Techtalk: Word Processing from Adoption to Innovation

By MacDonald, Lucy; Caverly, David C. | Journal of Developmental Education, Winter 2006 | Go to article overview

Techtalk: Word Processing from Adoption to Innovation


MacDonald, Lucy, Caverly, David C., Journal of Developmental Education


In this second column of the series on integrating technology into developmental education, we will look at the use of word processing. To frame the discussion, we will use a continuum of technology integration as presented in a previous "Techtalk" column (Caverly & MacDonald, 2004). The continuum begins with adoption of technology that supports traditional instruction or practice. The next increment is adaptation, where technology enhances instruction. At the third stage, appropriation, the use of technology changes the practice. The final phase, innovation, creates new practice with the use of technology.

Findings from a recent national survey by the first author have indicated that most developmental educators use word processing to produce and share documents (Caverly, Nolan, Partridge, & Trevino, 2006). Early analysis of the data suggests that most developmental educators are performing at the adoption level but not necessarily moving to the adaptation, appropriation, or innovation levels. This column will look at ways to move through the four levels of expertise, as applied to the subjects of writing, reading, math, and study strategies, using the technology of word processing.

Writing

The primary use for word processing has been in writing, where it has become essential at the adoption level. The use of the word processor encourages revisions and allows students to reorganize text more easily. These features have made a major impact on the teaching of composition (Lehr, 1995).

The power of word processing software allows both teachers and students to use the tools function not only for editing papers but also for instruction. Within most word processors, tools such as spelling and grammar checks or the thesaurus can assist students to improve their writing. At the adaptation level, the immediate feedback of the spell checker can help students become more self-regulated learners (Cavanaugh, 2004). Another example of adaptation would be to teach students to deselect all grammar checks within Word (Microsoft, 2006) for instance. Then, they can recursively check their written text, turning on each rule one-by-one. This will reward students if they have no errors and point out areas for improvement one at a time rather than discouraging them with multiple errors. It becomes a "teachable" moment for the instructor to help the student learn grammar rules within the context of personally created text rather than a workbook with a text owned by someone else. The thesaurus can help students expand their vocabulary as they explore the nuances of choosing one word over another by considering definitions. For example, as we wrote "nuances" the thesaurus offered several options of word choice including "shade," "tone," "grade," and "tinge." Reading the definitions of each choice informed our decision of which word fit best.

At the appropriation level, the "Track Changes" tool can enhance collaborative writing both professionally, as in this column, or in student writing. By assigning different team members their own color code in this function of Word (Microsoft, 2006), Star Office Suite (Sun Microsystems, 2006), or WordPerfect (Corel, 2006), proposed changes can be accepted or rejected and documents can be compared from revision to revision. Using this tool, options can be set so that changes are highlighted and deleted items remain intact but are crossed out, so the integrity of the original document remains intact. By applying various functions, this becomes a useful tool not only for collaborative writing but also for peer editing and tutoring. In other word processors, footnotes can be used to add peer editing comments.

As more educational blogs emerge, resources ranging from A Writing Teacher's Blog (Lovas, 2003) to composition class blogs are becoming available. Students have the opportunity not only to contribute to a common composition class blog but are also encouraged to keep a blog of their own. …

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