewer confers with the writer and discusses the content. 

Furthermore, when the assessor poses critical thinking questions regarding how the material is presented, the learner can begin to become his own critic. A problem with traditional paper and pencil writing is that the multitude of necessary comments may not fit into the paper margins. In the end, the reviewer’s comments often end up being contrived and sometimes hard to decipher (Zeitz, 2003). In Microsoft Word, the insert comment tool can help solve this problem. It allows the reviewer to make annotated comments in a separate pop up window on the screen without changing the author’s text (Zeitz, 2003). There are definitely clear advantages to using this tool. Students will be able to see their reviewer’s remarks, and their original text remains intact. They can quickly review the annotations made by the editor, and they can contemplate the feedback that they have been given, and then they are free to either accept or reject the suggestions. 

Can the use of technology tools make a difference in students’ writing achievement? Some argue that there are no differences in using paper and pencil versus word processing, as outlined by Materi (2001) in her review of the media comparison study. However, others feel that the tools that exist in word processor software can be used for the students’ benefit to improve their writing skills. These facts have been highlighted by Zeitz (2003), and Brown (2003). Student motivation can be maximized by integrating computer writing techniques, as Padgett (2000) indicated. Teacher preparation and planning are necessary before the lesson, and supportive feedback during and after an assignment are vital for success as well. This fact has been substantiated by MacArthur (2000). In combination, all these elements can help to produce highly inspired successful writers.

The literature has shown that writing is undeniably an important and necessary skill that students need in order to be successful in school. The literature has demonstrated that there are differing opinions about how word processing can affect a students’ ability to write. Some researchers have found that using a word processor can help motivate students, but not change their actual writing performance. Others have seen that using word processing can increase the quantity of the writing, but not influence the quality of the work. However, there has been no conclusive research conducted that focused on utilizing the writing tools of a word processing program to influence students’ writing ability. Therefore, I am excited to be able to conduct my own. I am going to conduct a qualitative research study that will investigate how utilizing the writing tools of a word processing software affects students’ writing ability and motivation.



Research Design
In quantitative research, the goal is to generate a hypothesis to be tested statistically. Creswell (2003) acknowledges that one should focus on a single phenomenon. In qualitative research Creswell (2003) outlines that the goal is to test the impact of a treatment. My chosen research lends itself to both of these methods, qualitative and quantitative. The research design for my project is mixed method.
The dependent variables for this study will be the writing quality of the documents. The independent variables for this study will be the method of writing, either with paper and pencil or with the word processor. The mediating factor will be the students’ ability to think or structure their writing.

The purpose of my research is to determine if using a word processing program will affect student writing. I chose to work with my own class of fifth grade students. Nineteen students will be represented (nine female and ten male students) in the research project. Students’ ages range in from nine years old to eleven years old. These students represent a variety of ability levels within the fifth grade. All students have demonstrated average to above average ability scores as indicated by their achievement scores on standardized tests such as the Cognitive Aptitude Test, Iowa Test of basic Skills, Criteria Referenced Competency Test, and the Gwinnett County Gateway Test. They all reside within the city limits in single family dwellings. I will be assessing the writing that the students produce during the 2006-2007 school year. I will use pre-test and post-test writing assessments incorporating writing standards, anchor papers, county anchor paper rubrics, behavioral observations, and comparative analysis of work produced in both word processing and hand written documents.

Research Instruments and Data Collection Procedures
The specific assessment instruments that I plan to use are listed and described below: I will use a writing assessment instrument entitled, Skills Progression by Component (Appendix A). This assessment instrument was created by Gwinnett County Public Schools and has been a reliable tool used by GCPS teachers for over ten years. This matrix outlines the essential components for each writing stage, content, personal expression, and surface features. Students will be assigned and evaluated on an initial writing task, using both hand written and word processing documents. These two formal writing assignments will go through the entire writing process of planning, drafting, revising, editing, and publishing. All writing assignments will be evaluated using the GCPS Skills Progression by Component (Appendix A) and the GCPS Anchor Papers (Appendix B). This assessment instrument was also created by Gwinnett County Public Schools and has been a reliable tool used by GCPS teachers for over ten years. I will also evaluate students’ daily journal writing assignments using both paper and pencil and electronic journals using a word processor. Each journal assignment will have a writing session time of thirty minutes. Ten topics will be assigned for each writing medium during the research project.

After completing the writing tasks, students will complete a student perception analysis, both for Student Handwriting Perception Survey (Appendix C) and Student Word Processing Perception Survey (Appendix D). These two perception surveys were created by me. I utilized Creswell’s (2003) checklist for designing a survey and my own diverse experience in creating these assessment tools. Also, after completing the writing activities, students will be asked to complete a motivational survey to record their interest and enthusiasm for the writing assignments. See Appendix E for details outlined in the Student Motivational Survey. The purpose for creating the motivational survey is to attempt to capture the students precipitate response to the actual task that will be assigned to them. I want to get a feel for how the students perceive the concept of writing; that is the reason for asking for motivational information. I will use the Instructor Observational Record (Appendix F) to record my own observations of student behaviors as they work on their writing assignments. I feel that this particular instrument will be of major importance to me as well as provide valid, vital information to my particular study. My own examination and notations will afford me the opportunity to review what was actually taking place before, during, and after each writing assignment. I will also keep anecdotal records in a Research Diary (Appendix G). As Hughes (1996) suggested, this diary will serve as a tool to reflect on my research practice, gain self-confidence in recording my research and writing, and allow me to share my experiences as a researcher with my peers.

Data Analysis Procedure
Once all of the writing assignments were completed and all the surveys were returned, I documented all the data and then organized it for analysis using Microsoft Excel. The results are outlined in the following appendices: for the results of the Student Handwriting Perception Survey, Student Word Processing Perception Survey, and Student Motivational Survey see Appendix I; for the results of the students’ comments see Appendix J; for the results of the Writing Stages and Journal Stages pretest and post test data see Appendix K. Appendix L delineates t-Test comparative data. After I had analyzed the data I searched for connections and trends among the results. I also wanted to discover any relationship between my data and the literature that I researched. I created charts and graphs to aid in comparing and analyzing the data.

The study is limited and fifth grades at one Gwinnett County public elementary school in
Northeast Georgia. The population is limited to nineteen fifth grade students in one class at the school. Due to the fact that the students were all in my class, they may have been unintentionally influenced by my bias as an instructor and proponent of technology integration and use.

I made sure that the data collected was valid by guaranteeing the participants that their replies would be recorded anonymously. I collected a consent form from each of the participants’ parents/guardians (See Appendix H) that documented the process that I would use. I made sure to comply with all Gwinnett County Public School and University of Georgia requirements for conducting research with live participants.


Results and Discussion

The results of the data collected are presented in this chapter. The results of the Student Handwriting Perception Survey indicate that eighty-four percent of students feel that they can think critically, communicate, concentrate, and express themselves when writing using paper and pencil. However, seventy-four percent of students feel that they make more mistakes in their writing when using paper and pencil. The results of the Student Word Processing Perception Survey indicate that ninety-five percent of students feel that they can think critically and concentrate when using a word processor. All of the students confirmed that they can communicate effectively, and sixty-eight percent feel that they can express themselves. Seventy-four percent of students feel that they make fewer mistakes in their writing when using a word processor. The Student Motivational Survey showed that eighty-nine percent of students feel that the word processor increases their motivation and helps them to write, and eighty-four percent of students get excited about writing when given the chance to write with the word processor. Conversely, thirty-two percent of students feel excited when writing with paper and pencil. When given the opportunity to write with paper and pencil, sixty-three percent of students feel motivated, and twenty-six percent indicated that the can do their best.

I conducted interviews with the students to obtain anecdotal information on their personal feelings about writing using different media. I collected a wide range of comments from the students so I synthesized their remarks into topics to make them easier to comprehend. A summary of the interviews and comments are presented below. Thirteen students were in favor or made positive comments regarding using computers and a word processing program. In opposition, three students made favorable statements regarding paper and pencil use. Additionally, three students specifically mentioned distaste for the computer due to lost files or the fact that they saved work in the wrong location. Three students mentioned that they could write more words when using the word processor, and particularly talked about using the Word Count tool in Microsoft Word to assist them. Nine students liked the fact that they could change fonts or print neat work when they used a word processor, and three student expressed concern for saving paper by using a word processor.

A summary the Instructor Observational Record (Appendix F) of my observations is presented below. For paper and pencil writing sessions, I noted that during the writing time segment some students would stop and think then write some more. Many got to a stopping point and began to draw pictures or doodle in the margins of their journals. Some would go back over what they had already written and then add some more. Several students would make lists of words in their journals. Most students did not utilize the entire thirty minutes for writing and there seemed to be saturation point at about twenty minutes for most students. After this period of time most students were occupied with some task other than writing. Many would draw, play with their pencils, play with items in their desk, take a restroom break, work on another assignment, or lay their head down and rest.

In order to measure the quality of students’ written work, I employed the GCPS Skills Progression by Component (Appendix A) and the GCPS Anchor Papers (Appendix B) as the standard for comparison. The results are presented below. Nine students demonstrated a higher writing stage using the word processor. Nine students demonstrated no difference between paper and pencil and word processing writing. One student demonstrated a higher writing stage using paper and pencil. 

The mean, variance, standard deviation, and t-test data for these two writing samples is outlined in Appendix L. After examining all the statistical data, I was able to determine that the mean for the paper and pencil and word processing tests were very close, stage 3.5 and stage 4.0 respectively. So then I examined the standard deviation for the data sets and determined that the paper and pencil standard deviation was 0.6 and the word processing standard deviation was 1.0. The paper and pencil data set had a narrower spread of measurements; therefore the score values were all closer to the mean score of 3.5. The word processing data set had a wider spread of measurements; therefore the score values were more spread out. I carefully examined the data to determine why this was true, and I observed that six students scored a writing stage above the mean when using a word processor. Also one student scored a stage 6 (the highest score available). No students scored higher than a stage 4 when writing with paper and pencil. The p-level reported within the t-test showed that the probability of error associated with the data was unlikely. Furthermore, since the p-values were not large, the data showed that the treatments had an effect. I concluded that the students could produce higher quality writing samples when using the word processing program.

I also examined the work produced for daily journal entries for each student. The results for the ten journal writing assignments are presented below. Forty-four percent of students demonstrated a greater number of words produced during the thirty minute writing time period for the daily journal lesson when using paper and pencil; in contrast, seventy-nine percent of students demonstrated a greater number of words produced during the thirty minute writing time period for the daily journal lesson when using the word processor. On average, students produced 60 words per journal session when using paper and pencil writing, and students produced 91 words per journal session when using a word processor. Two students were missing one or more hand written journal entries due to refusal to complete the task, and ten students were missing one or more electronic journal entries due to incorrect saving, overwriting, or deleting of the files.

I also carefully examined the mean, variance, standard deviation, and t-test data for these two writing assignments, and the results are compiled in Appendix L. There was a great difference in the mean for each treatment. The paper and pencil mean words produced was 60, and the word processing mean words produced was 91. However, there was a much larger variance for the word processing data set (3,588) compared to the variance for the paper and pencil data set (403). This information clearly indicates a broader range of average words produced when students were typing their journal entries. I looked at the individual scores and found that range of data for the word processing data was 242, and the range of data for the paper and pencil data was 70. The p-level reported within the t-test showed that the probability of error associated with the data was unlikely. Furthermore, since the p-values were not large, the data showed that the treatments had an effect. The highest average number of words produced when writing by hand was 103 in contrast to the 267 when using a computer. The word processor allows for greater range. It must also be noted that the data for word processing includes fourteen samples that student produced no words at all. This is due to deleting files, overwriting files, or the fact that the student did not save the file in the correct directory when finished. This data is in stark contrast to the three samples or no words produced with paper and pencil medium. I was able to conclude that when students use paper and pencil for journal writing, the results are going to be less diverse. On the other hand, when using a word processor, students are able to produce more words per session. Additionally, I was able to conclude that using a word processor is less reliable and consistent for guaranteeing that work be complete and secure.



Research Questions and Answers
The research presented in was conducted to answer the following research questions:
1.    How do word processing programs affect students’ written expression skills and motivation for writing?
2.    What tools exist that can assist students in the area of writing?
3.    Is there an advantage to using a word processor and if so how can it be employed to aid student writing?

In this chapter, I have included the questions along with all the significant data that I found during my research. I was able to combine the answers to these questions to draw my conclusions. 

I found that word processing programs did have a strong affect on students’ motivation for writing. I observed the excitement when students were informed that they would have the opportunity to write using the computer word processing program. I recorded the GCPS writing stage for completed writing assignments, and found that nine of nineteen students demonstrated at least one level better than their hand written work, and nine more maintained their level. Only one student demonstrated a level deficiency. I noticed that students spent more time on task when utilizing a word processor for daily journal writing as compared to hand written journal entries. 

As an instructor, I was able to share and demonstrate how to use some of the tools in Microsoft Word that aided the students writing skills, and helped them become better writers. One tool that students rapidly gravitated toward was the Word Count tool. I saw how profound of an impact this tool had on students’ motivation to stay on task and, in turn, it increased the number of words produced per electronic journal assignment. 

Another important tool that students appreciated was the ability to cut, copy, and paste. Once students became familiar with these commands, they used them frequently. I watched as they moved their text and reorganized their thoughts during the formal writing process. Many even commented on how easy it was to change their sentences, and move ideas around in their writing assignments. The aspect of not having to write a second or third draft by hand was extremely valued by the students. Their sentiments were echoed many times over in their comments to me. “Mr. Gresens, this is awesome and I love it!” one student proclaimed. Another student stated, “Hey, this is like finding out the secret codes in video games. I never knew that you could do so much with (Microsoft) Word!”

I demonstrated how to use the Spell Check and the Thesaurus tools as well. Students used these tools to edit and revise their electronic documents. Many already had used Spell Check, but none had ever seen the power of the Thesaurus until I showed them. Some students really put it to good use, but others were not ready to employ it for the full range of benefits. Those that did use it, were able to compose documents that used more sophisticated, higher level vocabulary. I was able to channel the students’ motivation for using the computers into their writing by sharing with them devices that made the tasks easier and more convenient.

I did observe the advantages to using a word processor. Not only were the motivational aspects clearly defined, but also the quantity and quality of work was increased. I can conclude that the use of technology tools can make a difference in students’ writing achievement.



Anderson, J. (2005). Mechanically inclined: Building grammar, usage, and style into writer's workshop. Portland, ME: Stenhouse.

Barrera, M., Rule, A., and Diemart, A. (2001). The effect of writing with computers versus handwriting on the writing achievement of first-graders. Retrieved February 27, 2006, from

Brown, J. (September 2003). The Big Screen: Using a Data Projector to Teach Writing. Learning & Leading with Technology, 31(1), 28-31.

Buckner, A. (2005). Notebook know-how: Strategies for the writer's notebook. Portland, ME: Stenhouse.

Creswell, J. (2003). Research design: Qualitative, quantitative, and mixed methods approaches. Thousand Oaks, CA: Sage Publications.

Godsey, S. (2000). The effects of using Microsoft word on journal word counts in the high school English classroom. Retrieved February 5, 2006, from

Hagemann, J., (January 2003). Balancing Content and Form in the Writing Workshop. English Journal, 92(3), 73-79.

Hughes, I. (1996). AR diary: How to keep a research diary. Retrieved June 24, 2006, from

Hunter, W, et al., (2001). The effects of using word processors: A hard look at the research. Retrieved June 17, 2006, from

Kerrey, B, et al. (2005). Writing: A powerful message from the state government. Retrieved February 5, 2006, from powerful-message-from-state.pdf.

Koumi, J. (1994). Media Comparison and Deployment: A Practitioner’s View. British Journal of Educational Technology, 25(1), 41-57.

Lam, F. and Pennington, M. (1995). The computer vs. the pen: A comparative study of word processing in a Hong Kong secondary classroom. Retrieved April 15, 2006 from

MacArthur, C. (August 2000). New Tools for Writing: Assistive Technology for Students with Writing Difficulties [electronic version]. Topics in Language Disorder, 20(4), 85-100.

Materi, R. (2001). Media and learning: A review of the debate. Retrieved April 5, 2006 from URL:

Padgett, A. (2000). Journal writing in the elementary school:  Word processor vs. paper and pencil. Retrieved February 5, 2006 from

Phenix, J. (2002). The Writing Teacher's Handbook. Portland, ME: Portland, ME: Stenhouse.

Pitel, L., (2006). Students lack basic literacy. Retrieved February 17, 2006, from

Routman, R. (2005). Writing essentials: Raising expectations and results while simplifying teaching. Portsmouth, NH: Heinemann.

Routman, R. (1994). Invitations: Changing as teachers and learners k-12. Portsmouth, NH: Heinemann.

Russell, M. et al. (2002). An alpha-smart for each student: Does teaching and learning change with full access to word processors? Retrieved February 5, 2006, from

Schunk, D. and Swartz, C. (1993). Goals and progress feedback: Effects on self-efficacy and writing achievement. Retrieved April 5, 2006, from

Warschauer, M. (1996). Motivational aspects of using computers for writing and communication. Retrieved February 15, 2006, from

Zeitz, L. (April 2003). Electronic Editing: Taking Advantage of Built-in Tools to Improve Student Writing. Learning & Leading with Technology, 30(7), 14-27.