Pupils with Portable Writing Machines

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    Pupils with Portable Writing MachinesMichael Peacock a & Chris Breese ba School of Education , University of Leedsb Head of English , Bedwell School , StevenagePublished online: 06 Jul 2006.

    To cite this article: Michael Peacock & Chris Breese (1990) Pupils with Portable Writing Machines , Educational Review, 42:1,41-56, DOI: 10.1080/0013191900420105

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  • Educational Review, Vol. 42, No. 1, 1990 41

    Pupils with Portable Writing Machines*

    MICHAEL PEACOCK, School of Education, University of LeedsCHRIS BREESE, Head of English, Bedwell School, Stevenage

    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.

    1. Introduction

    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].

    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.

    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.

    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:

    ...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)

    Teachers are frequently convinced that such computer-assisted advantages lead toan improvement in the quality of student written work. That perceived improve-

    * 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.

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    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.

    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:

    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)

    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"?

    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 & 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.)

    2. The Users

    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.

    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

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    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.

    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.

    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.

    3. The Machine

    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.

    "... 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.

    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.

    Joanne: It's alright, but it gets a bit boring sometimes. It gets on yournerves when you keep losing your work.

    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.

    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-

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    mation stored in memory. None of the Bedwell pupils had yet developed thepractical confidence displayed by Alan in Cleveland:

    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

    "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.

    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:

    Claire: I lost the longest story I wrote.MP: How long was that?Claire: About 820 words...

    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.

    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:

    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.

    "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).

    A group of boys summed up the problems of mobility, and the care needed tomaintain the computers in good writing order:

    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...

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  • Pupils with Portable Writing Machines 45

    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...

    Any novelty or status the computer might once have had for pupils had notsurvived the rigours of school routines.

    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 own pace.There is no indication yet of any child moving towards a skilled use of thekeyboard. For all except one of the Bedwell children, typing on the keyboardremains slow and restricted to one or two fingers.

    MP: How do you type?Joanne: With one hand. [Adopts relaxed posture with Z88 propped at 45angle and types using three fingers and thumb to span the keyboard.]

    MP: Do you type well?Lee: No.MP: Do you use both hands?Lee: Yeh.MP: How many fingers?Lee: Just these two [forefingers].

    MP: Do you type with both hands?Helen: One or two. Usually I just type with one hand. Like that. [Props upkeyboard and spans the keys with all the digits of her right hand.]Natalie: I can use two hands but I think it's most comfortable just to useone.Sasha: Me too. Most of the time I just use one.

    The one-handed typing posture is routinely adopted by many of the children. Theyrelax back into their chairs, prop the Z88 at an angle and type using one hand tospan the keyboard. They generally manage a regular, but rather slow pace. Andrew'scomment was one echoed by several of the children:

    If I want to be quick then I use two hands, but if I'm thinking and writingthen I just do it like this [using one hand and relaxing back into chair].

    No child has requested a 'typing tutor' programme in a planned attempt to increasetheir typing speed.

    Cleveland. Generallyperhaps because of the longer period of time they had spentusing the laptops (and the absence of any effective alternative)the Clevelandpupils spoke far less about problems associated with managing the computer.

    Their computer was viewed as a friend which enabled them to participate inschool despite their handicap. They all made comments, however, which revealedthat their present competence had been hard-won:

    Shaun (upper sixth, studying for A levels in statistics and geography): I'vegot fond of this. It's took us a long time to get used to it but I understandabout everything now.

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    Claire (who was following a mixed GCSE and CGLI course in her lower sixth year)had teething problems with the Z88, but had grown very fond of it and the twoother machines she used regularly (PCWs and the BBC Archimedes). She said "Ilove them. I really do".

    Claire: When it [the Z88] was very new it wouldn't do things and it keptbeeping at me, but when I got my [inaudible] and read the instructionbook "Oh yeh, you do that, don't you" and then that was alright after that.You know, in the holidayswhen you gave me it [to Judith Stansfield]Isat with it for ages looking at the instructions.

    They had all mastered the technology to the extent that it was an almost 'invisible'medium for them. Their keyboard skills were also well advanced. Alan, forinstancealthough he had not been taught to touch-typecould type sufficientlyfast to get down the gist of everything his teachers said (see section 6).

    Shaundespite having to word process by pressing keys with a wooden rod heldin one fistwas nimble enough around the keyboard to be able to sit his examswith only a 50% extra time allowance. Claire and Paulalthough not as fast asAlanwere competent two-hand, four-finger typists. Both had had some formalkeyboard training.

    4. Writing: production

    The pupils give clear evidence of beginning to adjust the way in which they write inresponse to the facilities made available by the machine, and in this and thefollowing section (Writing: revision) we explore this. As in the section on managingthe machine, we discuss the Bedwell pupils first.

    Handwriting versus word processing. Despite the much-vaunted advantages of wordprocessingand the advantages of a laptop computer over a desktopmodelhandwriting remained very popular. The pupils' frequently expressed pre-ference for handwriting on most occasions seems to stem from two observations:handwriting was normally quicker than word processing, and it was consideredbetter suited to certain subjects.

    There are at least two reasons why handwriting is quicker for most pupils most ofthe time. The most obvious is that setting up the computer ready to write, writingand then carrying the machine across to the printer to take a print-out all takestime, and entails movement around the classroom and perhaps queuing at theprinter. Handwritten work, however, can be produced from start to finish at thedesk. The other reason is that almost all of the Bedwell pupils are still slow atentering text via the keyboard; they handwrite faster than they type. The followingtwo extracts are representative of many:

    Lee: I like handwriting.MP: Really?Lee: It's quicker. You have to find all the keys and everything [on theZ88].MP: Why do you prefer handwriting in many subjects?Helen: Well it's much quicker and it's not boring.MP: Handwriting is quicker?

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  • Pupils with Portable Writing Machines 47

    General: Yes.' " Helen: Yes. The teacher says "you've got to do this amount of work in this

    time" and if you're doing it by [handjwriting it's much much quicker andyou can do it in that time.Natalie: It's alright [using the Z88] to write a really long story. It's alrightfor that.

    Natalie is referring primarily to the ability of the word processor to incorporatechanges to text, in contrast to having to rewrite totally every substantive draft.

    This insistence on the utility of handwriting was maintained by all the children,despite their awareness of the advantages of the machine. John had his ownsolution:

    MP: Are there things you don't like about handwriting?John: Yes. Writing it all out again.MP: But you do it, don't you?John: Not if I can help it.

    None of the pupils was particularly keen on using the computer during maths andscience lessons. Here, it was the complexity of manipulating figures in rows andcolumnsand sometimes having to integrate then into word processed textthatseemed to cause most of the trouble:

    Jason: Well, I prefer this [Z88], but for some lessons I wouldn't say that,right. Maths. I don't like using it on maths 'cos you have to have alldifferent things like diamonds and [inaudiblethese are control codesused to access spreadsheet functions] lists ... and I wouldn't like to use itin geography, there's all diagrams and maps .. . but I most probably wouldlike to use in history though.

    Claire: I don't like it in maths. And science.MP: Why?Claire: It's always the same sort of things that you do. Spreadsheets, andstuff like that. And in science we're doing the springs bit nowhow theystretchand [the teacher] told us to draw a table out. And so we were alldrawing this tablethe lines and everythingand then you have to writein it and so you have to move back [into the word processor?] to do thatand then you lose it and so you have to do it all out again. And then I lostit again and now I'm starting it for about the fifth time... I started to do iton paper but then I had to do it on my computer again.

    Helen: I don't like using it in maths. I don't like using it in all the othersubjects.Sasha: Neither do I.Helen: Except English.Sasha: Yeh. Except English.

    Paul was the only one of the four Cleveland pupils with an improving conditionandsignificantlyas soon as his badly broken wrist had healed, he began to usethe laptop less and less:

    Paul: ... every now and again I still use the machines to do my Englishwork on because most of my work is on there, so I go back and use themachine there. But for the other lessons I just prefer writing now.

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    MP: Handwriting?Paul: Yes. After I had my accident, I was relying on that [Z88] a lot, but Iwas told that if I just started writing a bit perhaps my writing wouldeventually get back, so I practised me writing. Now... well I prefer to[handjwrite now.

    Apart from the greater flexibility of pen and paper, other reasons given by Paul forpreferring to handwrite were "feeling a bit odd when you're the only one in thegroup" and "it's a bit awkward as well. You do get a bit sick of carrying it around".

    The generation of content. It was not part of the aim of this inquiry to attempt to getpupils to articulate in detail the decisions madeand discardedabout what towrite as they are writing. Full-scale protocol analysis has convincingly revealed thecomplexity of the iterative nature of such decisions (Flower & Hayes, 1981) [4].

    There were, however, several comments which pointed to differences emerging inthe way the Z88 users set about generating handwritten and word processedcontent. The comments seem to indicate attitudes to the generation of content thatare at least partially dependent on the medium in which they are generated.

    Some of the pupils felt that, because of the tedium involved in rewritinghandwritten text, they had to be clear about what they wanted to say beforehandwriting, whereas on the word processor they "wouldn't really bother".

    MP: And with handwriting?Helen: I plan it a bit differently 'cos you can't really be scruffy on paperotherwise you have to scrub it all out and do it again and you don't wantto.. .

    Jason: [Using pen and paper] you have to be more prepared... You haveto make sure you don't make mistakes. And it wouldn't really matter onthe computer and I wouldn't really bother.

    The same attitude was still true of the Cleveland users. Paul, for example, felt that:. . . you can put it straight off the top of the head onto there [Z88] and youcan alter it later, where, when you're [hand]writing it you have to concen-trate more before you actually put the pen to the paper.

    Planning. This sense of being able, when using the word processor, to throw ideasdown without having to worry about mistakes, was still reflected in pupil comments

    . about planning. Many of the pupils were of the firm opinion that they planned lesswhen using the word processor.

    This is, perhaps, not surprising, considering that children's reluctance (or inabil-ity) to plan handwritten work has been widely noted. For example, Bereiter &Scardamalia (1987) report on a study in which substantial pressure was placed onyoung writers to produce a plan in advance of a first draft:

    It is therefore noteworthy that in spite of this bias, 10-year-old writerstended not to produce plans that were distinct from text... What theyoungest writers seemed to do was discover a way to smuggle textproduction into the planning period by using note-taking as a way ofproducing a first draft of text. (p. 210)

    The fluid, organised and safe (!) medium provided by the word processor seems to

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  • Pupils with Portable Writing Machines 49

    give many children the security to "just write away", without initially botheringmuch about either planning or the formal aspects of the text. There were manycomments similar to the two below:

    Sasha: I just write away. And if you make any mistakes you can just deletethem away.

    Andrew: I just write. I type what I think and then after that if you haveideas what you do is just fill it inwith block movements or just filling 'in. . .

    For Andrew, as for many of the other pupils, planning was something to be donewhile writing a substantive draft, rather than as part of a separate pre-writing phaseof their work. The typical strategy was to jot down a few ideas and thoughts andthen expand on them. Andrew went even further than most:

    .. .1 like to write down my thoughts when I first come in because usuallyI'm forgetful. So I write them in, then when I go back to them I say "Yeh,that's a good idea".

    Although they were older, Cleveland pupils all conveyed the same attitude toplanning; that they did less of it on the word processor. Shaun's 'planning', too,consisted of jotting down headings on his machine, writing ideas under each of theheadings, block-moving the sections into a shape that suited him and then stringingeverything together by deleting the headings. He had used the same technique in arecent exam, during which he answered the four questions in reverse order and thenblock-moved them into chronological order. The result, he said, was that the firstanswer printed was short and rushed, whereas the answer to question 4 (which hehad done first) was the longest and most thorough:

    Shaun:... like I say, I'll get down what I think first, then I'll try fit it all inthe best I can.

    Length. Despite the paucity of initial planning, the consensus view of pupils wasthat they "definitely" wrote more.

    Ben: I write more on the computer.MP: Why is that?Ben: I don't knowyou just get carried away.

    Sasha: You write longer stories on the computer. You just write away onthe computeryou don't know how much you are doing. You think youhave only done a little bit and then you press [inaudible] and it comes upyou've done about 300 words and you say "Gor, I didn't know I'd donethat many". But with ordinary writing you can see how much you'vedone.

    Helen: You write more. Definitely.

    We do not yet have empirical evidence relating to this point, and no unambiguouspattern is yet discernible in the little research evidence that there is. On the onehand, Daiute (1986) reports that, "after considerable typing and word processingpractice" (p. 151), junior high school word processor users (11-16 year-olds) tendedto revise at greater length on the computer than they did when writing by hand,although initial word processed drafts were significantly shorter than initial

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    handwritten drafts. The quality of the work was not significantly different. MacAr-thur & Graham (1987), on the other hand, found no differences on any of themeasures of the final productincluding lengthwhen comparing word processedand handwritten work produced by learning disabled (special needs) 10-11-year-olds.

    With the exception of Paul, the Cleveland pupils very seldom did any lengthyhandwritten work and so could not usefully compare the length of what they wrote.Paul, however, had the same attitude as that displayed by the Bedwell pupils:

    When I was using it for me English I felt I could do a lot more work onthat [the Z88] and I think it was because, well I like computers and withthe screen being only about that thick [gestures at two-inch high Z88screen] you can't see how much work you've done. You can't see exactlywhat you're doing so your work just seems to get longer and you don'trealise i t . . .

    The emphasis on content. Only one pupil (Andrew) displayed any consistent interestin the technological aspects of the machine. All the others who spoke viewed thecontent of what they wrote as more important than the medium. After speakingabout losing an 820-word story, the conversation with Claire continued:

    MP: Did you have a printed copy?Claire: Yes. It was quite goodabout finding a giant. A bit like Gulliver.

    There is no display of interest in the hardware. What matters to Claire is her story.The instinct is to concentrate on the creative rather than the technological.

    This is the direction desired by Papert (1988) at Hennigan School:

    If you went up to a poet who was busy writing his poem and asked whathe was doing, you'd be very surprised if he said, Tm using a pencil.' Ofcourse he's using a pencil, but the pencil has become invisible... Youdon't think about it. And so to the computer. We've only succeeded whenit becomes invisible, (p. 17)

    The desire for greater control of decorative aspects of their work led other pupils toclaim a preference for handwriting. For Natalie the computer was not yet flexible oradaptive enough to satisfy her needs. She did not have enough control, and sorejected it:

    Natalie: The reason I like writing by hand is that when you use thecomputer all the writing is the same and I like to change my writingsometimes.

    "... on computers we don't write". The word 'writing' has two meanings for thechildren: writing by hand and writing by computer. The children would frequentlynot distinguish between the two methods of production. They tended to refer toboth handwriting and word processing as 'writing', relying on the context forclarification.

    Jason: When we are on computers we don't write.

    When a distinction needed to be made, however, several strategies were used to

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    differentiate the two. One was to use words synecdochically to indicate thedistinction:

    Sasha: I'd like to do hand in all the other subjects except English.

    Jason: Now, if I'm on paper...

    More common was to use more than one word to clarify. Phrases like "writing onpaper", "using pen and paper", "writing by hand", "handwriting", "working on[the] paper" and "normal handwriting" all occur unprompted. They are all rela-tively unambiguous.

    When referring to writing on the computer, however, the activity was lessefficiently described. The phrase 'word processing' was never used. Instead, thechildren tended to refer to the broad activity "computing" which could cover arange of uses other than word processing. Phrases used include "typing", "using thecomputer", "on [the] computer^)" and "it" (as in "it teaches you how to redraft").

    An effective way of differentiating between handwriting and word processing hadnot been developed by the more skilled and experienced Cleveland users either.However, although Alan, the most fluent of all the pupils interviewed, displayed thesame confusing use of the word 'writing', he was beginning to favour the word'typing' to encompass everything to do with writing on a word processor rather thanjust to indicate the method of production. The bracketed words are added:

    Alan:.. .1 don't mind writing [word processing] a lot. It's easier for me todo it. The main reason why I type is because I'm a very slow writer [byhand]. I wouldn't get a lot down...MP: Are you a good writer, do you think?Alan: Not writing, no. Typing, yes.

    5. Writing: revision

    Without exception, the pupils expressed a preference for revising drafts from aprint-out rather than on the screen:

    Joanne: Just write it down then print it out then when you've sorted it allout on paper you change it all around [on the machine].

    The attitude of the pupils to revision was orthodox enough; they were not terriblykeen to spend time on what they tended to see (for whatever reason) as anunrewarding task.

    Claire was more forthright than most:

    Before you hand your work in you have to check it. All the time. I neverbother.

    They were, however, all asked to revise each piece of English work as a matter ofcourse, andwhen pressedthere seemed to be at least the two broad types ofrevising discussed below. The time allowed for a task was also mentioned severaltimes as a factor in deciding how much attention was paid to revising drafts. Suchrevision strategies are not, of course, peculiar to word processor users, but thedistinction made here between 'instinctive' and 'acquired' revisions seems to reflectmore accurately what the pupils felt they were doing when revising than does themore commonly made distinction between 'surface' revisions and 'meaning' revi-sions (Faigley & Witte, 1981).

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    Instinctive knowledge: "I just know". Here pupils characteristically claimed to 'justknow" that something was less than adequate. How they "just know" is an openquestion. Were they comparing their draft to some internalised but not articulatedversion of word or text, or were they running the text through a check-list of generalprinciples?

    MP: Do you make many changes to the meaning?Jason: Yeh. A lot of times you have to do itto make it sound better.MP: How do you know if something doesn't sound right?Jason: Well, first of all you write, right, and then you print it out, and thenyou write something else and then you compare them to see which onesounds better. Or sometimes you have to pass it round your friends roundthe table and they have to say what they think.MP: Yes. And how do they know? What gives youor themthe ideathat one sounds better than the other?Jason: Just.. I dunno really. You just do.

    Claire: I just write down what I think... um, where's my [inaudible][retrieves print-out of most recent essayan interview with the headteacher] I wrote all that out and first I did it all together and noparagraphs, then I took a draft and wrote down where you need aparagraph and then I split all the paragraphs up.MP: How do you know where you need paragraphs?Claire: Oh, I just know.

    Sasha:... when you type it, if you spell it wrong you can write the wordagain next to it and you can look and see which one is better and then justdelete the other one.

    Externally acquired knowledge: "... ask the teacher". The teacher was the key figurehere (although parents and friends were also mentioned). The writer simply did notknow that something in the text was wrong or could be improved, and only wentaway and made changes to his or her piece of writing after being told thatsomething was inadequate.

    MP: How do you know if your writing needs changing then?Joanne: You see spelling mistakes and things.MP: And how do you know if the sentence needs changing about to makeit read better?Joanne: You don't. Mr Breese tells us.

    MP: But when you are handwriting you can't do it like that, can you? Sohow do you set about handwriting in, say, history?Helen: You have to think about where you have to put the paragraphs.You have to remember. But if you forget on this [Z88] you can always gothrough and get them put in.MP: Do you remember to do it when you handwrite?Helen: Most of the time.

    The Cleveland pupils also displayed both 'types' of revision strategy. For Clairethey were hardly differentiated:

    MP: And how do you know if you've done something wrong?

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    Claire: Well, sometimes I know myself and sometimes I ask me mum and,like, if I'm at school I'll ask the teacher.MP: When you know what something isn't quite right, when you know,yourself, why is that? How do you know?Claire: Well, like if I'm at college I might have printed what I've done outand then sort of read it and then took it to the teacher and said "Oh, isthis what you wanted, or what?" and if he says "Oh, no, that wasn't" or"Yeh, that's alright but you've spelt some words wrong" or summat, andthen I'll change it.

    The time allowed. The time allowed for the completion of a piece of work was also akey factor in the decision made by the children about how much revision to do.There were, however, no indications that 'meaning' revision was more likely to begiven more time. Pragmatism ruled, whether the children were talking abouthandwritten work or word processing:

    MP: How often do you usually revise your [word processed] writing?Claire: Depends what it is. If I'm happy with it in myself I'll be alright.And it depends how much time I've got. I mean, if I've got a lot of workon I think "Oh well, no, that'll have to do...".

    6. Writing: miscellany

    There were a few comments which we were unable to fit easily into any of thecategories discussed above. This may be because they are trivial, or because we aremisunderstanding the issue, but at least three of them are, we feel, worth mention-ing speculatively because of the possible implications.

    In one case, it seems that the nature of the printed characters produced on screenhad influenced the writer to adjust both his letter production and his use of capitalletters towards a more conventional style.

    Jason: When I used to [hand]write I was untidy and then using thecomputer I got used to seeing an "m" like that [demonstrates] so now I do,more or less, "m" like that on paper.MP: You changed your handwriting to make it look more like the printedletter? [Nodding.] That's interesting.Jason: Yeh. And before, when I was doing normal handwriting, I neverused to put capitalsI used to leave capitals out all the timebut whenI'm using this [Z88] it helps me remember to put the capitals in.

    An example of an approach to essay work that would be impossible without a wordprocessor was provided by Alan, who has developed a successful writing strategy(most of his work has been graded on the GCSE A/B borderline) which makes fulluse of his fast typing speed. He types detailed notes of everything germane to anessay during the preparation period. This is usually a combination of what theteacher says and commentary of a relevant video programme. He prints it all out,deletes obvious repetition and they types it all backmuch of it word for wordon to the word processor.

    Alan: . . . well, we're given some ideas and we take the notes down andwhat I'll do is. . . I print the notes out, because with me having just, with

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    me having to just take down everything at once, you know, you can't get itinto some sort of order so, I print them out, erase the files that I've savedthem as, then I actually start the document again with the correct titlesand things and put it into some sort of order.MP: From the print-out?Allan: From my print-out, yeh...MP: You type it all in again?Alan: Yeh, because some of the words I probably would miss out if I wastaking notes from a video, 'cos it does go quite fast.JS: Yes, but you've already got the things on your file... you could justdelete the unnecessary bits and move the other bits around. You wouldn'thave to type it all out again then would you?Alan: Yeh. Less . . less confusing when you start again, I think. Could do itthough.

    In the third case, although Sasha agreed with the view that one planned less whenwriting directly onto the computer, she also qualified this with a comment relatingto the generation of spelling. She seems to treat the whole of the handwritten word

    ' as a single unit to be recalled, but to treat the word processed word more as acollection of letters to be recalled individually. This probably relates to the fact thatfor her, using the word processor is still far less 'invisible'or fluentthanhandwriting:

    Sasha: When you're doing it [writing] on this computer you have got tothink of the word so you don't have to type it in all again, but on the paperyou can just write, you can just think of the words. On the computer youhave to think more about how you spell the words before you write.

    7. Discussion: emerging issues

    About Writing

    (1) Handwriting remains popular with all the children who have a choice. In partthis has to do with the complexity involved in using the word processor. It isquicker to handwrite all tasks except those involving at least a few hundred words.It seems reasonable to suppose that this balance might well alter in favour of theword processor if pupils become more fluent at entering text via the keyboard. It isalso difficult for the children to manage mathematical or scientific notation anddiagrams. Pen and paper technology still has a clear edge here.

    (2) As a corollary, at least in the early stages, managing their word processorclearly increases the demands made upon the pupil writers. Without instruction,typing speeds remain slow and key combinations required to access many of theediting functions are not efficiently used.

    (3) Efficient text-editing on the word processor is most useful to those writerswho revise their work. Many pupils revise very little (Nold, 1981)the first draft is,frequently, the only draftand so the editing advantages of the word processorover the pen are minimised.

    (4) Word processing does not lead to pre-planning before beginning writtenwork. Whether this has an effect on the finished product is not clear. The generalquestion as to whether or not the children's writing is any better for wordprocessing is not tackled directly in this paper, but the available quantitative

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    evidence indicates that word processing probably has no discernible short-termeffect on the quality of pupil writing; a null (rather than a positive or negative)effect.

    (5) Pupils are clearly convinced that they write more when using the wordprocessor. Some of the empirical evidence does seem to indicate some increase inthe quantity of work produced by pupils working on word processors, but any effectis certainly nowhere near as significant as that found, in one study, to accrue fromdictation (MacArthur & Graham, 1987).

    (6) Regular use of the word processor has not yet generated any clear signs ofencouraging reflection on the use of language. Pupils' comments about their worktend to be either intuitive ("I just know") or leaning on an authority. Optimisticpredictions, such as that expressed in the Kingman Report (this paper, section 1),are not borne out by research findings.

    About Managing the Machines

    (1) Managing the machines effectively takes an awful lot of time and energy.Even after two full terms, many Bedwell pupils still regularly lose work. Batterypower lossrather than incompetenceseems to be a major problem. There mustbe a strong case for some planned teaching of the basics of computer manage-mentspread over a few minutes a day, perhaps.

    (2) Pupils do not become efficient typists quickly. Inputting text via the keyboardremains very slow. Again, there must be a strong case for some regular, plannedtyping tutoring.

    (3) It is tempting to view may of the experiences the pupils have had whilelearning to cope with their word processors as technological. At least in the earlystages, much of what they learnor fail to learnis about the nature of thecomputer rather than language, although at present such learning has only thelimited aim of developing user competence.

    Correspondence: Michael Peacock, School of Education, University of Leeds, LeedsLS2 9JT, United Kingdom.

    NOTES

    [1] The Z88 laptop computer was developed by Sir Clive Sinclair's Cambridge Computerscompany. According to one magazine (Personal Computer World, August 1989) "the Z88 hasbeen a remarkable success... Last year in the UK, Z88 sales accounted for around 10 per centof the laptop market". The whole computer package is not quite as bulky as a telephonedirectory and a lot lighter at 2-3 lbs. It has a full-size keyboard and a built-in six-line screen.Resident' software includes a word processor called Pipedream (similar to the BBC wordprocessor, 'View', which is found in many British schools), a spreadsheet, diary, clock, BBCBasic interpreter, printer interface and a programme to import and export files to and fromother computers. There are no disk drives on the Z88. Files do not have to be saved, but arestored automatically on very compact (smaller than a matchbox) RAM and EPROM units thatslot into the front of the machine.

    [2] The product was made possible by a grant from Hertfordshire County Council's EducationCommittee via the Advisory Unit: Microtechnology in Education.

    [3] Judith Stansfield, Cleveland Special Needs advisory teacher for information technology.[4] Currently, the dominant descriptive model of the writing process is the cognitive process theory

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    of writing proposed by Flower & Hayes. The major assumption is that writing is "a recursiverather than a linear process"; pre-writing and revision are "activities that overlap and inter-twine" (Hairston, 1982). Although the activities "intertwine", they can be disentangled, taughtand learned. In Hairston's words, the "process" approach to writing instruction "teachesstrategies for invention and discovery". Although influential and widely accepted, this view ofwriting as the interaction of "iterative" but essentially separate processes is disputed (Knob-lauch & Brannon, 1984). Proponents of an alternative view insist that writing is an "organic,undifferentiated process" (p. 90). It cannot, therefore, be "dissected without injury; if it has noidentifiable parts... then it cannot be divided and analysed" (p. 93). It follows then that writingcannot usefully be taught by practising (and then combining) subprocesses; there is no"production recipe" (p. 88). The teacher's task is to "create incentives and contexts for thinkingand writing" (p. 93).

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