Category Archives: Education

Pencil and Paper or Computer?

Those of you who have students who have taken my writing classes know that I encourage kids to learn word processing skills (also known as touch typing by those of us who grew up before computers) at an early age. Both my daughters learned to type at the end of first grade using an old fashioned book called Dr. Fry’s Computer Keyboarding for Beginners by Edward Fry. It wasn’t as exciting as Mario Brothers or other typing games, but using its straightforward approach, my girls were touch typing within about four weeks.

But why is this so important? I believe (and several studies back me up) that writing on the computer makes students better writers in the long run. One of the most important steps in creating good writing is lots of revising, and kids hate to do re-writes! They especially hate it if it means starting all over and laboriously recopying what they’ve already written while trying to incorporate edits and corrections. And if you make one mistake with a pen, you have to start all over again!

Computers make revisions much easier. If you misspell a word the first time around, just fix the word without having to recopy the whole thing. Composing rough drafts on the computer makes rearranging sentences easier, adding descriptive adjectives easier, and making that final perfect copy MUCH easier.

Kids love computers, and most would rather “play on the computer” than do pencil and paper work. Often, doing their writing on the computer makes it seem like more fun. Once they are good typists, it’s also faster and requires less hand strain (and no more of those big calluses we used to get on our middle finger from writing with a pencil all day!). Kids tend to write more when they are allowed to do it on the computer.

A study on this topic was summarized in an article titled “The Effect of a Word Processor on the Written Composition of Second-Grade Pupils,” by Ithel Jones. According to the article,

 “The purpose of this study was to determine if the use of a word processing program during language instruction would result in a larger quantity of writing and whether it would influence the holistic writing quality of the second grade students when they compose with pencil and paper. The results show an overall improvement for students using a word processor, in both quality and in length. Those students also received higher scores. The study supports the fact that the use of a word processor facilitates the writing process, even with young children.”

In an article titled “Word Processing and its Effect on the Writing Process,” Katie Herrick states, “Writing with the word processor enhanced the writing process by allowing 4th grade students to edit without using the laborious method of using pen and paper. Students became more independent and felt more confident in their ability to change their original stories.”

My experience as a writing teacher and as a mom of two really excellent writers supports these studies. Most kids write more and write better when they use a computer. And as a teacher who reads and edits their writing, I enjoy being able to concentrate on content and not struggle with being able to read their handwriting!

What do you think? Do your kids write better when they write on the computer?