Wednesday, March 7, 2018

Teaching writing to students with tablets using voice to overcome keyboard shortcomings


On Friday March 9, 2018 I gave a presentation at the ALLT conference in Dubai on "Teaching writing to students with tablets using voice to overcome keyboard shortcomings". Here is the abstract I submitted with the proposal:

Abstract

The presenter has for the past few years been refining techniques to overcome shortcomings in the digital keyboards inherent to most tablet computers and other mobile devices by using voice to help students compose and revise essays on their iPads. The technique uses Google Docs or similar online word processing software such as Office 365, for voice input. However, Arab students have problems getting voice recognition to work for them in English, so the presenter has them begin their essays on paper, create a blank online document, and share it with the teacher. The teacher then uses the voice capability native to his or her tablet device to read what the students have written into their shared online documents prior to having them revise those documents on their tablets. This 20 minute presentation will demonstrate the technique, discuss problems encountered and solutions discovered, and show examples of student-teacher interaction during the revision process using this technique.

You can see the slide show for this presentation at
https://docs.google.com/presentation/d/1bkQ5nSomTxR-BILmXqgkdnBr2aRZGCWtRBgL2___H5I/edit?usp=sharing

This post was created in March 2018 to accompany my presentation at the ALLT conference in that month. More recently I have been updating this post in preparation for submitting the material here to the ALLT conference proceedings. At some point I stopped working here and finalized the work elsewhere. The final draft of the formal version of this post was submitted on October 1, 2018 to the ALLT Proceedings for 2018. Pending decision on whether my paper is accepted or not, I will decide whether to continue working in this space or not. Please stay tuned, but meanwhile the work here is in process, and is not the version eventually submitted to the proceedings.

Subsequently ...

This article describes how I have refined a technique I have been exploring for the past 7 years wherein I have been getting students to compose in Google Docs or similar online word processing software such as Office 365 and then have them revise using the interactive tools inherent to those platforms. In the past this has involved their initiating their writing process online, and I would provide feedback in their shared document, and try to work with them to help them revise their papers as they returned to their documents and encountered my feedback. Eventually, I found I could provide feedback to my students by bringing their work up on the classroom projector where the student would see it on his or her computer, and I could provide feedback on the document by articulating comments which I could speak into my iPad, and the students would synchronously see my comments appear in their document on their iPads (Stevens, 2015).


Having students compose in Google Docs has worked well when my students have had devices such as laptops with keyboards, but less well when the students have tablet computers where there is no keyboard. Accordingly, I've been refining techniques to overcome shortcomings in the digital keyboards inherent to most tablet computers and other mobile devices by using voice to help students compose and revise essays on their iPads. 

Because Arab students have problems getting voice recognition to work for them in English, I have them begin their essays on paper, create a blank online document, and share it with the teacher. The teacher then uses voice on his or her tablet device to read in correct English what the students have written into their shared online documents prior to having them revise those documents on their tablets. This paper discusses problems encountered and solutions discovered, and shows examples of student-teacher interaction during the revision process using this technique.

The problem I need to overcome in my particular context

The students to whom I was teaching writing at the time of this presentation were at a military aviation college in UAE. Many of them avoid writing  beyond the minimum required for completion of classroom tasks, or simply avoid doing those tasks. When they write during class, they are  not inclined to follow through afterwards. When asked to revise, their typical response is “finished teacher,” meaning we did that already and now we're done with it. Revision and writing process are not in their expectations. They see little value in taking the time to correct errors, even though that may be the sole purpose of an hour-long follow-up class. They prefer to sit writing exams with as little preparation as possible. They do not see improvement of their ability to write in English to be of much value in their anticipated career trajectory.

Writing instruction where I teach is assessment driven. Since the students do so little writing, have in fact done too little writing in their early education and come to us with deficient skills sets even in basic grammar and vocabulary, and are so resistant to making the effort to write much of substance, teachers instinctively use whatever class time they have for writing preparation in test-directed activities. These can be formulaic and boring to the students. There are exceptions of course, but it seems that no matter what the purpose of the essay (argumentative, etc) many students learn only to begin paragraphs with firstly, secondly, etc. without much regard to internalizing a wider range of cohesive devices. Their motivation to write is mostly extrinsic; few of the students appear to have experienced much joy in writing, at least in English. Their resistance to the process and the limited time available to prepare them across all aspects of their largely assessment-driven curriculum leads most teachers and students in this setting to focus on tasks designed to quickly train students to successfully write set pieces that will fit the parameters of a prescribed marking rubric rather than to explore writing for its own sake and for the benefit it would bring to all aspects of the curriculum, including improvement in critical thinking skills, if more time could be devoted to it.

Even the modality of writing is contentious. Since the essays are usually written out longhand during most tests given in most contexts where I have worked in the UAE (though that is changing), some teachers feel that preparation for tests should also be done longhand in the same modality. I have long felt the contrary, that the format shouldn’t matter as much as the process the students will need to employ while writing their essays in whatever format, but my attempts to get students to write on PCs and iPads have met with limited success, in the first instance due to the students' lack of keyboard proficiency, and with iPads, due to a lack of keyboard. 

Writing on iPad is frustrating for me as well, and I try and avoid it by using a device with a keyboard if possible, or if I need to compose on an iPad or a tablet device, I might use that device's voice-recognition features if feasible.

This is the feature I utilized when developing the technique described here, where I hit on having the students compose in longhand, then read what they had written (correctly, in good English) into Google Docs on my iPad, and then gave them the resulting texts in both hard and soft copy, with my comments, for them to revise as they saw fit, in Google Docs if they would use it, or in longhand revisions if that is what they preferred.

The problem of providing teacher feedback on writing

Teachers have long grappled with the problem of conveying feedback on student writing in a meaningful way. There is a plethora of literature on the effectiveness of various kinds of written markup on student papers. Hyland and Hyland (2006) present an excellent overview of  the issues surrounding a variety of teacher feedback techniques. They raise questions relating to feedback such as: "Does it make a difference to students’ writing? If so, in what areas? What is the best way of delivering feedback? Can error correction and form focused feedback have long term benefits on students’ writing? Can technology play a greater part in delivering feedback?" (p.83).

Literature is cited to suggest it isn't, though there are the obvious confounding variables "of varied populations, treatments and research designs"  (p.84). This is true in my experience. I have found many effective ways of providing feedback over my decades-long career teaching writing to students who were in varying stages of maturity and who were often highly motivated to respond to it. But the present report regards the UAE context where teachers are likely to find a larger than hoped for number of students with limited skills sets and minimal desire to improve them, possibly due in part to the fact that once these students have reached the tertiary stages of education, the tasks so far outstrip their ability to cope with them. Thus a common reaction of my students to my feedback on their writing is to simply ignore it. As Hyland and Hyland characterize the problem:

"Studies suggest that students may ignore or misuse teacher commentary when revising drafts. Sometimes they misunderstand it ... or they understand the problems pointed out but are unable to come up with a suitable revision ... and sometimes this causes them to simply delete the offending text to avoid the issues raised." (p.87)

I have in the past ten years been using Google Docs extensively with my students and this has resulted in a large data-base where dozens if not hundreds of students have shared files with me and where I have provided them with markup on their work which I expected them to follow up on. I have never systematically analyzed it, but the data would show that once I started teaching in the military sector in UAE, students, more often than not, never bothered to address their errors by revisiting the files where I had left them comments. As Hyland and Hyland put it, feedback "will only be effective if it engages with the writer."

This is where I undertook to refine my techniques in an effort to engage more effectively with students that one is likely to encounter at some point when teaching at the lower levels in the Arab context.

Recent applications of technology to improving feedback on writing

This article seeks to add to the growing list of suggestions on how technology can be brought to bear on the problem of engaging generally unmotivated learners in the revision phases of the writing process. One milestone in making large numbers of teachers aware of how free and easy-to-use Web 2.0 technology could help bring about improvements to feedback given to students was  Stannard's (2008) ground-breaking work on screencasting himself bringing his student' writing up on his screen and screencasting himself recording audio feedback on their work. Stannard used the free tool Jing (Techsmith) to make his first screencasts, but soon replaced this with the more versatile Camtasia (also produced by Techsmith, but not free). Stannard felt from his reasearch that on this tool that it was not at its best when pointing out errors in mechanics (form) that could be addressed effectively in other ways; rather "It might actually be that video feedback works best when correcting ideas and concepts which require elaboration," (i.e. when addressing function).

Dobrou (2017) addresses the potential of technology in helping teachers provide feedback thusly:
"with digital feedback [on writing], they get to listen to detailed comments by their teacher at their own pace and they will have to take the time to do so while looking at their piece of writing in more detail. They can later be asked to rewrite it."

Alvira (2016) conducted a study of his students in Colombia using Stannard's method. In his literature search he notes that a part of his rationale for exploring screencasting as a feedback technique is that other researchers have "demonstrated that teacher comments on feedback on content are usually vague, contradictory and sometimes provide no guidance to the student ... The outcome of this situation is that students often become frustrated and discouraged and consequently ignore the comments, a situation which reduces the possibility of students improving their writing skills".p.82

Alvira cites a PhD dissertation by Hartshorn (2008) who found that ideally, feedback on writing must be manageable, timely, meaningful, and constant. Manageable means that the teacher has to be able to cope with the load of marking student papers. Timely means that feedback needs to reach the student as soon as possible after each draft. Meaningful means the student has to be able to understand it, and constant means that the feedback keeps coming.

The  technique described here addresses all of these considerations. My situation was not unusual in that I might teach two or three writing classes a day, each with 15 to 22 students, and I had to get them to produce writing and process it quickly and effectively (manageable), provide feedback they could understand (simple feedback was most meaningful) and return it to them the next day (timely) so that they could undertake their revisions (and get more feedback).

In this last iteration of working through this technique I had decided that I could get better results from students if I had them begin writing using pen and paper. Otherwise some might be tempted to plagiarize, consuming my time unproductively in dealing with that and setting back my efforts to help them,  Plus they preferred to write by hand. Though revision would normally require even more handwriting, their conception of the task was to write it out once and forget about it. Improving writing through revision was not something they had had much  practice with.

I would take their papers to a quiet place and read their papers one by one into a Google Document. I would find that the students on average produced about 50 to 150 words per class period, but often only just one or two dozen words. I read the papers back in correct English. I found that for the reasons mentioned above, taking time to address errors at this stage was not the best use of time. Rather than bogging the students down in working out where there errors were and how to correct them, I wanted them to continue working from something that they had produced but had magically been rendered into excellent English. If you believe in magic you might also believe that if you keep your students writing they might somehow improve their English just through practice and working on fluency, and this is what I wanted to take place in my writing classes. While the students worked, I would interact with them as best I could to help them with questions as they arose, rather than confounding them with all the answers written in red on their papers, before they had had time to formulate their questions. My comments addressed a few matters of form, but were usually directed at bigger issues, such as structuring paragraphs logically, and how to develop the paper by providing examples, conclusions, or whatever else was needed to get the composition to follow a successful exam model.

What my students need to know about the writing process

I try to inform my students about the writing process in a handout I give them

In this class, we work using the same WRITING PROCESS
that you should apply when you sit your final writing assessment in this course.




This explains How to follow the PROCESS of WRITING

All good writers revise!
·       In the past, before we had computers,  we had to write or type out multiple drafts, or versions, of what we wanted to write.

·      NOW, with computers, we can write out what’s on our minds in a FIRST DRAFTbut then we think more deeply and change what we wrote in second, third, etc. drafts

Here is the process
·       First draft, get some ideas down on paper or into a word processor
·       Second draft / third draft, go back and
  • Add detail
  • Reorganize for better coherence
  • Find better words
  • Add transition words for better cohesion
  • Check spelling
You will need to follow the writing process on paper by scratching out words, writing between the lines, etc.

Think about your writing as a process you can continually improve by
  • Writing out and submitting a quick 100 word first draft.
  • Revising your draft considering teacher feedback, and thinking about how you can improve it through
a.    Adding detail, improving introductions and conclusions
b.  Better organization, rewording, choosing better connecting words and phrases

  • And then develop your first draft into a 250 word second / third draft
a.       It’s important that you work from and build on your first draft
b.       Work from your teacher’s feedback. Do NOT start over.

-------------------------------------------------------------------------------------

Previous iterations of my work have had students composing in Google Docs or in Office 365 (Google Docs is far superior), where I would edit their work and try and get them to correct it. Some students would do this but many wouldn’t, depending on their motivation to learn. One nice thing about Google Docs is that I have records of this kind of work going back years. There is evidence of some student success, such as the video recording I made of my synchronous interactions with one student who clearly benefited from the experience, at least in the moment.



View the screencast here: http://screencast.com/t/fmW5zZoZUF

Some disadvantages to using tablet devices to begin the writing process

The main disadvantage to using tablets at the early stages of writing is the lack of keyboard. The school where I teach has transitioned from giving earlier cohorts of students PCs to giving them iPads, and for this age group, there have been problems with focus and distraction which are not the topic of this article. As pertains to the present topic, I have noticed that composition on iPads is awkward for my students. They are not able to use voice input themselves for reasons addressed in my earlier work (cited above), so I came up with the technique described here to get them started writing on paper, and having them carry out the revision process on their iPads.

Another disadvantage of students’ composing on Internet-connected devices in general is that they will often pursue one of two counterproductive strategies. One is to copy swathes of text from the Internet and submit it as their work, and the other is to compose in Arabic, run that through a translator, and spew out the result in what I call a 'word salad'. 

There isn’t much to do about the word salad resulting from translation. Since the student’s message does not emerge, I can only tell them to try and rewrite it in their own words. Students will be as overwhelmed with the task of unraveling what it was they were trying to say as I am in trying to help them work it out from the word salad they have put before me, and they see that the best solution is to start over, if they are going to proceed.

Often a simple Google search will expose plagiarism. For example, my Student 1, whose work is described below, submitted this passage (on paper) from something he was copying from his iPad which he had beneath his desk in his lap:


Using voice tools in Google Docs enables me to quickly render text into machine-readable format that can then be pasted into Google. Since I read all my students' work into Google Docs now in order to give them feedback, by doing that I am also in position to quickly check their work for plagiarism. When I read Student 1's work into the iPad, it was transcribed as:

I want to play football but there is an effect of anxiety of badminton players and its relation to the level of accomplishment. This study aimed to investigate the level of anxiety of the badminton players and its relationship to the level of accomplishment. Also the effect of the professional player in developing the level.

By way of feedback, I informed the student that his work was partially copied from the abstract of this study. The study itself was in Arabic but the student obviously lifted from this study of anxiety in badminton players to inform his paper on football.

I asked the student to try again in a later class and the second time he produced the following:


Reading this into Google Docs, I saw,

Football is one of the most famous sports in the world and I like to play the football. Countries and organizations attach great importance to the formation of teams for each country to compete in the world and to represent the country in international and annual competitions, whether annual, monthly, weekly,  or otherwise. This is a very enjoyable sport, as well as a source of income in countries with large teams with high skills that win the world level and gain a strong competitive edge in this field. And I like UAE teams because they are strong teams and I love them, and I like sports because it helps my life.

This time the work was at least on the topic of football, but this was from a student who up to now had produced no original writing in my class. How could he have on his own generated this cohesive and error free text, which incidentally does not address any aspect of football as an extreme sport? By now, in seeing the way I work, my students had begun to find other sources of text that I could not find in Google. They would even challenge me to find it, sometimes gloating when I couldn't, and then double down on their insistence that this was their work. Something like Turnitin might have worked to expose plagiarism, but we don’t have access at the college where I teach. Again having at hand a machine-readable transcription of what they have written enables me to make cloze passages from their work and revert the challenge on them by seeing whether they can fill in any of the missing words. So I gave Student 1 this exercise

Your mark on the paper you wrote for me in class yesterday can be your score on the words that you can replace in this paragraph, which you handed in as your own writing.  If you did not copy this from somewhere, then you will know the words that you used in writing this.

Countries and organizations __________ great importance to the __________ of teams for each country to __________ in the world and to __________ the country in international and __________ competitions, whether annual, monthly, weekly, or otherwise. This is a very enjoyable sport, as well __________ a source of __________ in countries with __________ teams with high skills that win the world __________ and gain a strong competitive __________ in this field.

The student made no attempt to guess that missing words from what he had claimed was his own writing. He did however produce a third version in his own words.

Using teacher voice to help students engage in a writing process 

In order to get the students to produce first drafts of their writing more quickly than they can do it on an iPad and to be able to give them fast and improved feedback on their writing, as well as to counter and discourage these counterproductive strategies, I have my students 
  1. Start writing on paper in class. 
  2. I have them create and share a blank Google Doc with me. 
  3. Once they have done this, I take their papers and speak what they wrote into their shared Google Docs. This corrects their spelling, grammar, and punctuation and gives them something to go on in revising their work in a follow-up class. 
  4. The teacher prints out a hard copy of the student's work, makes some corrections and suggestions there, but in particular addresses more global issues that the student might work on.
  5. This makes further revision much more efficient than with other methods, since what they have written already is rendered into correct English. The students can open the soft copy on their iPads, and they can use their limited time for revision to strengthen arguments or complete the work they started.
Here is an example of what the technique looks like in practice. In this example, Student 2 responds to the writing prompt by writing the following in class, on paper


The student did not appear to address the task very seriously. He wrote 50 words in the 30 minutes assigned to the project, half the number of words the teacher was expecting from the weakest students in the class. Yet this student is not weak. He makes interesting analogies with attacking and hunting regarding the pursuit of balls controlled by opponents while passionately engaged in the 'extreme sport' of soccer. 

Teachers are often at a loss as to how to respond to written student writing in an effective way. All manner of markups have been proposed in the decades I have been teaching. One thing that does not appear to work well is decorating the paper in red squiggles and expecting the student to respond thoughtfully to each squiggle. This is a shame because teachers pour heart and soul, and copious amounts of time, into those squiggles, often with relatively dismissive acknowledgement from the students.

In Student 2's case, teacher takes 5 minutes to read the student's work into Google Docs and produces this in soft-copy, prints it out, and marks it up with suggestions for revision.


In this technique, just the act of reading it into Google Docs is perhaps an effective feedback for the student. The teacher has obviously taken time to literally read the student's work. Students may or may not notice the spelling and grammatical changes, but they are just as likely to not notice them even if they are highlighted in red. Feedback here is focused on what the student should do next. This is designed to keep the student writing. And the time it takes to make suggestions on a printout of a paper that has been "corrected" though voice rendition into text is a fraction of the time it takes to address errors one by one and then provide that valuable holistic feedback.

Here we can see that the student took some of this on board to add more substance to two of the paragraphs, bringing his work much nearer to standard, and addressing the task with more thoughtfulness than before.


In practice some of my students simply ignore the feedback the teacher has provided and might change the topic or start over using one of the counterproductive strategies mentioned earlier, in which case they waste their time and that of the teacher. But those who carry forward with the process can usually improve their work more effectively than if they were revising by hand. For those who follow the process the results have exceeded methods I have tried in the past. 

Here is the work of Student 3 to show how he responded to the technique. This task began with an "essay planner" where the students completed reasons and examples for an advantages / disadvantages essay:



Here the student has converted these points into an essay on paper using a reasonably coherent structure.




The teacher reads this into Google Docs, notes from Google's word count that the work is well crafted but short of the 200 word target (168 words), and returns it to the student. I probably spoke to the student about his work when doing this, offering my suggestions orally.





The student does not respond to the suggestion (in red) that he rephrase the introduction to avoid "lifting" words from the prompt that will not figure into his final word count, but he does add additional information to two paragraphs that significantly improve the paper, highlighted in yellow below.
These small revisions might seem trivial to teachers of students of strong writers who faithfully engage with a writing program, but small victories are significant with students whose English is so weak that their writer's block is rooted in deeply negative attitudes toward something they feel they will never do well. Student 1 was in a class of the weakest students in the institute, and when I started working with them, they would tell me, as if it were all the explanation needed, "We are level 1, teacher." So let us return to the case of Student 1, the one whose first attempts at writing in my class were plagiarized. When I finally got him to see that I would not accept that, he finally, on third try, produced this:

Clap for the student :-)

I read this into Google Docs and was finally able to give him some meaningful feedback.

When the student seemed to still be struggling, I have him an essay planner handout and had him complete it with ideas that would help him organize an acceptable essay. Here is what he did with it:
I recorded this into Google Docs ...
As we see, the student was making progress. I'm not sure what kind of help he was getting from classmates, but as I pointed out earlier, I count success in the fact that the technique employed got the student to persist in his writing and follow a process which he might be starting to internalize. I believe he also benefited from this modicum of success he may not have thought possible as an individual who saw himself as a level one student. 

The students I work with are challenging. Class sizes are large, and many of our students use that to hide out in class and avoid work while the teacher focuses on the more responsive students. Teachers need a technique that will enable them to address the initial efforts of all students quickly and draw them out the way that Student 2 was encouraged to make meaningful revisions in his paper. Having students start the writing process on paper usually gets them to write something, and putting that into Google Docs gives them something to take to the next level without having to re-write anything from scratch. 

I find the technique described here to be an effective way of dealing with several classes which collectively produce several dozen short essays in a day. I can usually address the work of a class of up to 20 students in about an hour, and return them something next class that will get them moving into the next phase of the writing process. The technique seems to work well with some of my students.

References

Alvira, R. (2016). The impact of oral and written feedback on EFL writers with the use of screencasts. PROFILE 18, 2, 79-92. Available: https://www.researchgate.net/publication/305038010_The_Impact_of_Oral_and_Written_Feedback_on_EFL_Writers_With_the_Use_of_Screencasts

Dobrou, Dina. (2017). Digital Feedback. Why? When? How?. IATEFL LTSIG. Available: https://ltsig.iatefl.org/digital-feedback-why-when-how/

Hyland, K. and Hyland, F. (2006). Feedback on second language students' writing. Language Teaching 39, 2: 83-101. Available: http://hub.hku.hk/bitstream/10722/57356/1/133933.pdf

Mogey, N., Paterson, J., Burk, J. & Purcell, M. (2010). Typing compared with handwriting for essay examinations at university: Letting the students choose, ALT-J, 18:1, 29-47, DOI: 10.1080/09687761003657580. Available: https://journal.alt.ac.uk/index.php/rlt/article/view/873/1124

Stannard, R. (2008). Screen capture software for feedback in language education. In Thomas, M. (Ed.). (2007-2009). Proceedings of the second annual International Wireless Ready Symposium: Interactivity, collaboration & feedback in language learning technologies, pp. 16-20. Available: http://wirelessready.nucba.ac.jp/Stannard.pdf

Stevens, V.  (2015). Finding Your Voice: Teaching Writing Using Tablets with Voice Capability. TESL-EJ 19, 3, pp. 1-11. Available: http://tesl-ej.org/pdf/ej75/int.pdf


Additional notes

I found that keeping a class set in one document worked best from a management standpoint.It usually too, me less than an hour to read a class set.

Motivating students to write can in and of itself be a problem, especially when writing is done in preparation for a test (extrinsically motivated, if even that, vs. intrinsically, not at all).

Pesce, C. (n.d). How to Effectively Teach English Writing Skills. Busy Teacher. Available: https://busyteacher.org/2971-how-to-effectively-teach-english-writing-skills.html
says "If they're not involved in the writing task, in other words, if they don't have a reason to write, the task you set forth won’t be an effective learning experience." Unfortunately the remedies he proposes are themselves the problem with my students, such as these "examples of some great writing prompts:
- Who is your favorite actor/actress and why?
- What are the three items you’d take to a deserted island and why?" or worse, the typical IELTS exam genres and topics that teachers tend to try and anticipate and then have students write on for the best directed practice in limited classtime available for them to write in.

Buyse, K. (2006). Motivating Writing Education. International Journal of Applied Linguistics 152, 1, 111 - 126; DOI: https://doi.org/10.2143/ITL.152.0.2017865. Available: https://ilt.kuleuven.be/onderzoek/docs/kris_buyse_ER_ITL_def.pdf

"Avoid monotony by changing around the structure of your class." from https://teach.com/what/teachers-change-lives/motivating-students/

Lo, J. and Hyland, F. (2007). Enhancing students’ engagement and motivation in
writing: The case of primary students in Hong Kong. Journal of Second Language Writing 16  219–237. Available: http://resourcesforteflteachers.pbworks.com/f/Engaging%20EFL%20Primary%20Students%20in%20Writing.pdf

Once a first draft is grudgingly produced, getting students to work on revision is another significant hurdle, and is in fact the major point of providing feedback.





Finally there is the issue of whether students should write by hand if that's the way the test will be taken.

Bonn, A. (n.d.). Practicing Essay Writing to Get Better at Writing. Available: https://study.com/academy/lesson/practicing-essay-writing.html

"Because many exams require that you write persuasive essays, it may be a good idea to start your practice with one. Give yourself an hour and a quiet room. You can hand-write or type your essay."

Swain, H. (2018). Does writing by hand still matter in the digital age? The Guardian. Available: https://study.com/academy/lesson/practicing-essay-writing.html

The article is about the importance of retaining the spacial and tactile aspects of writing and how that impacts how children learn. Drawing from a panel, she relates that "Teachers can sometimes be wary of technology because it doesn’t always fit with their idea of what educational success is, said Boden. But Merchant insisted digital literacy was essential, especially in a world where means of communication are rapidly diversifying.

So is there a balance to be struck in how we teach children to write? For Idress, this is key: making sure we help children choose the right tool for the task in hand – whether that’s a pen, a laptop, or something else."

While not a study specifically testing hand vs. machine written exam preparation (where students usually prepared online but traditionally took handwritten exams) Mogey, Paterson, Burk & Purcell  (2010) conducted a study "designed to explore any systematic differences in mark awarded due to the format in which the examination script was created. Only small differences have been found in the mark awarded to an examination script depending on the format of the script (typed or handwritten) but the difference is not significant and is trivial compared with variation between markers. It has been shown that students are able to type more than they can handwrite, but this was not associated with their reported typing speed. Students who wrote more tended to get slightly more marks, but again this was not associated with reported typing speed." (p.45) This would lend credence to the argument that preparation in one medium should not in and of itself impact the results of exams taken in another medium, leading the researchers to conclude that "No evidence has been found of systematic differences in essay quality due to the format, and data about how students report approaching a handwritten essay versus a typed essay from this study is inconclusive; differences may or may not exist."(p.46)


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