Using technology to write in school: progress or a wrong turn?
Is there more benefit to writing on a computer than with pencil and paper? These may not be the right questions to ask. Are we still trying to convince ourselves that we need clay tablets in order to learn to write? Obviously not! Several research papers published in recent years report boredom and a lack of interest on the part of students when it comes to writing. Not only do young people today write very little, when they do write, it is rarely for pleasure. So no, we do not believe that these are the right questions to ask. The fundamental issue is the need to inspire all young people to write, to write more, to write a variety of texts; to provide them with the motivation and a desire to write… and not just Facebook comments, text messages or tweets.
It is essential to inspire young people to write, not just Facebook comments, text messages or tweets.
Given our social context in which young people write very little but show a keen interest in technology, we carried out research on the use of technology for writing in elementary school classrooms in the Montréal region. Our overall objective was to better understand the impact of writing with technology on the development of writing skills in children from disadvantaged backgrounds. To meet this objective, we conducted individual and group interviews with participating teachers and students, videotaped the use of technology for writing tasks in the classroom, and collected different versions of texts created by students using technology. Our findings show that all students, both boys and girls, show much greater motivation when writing on the computer.
Our findings also revealed an improvement in the writing skills of all students, both boys and girls. Furthermore, at the end of the school year, some 96% of students considered themselves to be better writers when writing with technology. Given the widespread use of technology in education and the ongoing concern about the quality of French, the results of this research have great social and scientific relevance. Of course, we need to recognize that technology is not a panacea for the lack of interest in writing among young people, and its use in the classroom has its own share of challenges. In addition, teachers and parents have a fundamental role to play in inspiring children to write; the use of technology may represent a promising avenue to achieve this.
Thierry P. Karsenti, Université de Montréal
Deposit of the research report: June 2015