Pupils with Portable Writing Machines∗

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<ul><li><p>This article was downloaded by: [UQ Library]On: 03 November 2014, At: 18:15Publisher: RoutledgeInforma Ltd Registered in England and Wales Registered Number: 1072954 Registered office: Mortimer House,37-41 Mortimer Street, London W1T 3JH, UK</p><p>Educational ReviewPublication details, including instructions for authors and subscription information:http://www.tandfonline.com/loi/cedr20</p><p>Pupils with Portable Writing MachinesMichael Peacock a &amp; Chris Breese ba School of Education , University of Leedsb Head of English , Bedwell School , StevenagePublished online: 06 Jul 2006.</p><p>To cite this article: Michael Peacock &amp; Chris Breese (1990) Pupils with Portable Writing Machines , Educational Review, 42:1,41-56, DOI: 10.1080/0013191900420105</p><p>To link to this article: http://dx.doi.org/10.1080/0013191900420105</p><p>PLEASE SCROLL DOWN FOR ARTICLE</p><p>Taylor &amp; Francis makes every effort to ensure the accuracy of all the information (the Content) containedin the publications on our platform. However, Taylor &amp; Francis, our agents, and our licensors make norepresentations or warranties whatsoever as to the accuracy, completeness, or suitability for any purpose of theContent. Any opinions and views expressed in this publication are the opinions and views of the authors, andare not the views of or endorsed by Taylor &amp; Francis. The accuracy of the Content should not be relied upon andshould be independently verified with primary sources of information. Taylor and Francis shall not be liable forany losses, actions, claims, proceedings, demands, costs, expenses, damages, and other liabilities whatsoeveror howsoever caused arising directly or indirectly in connection with, in relation to or arising out of the use ofthe Content.</p><p>This article may be used for research, teaching, and private study purposes. Any substantial or systematicreproduction, redistribution, reselling, loan, sub-licensing, systematic supply, or distribution in anyform to anyone is expressly forbidden. Terms &amp; Conditions of access and use can be found at http://www.tandfonline.com/page/terms-and-conditions</p><p>http://www.tandfonline.com/loi/cedr20http://www.tandfonline.com/action/showCitFormats?doi=10.1080/0013191900420105http://dx.doi.org/10.1080/0013191900420105http://www.tandfonline.com/page/terms-and-conditionshttp://www.tandfonline.com/page/terms-and-conditions</p></li><li><p>Educational Review, Vol. 42, No. 1, 1990 41</p><p>Pupils with Portable Writing Machines*</p><p>MICHAEL PEACOCK, School of Education, University of LeedsCHRIS BREESE, Head of English, Bedwell School, Stevenage</p><p>ABSTRACT Two sets of pupil users of ultra-portable laptop word processors (26 intotal) are interviewed about their attitudes to writing after at least two full schoolterms spent using the technology. Handwriting remains popular and quicker for mostclassroom writing tasks; neither planning nor constructive reflection on languageseems to be enhanced; pupils are convinced that they write more; typing speedsremain very slow; and repeated loss of work is a commonplace. The connotations ofthe word 'writing' are beginning to alter in line with the medium of production.</p><p>1. Introduction</p><p>Extended use of individual, easily portable laptop computers by secondary pupilshas only recently become possible; it is still far from common. There are, however,rare pockets of regular pupil users and this paper examines two such groups: a classof 22 in Hertfordshire and four individuals in Cleveland. The focus has deliberatelybeen kept narrow to enable us to concentrate on emergent attitudes to that keyaspect of school life: writing. All the children mentioned have their own Z88 anduse it every school day [1].</p><p>This paper attempts to further understanding of how pupil writers interact withword processors, by addressing the people most directly concernedthe pupil usersthemselves. The transcriptions are accurate (no words are added or deleted fromthe comments without indication), but without intrusive speech mannerisms.</p><p>The pupils' comments are discussed under the .three broad headings of managingthe machine, the production of text and revising the text. We concentrate initiallyon the Hertfordshire class, with later references to the Cleveland pupils providingan additional perspective. Our findings are related to empirical research whererelevant.</p><p>Better writing? The arguments in favour of word processing are persuasive. Daiute(1985) calls it the "computer as a tool for writing" approach to language develop-ment:</p><p>...the computer gives writers more control over their writing, since itoffers a communication channel as well as physical and cognitive aids...writers take added control over the writing process, (p. 17)</p><p>Teachers are frequently convinced that such computer-assisted advantages lead toan improvement in the quality of student written work. That perceived improve-</p><p>* The authors are grateful to Douglas Barnes, Peter Medway and David Yeomans, all at the Schoolof Education in Leeds, for their helpful comments on early drafts of this paper.</p><p>Dow</p><p>nloa</p><p>ded </p><p>by [</p><p>UQ</p><p> Lib</p><p>rary</p><p>] at</p><p> 18:</p><p>15 0</p><p>3 N</p><p>ovem</p><p>ber </p><p>2014</p></li><li><p>42 M. Peacock &amp; C. Breese</p><p>ment is assumed to be intimately related to the change in the method of productionfrom handwriting to word processing. The reasons given invariably include some orall of the following: the ability of the word processor to manipulate text withoutmessihess and so (it is presumed) facilitate both initial composition and revision,the engendering of concentration, the freeing of children from "battling with apencil and paper" (National Writing Project, 1989, p. 7), and the power to spell-check work easily and to get 'clean' print-outs.</p><p>This conviction is widespread. The Kingman Report (Department of Educationand Science, 1988) further licenses such enthusiasm in a passage replete withassumptions about the potential benefits of word processing:</p><p>The word processor, with its ability to shape, delete and move textaround, provides the means by which pupils can achieve a satisfactoryproduct. Software which convincingly replicates the format of newspapersis becoming increasingly available. Through the use of word processorspupils are drawn into explicit discussion of the nature and likely impact ofwhat .they write. They will begin to talk about appropriate structure,correct punctuation and spelling and the vocabulary appropriate for theiraudience. The process of writingredrafting through editing to proof-reading and publishingis one which children take to with enjoyment.(4.13, p. 37)</p><p>Evidence backing up some of these assertions would be useful. In which classroomdid they get the impression that the "process of writingredrafting through editingto proof-reading and publishingis one which children take to with enjoyment"?Where have they found pupils with word processors who are "drawn into explicitdiscussion of the nature and likely impact of what they write"?</p><p>In fact, the indications are that empirical evidence is proving hard to come by.With very few exceptions (Koenig, 1984), many recent detailed studiesboth inAmerica (Miller, 1984, Butler-Nalin, 1985; Duling, 1985; Greenland, 1985; Wetzel,1985; Hawisher, 1986; Posey, 1986; MacArthur &amp; Graham, 1987) and, morerecently, in Australia (Snyder, 1989)have not found consistent significant differ-ences in writing or revision between groups using word processors and groups usingtraditional methods of text production (pen and paper). There is also evidence thatthe difference in presentationrather than in method of productioncan accountfor some of the perceived improvement, particularly with average and below-average work. (Some 400 teachers assessed one of two sets of eight pupil essays thatwere identical in content and surface characteristics, one set photocopied from thehandwritten originals and the other a word processed transcription, in Peacock,1988.)</p><p>2. The Users</p><p>At the beginning of the 1988-89 school year, 22 first-year entrants to BedwellSchool, Stevenage, comprising a mixed-ability class, were each given a new Z88portable computer. These 12 boys and 10 girls wereas far as we are awarethefirst class of children in the country to use portable computers as an integral part ofevery school day. The machines are used in English, maths and science lessons.</p><p>The school is an 11-18, mixed comprehensive with a total of 500 pupils. At thebeginning of the academic year 1988-89, the new first-year pupils were allocated</p><p>Dow</p><p>nloa</p><p>ded </p><p>by [</p><p>UQ</p><p> Lib</p><p>rary</p><p>] at</p><p> 18:</p><p>15 0</p><p>3 N</p><p>ovem</p><p>ber </p><p>2014</p></li><li><p>Pupils with Portable Writing Machines 43</p><p>randomly to one of four mixed-ability classes. One of these classes became the'computer class'. The computers effectively belong to the children and are theirresponsibility [2]. They are carried to school every morning and taken home everyevening. Most battery recharging is done by pupils at home.</p><p>The four Cleveland pupilsone in each year from fourth to upper sixthalsohad sole charge of their computers and used them wherever possible. The'groupsthree boys and a girldid not know one another and were attendingdifferent schools in Cleveland. They had all been working with a Z88 (and, prior tothat, a Canon TypeStar) for up to three years. They used computers because theyhad to: handwriting was difficult and slow (although not impossible) for all of them.They were all very competent users: Paul had not been able to write by hand fortwo terms after breaking his wrist badly, Shaun was partially paralysed after aswimming accident, and Alan and Claire had difficulty with a fine motor co-ordination because of cerebral palsy.</p><p>Most of the pupil comments in this paper were recorded in 1989 during lessonsin April (Cleveland) and May (Stevenage), after the children had been using themachines regularly for at least two full terms. At the time the Bedwell class wasworking on writing up and/or revising a class interview with the headmaster. The22 pupils were seated in groups of three, four or five around six clusters of tables.All the children had chosen to work in same-sex groups. The interviewer was able tomove freely around the class, speaking to at least two pupils at each table. TheCleveland pupils were all preparing for end-of-year exams. They were twice inter-viewed individually during the school day, the first time in the company of anadvisory teacher [3] who was on excellent terms with all four pupils and their classteachers. All the pupils except Alan were also observed at work in at least one class.</p><p>3. The Machine</p><p>Pupils' comments clearly indicated that learning to manage the computer had been(and in some cases still was) extremely time-consuming. The major recurringproblem areas are discussed below.</p><p>"... it's not usit's the computer". Several of the Bedwell pupils made commentsabout problems they had encountered which reveal a view of the machine assomething mischievous and irrational. Natalie's view was typical; her commentsreveal an impatience with a writing medium not yet 'ready-to-hand' for her in theway pen and paper are.</p><p>Natalie: If you're writing on paper you just find a new pen, but here youhave to keep charging batteries up and then they sometimes just go outstraight away.</p><p>Joanne: It's alright, but it gets a bit boring sometimes. It gets on yournerves when you keep losing your work.</p><p>Claire:... This project has taken us weeks and it should have taken threedays. And he [the teacher] thinks it's us but it's not usit's the computerall the time.</p><p>The rechargeable batteries were, undoubtedly, a problem, but instead of adjustingto cope with this most of the pupils lost work over and over again, despite theZ88's four-minute 'safety* period between battery power-loss and loss of infor-</p><p>Dow</p><p>nloa</p><p>ded </p><p>by [</p><p>UQ</p><p> Lib</p><p>rary</p><p>] at</p><p> 18:</p><p>15 0</p><p>3 N</p><p>ovem</p><p>ber </p><p>2014</p></li><li><p>44 M. Peacock &amp; C. Breese</p><p>mation stored in memory. None of the Bedwell pupils had yet developed thepractical confidence displayed by Alan in Cleveland:</p><p>Alan: Rechargeables. I've three sets. I've got one in the machine, one inmy pocket for when I run out in the middle of lessons, and one at homeon charge. So, once these run out I swap them over with what's in mypocket. They will change over with the ones at home. They will becharged. I've always got two sets ready.Michael Peacock (MP): So you can get through any day?Alan: Oh yes, they last well, almost a week. With a heavy workload, two orthree days</p><p>"I lost everything twice in one day once". The loss of everything in memory was arecurrent irritation. Apart from the batteries, other problems leading to the loss ofinformation were a lack of knowledge while accessing text and/or printing it, afailure to appreciate the potential consequences of experimental (and random) keypressing, and plain carelessness. Every child in the class had lost work at one timeor another, although most felt that they were getting much better at protecting theirwork.</p><p>The children all had stories about how much they had lost. And they could beexactto the wordthanks to the built-in word-count, one of the most popularfunctions on the machine:</p><p>Claire: I lost the longest story I wrote.MP: How long was that?Claire: About 820 words...</p><p>MP: Who else has lost stuff?Ben: AH o{ us.John: I lost everything twice in one day once.Ben: Everyone in the class has lost stuff. But it's better now.Andrew: In this term, I only lost stuff twice.</p><p>The Cleveland pupils still occasionally lost work, but it was a rare event and forreasons more complex than the simple losing of battery power. Claire was the onlyone who had lost work recentlya total of about 1000 words. It had happenedwhile she was transferring two files from the Z88 to a BBC computer via a linkingcable:</p><p>Claire: 1 lost two essays last week. I were so mad. I wanted to transferthem to the BBC and I did it all and it was fine. But they didn't arrive andthen they were gone from here [the Z88] too. I could kill it, sometimes,really.</p><p>"They're heavy"... "especially on Tuesdays!" Despite the relative lightness of theZ88 (relative to any other laptop computer), many of the children complained thatthe computer was both heavy and awkward to carry about (it weighs under 3 1b.complete with built-in screen and full-size keyboard).</p><p>A group of boys summed up the problems of mobility, and the care needed tomaintain the computers in good writing order:</p><p>John: It's enough doing it in English, maths and science. You have tocarry it about every day. And we can't just drop our bags. And charging itup on batteries and putting it on the adaptor every night...</p><p>Dow</p><p>nloa</p><p>ded </p><p>by [</p><p>UQ</p><p> Lib</p><p>rary</p><p>] at</p><p> 18:</p><p>15 0</p><p>3 N</p><p>ovem</p><p>ber </p><p>2014</p></li><li><p>Pupils with Portable Writing Machines 45</p><p>Ben: They're a pest sometimes. They're heavy and you have to carry themaround in your bag.Andrew: Especially on Tuesdays. You've got games kit as well. And withbooks and everything...</p><p>Any novelty or status the computer might once have had for pupils had notsurvived the rigours of school routines.</p><p>Keyboard skills. When the Bedwell project began, a decision was made not to teachthe children keyboard skills, but to let the children develop them at their...</p></li></ul>

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