the educational technology journal

Vol 22|No 2|November 2012
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Word processing combined with mindware can dramatically improve the performance of students on the difficult tasks required by the Core Standards, but schools should ask whether the assessment models will employ old technology (paper and pencil) or new technology.

Core Standards, Writing and Computers

By Jamie McKenzie, ©2012, all rights reserved.
About author

We've been writing with computers in schools for three decades, but in the U.S.A. the Core Standards are raising the bar with regard to the types of writing our students must do.

This article suggests ways that computers may be combined with mindware to strengthen student performance on challenging writing tasks.

It is also clear that any effort to spread these techniques across all classrooms (not just language arts) will require a substantial investment in professional development.

What's new in the standards?

Students in the USA have always had some difficulty scoring well on the National Assessment of Writing (NAEP). A small percentage have been able to perform at the top levels. A new report on results from 2011, a test administered on computers for the first time, shows that:

  • Twenty-seven percent of students at both grades 8 and 12 performed at or above the Proficient level in writing.
  • Three percent of eighth- and twelfth-graders in 2011 performed at the Advanced level.

The Core Standards require students to perform well on many of the tasks related to the performance on the NAEP test that will win a "proficient" or an "advanced" level, and it is apparent that testing will move in this decade from paper and pencil to computers. The following statement from the Common Core State Standards for English Language Arts & Literacy in History/Social Studies, Science, and Technical Subjects (PDF) gives a dramatic look at what students must be able to do:

Note on range and content of student writing
For students, writing is a key means of asserting and defending claims, showing what they know about a subject, and conveying what they have experienced, imagined, thought, and felt. To be college-and career-ready writers, students must take task, purpose, and audience into careful consideration, choosing words, information, structures, and formats deliberately. They need to know how to combine elements of different kinds of writing—for example, to use narrative strategies within argument and explanation within narrative— to produce complex and nuanced writing.

They need to be able to use technology strategically when creating, refining, and collaborating on writing. They have to become adept
at gathering information, evaluating sources, and citing material accurately, reporting findings from their research and analysis of sources in a clear and cogent manner. They must have the flexibility, concentration, and fluency to produce high-quality first-draft text under a tight deadline as well as the capacity to revisit and make improvements to a piece of writing over multiple drafts when circumstances encourage or require it.
Page 4

2011 Writing Results

NAEP 2011 Writing Report Card

Computer Thinking and Writing

The secret to the powerful use of laptops for writing and thinking is an understanding of incubation, percolation, fermentation, reverie and idea processing. In addressing the challenges presented by the Core Standards, the strategies outlined in this March 2011 article will help a school to maximize the number of students performing at the proficient or advanced levels.

Laptop Thinking and Writing






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