We have been using word processors for over 20 years in education. Programs such as MS Word, Pages, Open Office, and Word Perfect have been mainstream programs for years. Though this is a general education technology, it is also one of the most important assistive technology tools for students that have writing difficulties. The word processor becomes the environment that allows them to more effectively participate in written expression tasks.
Research has shown that word processors:
Make it easy to revise and edit work without recopying
Focus on typing not formation of letters
Allow information to be presented in multiple forms (paper, e-text)
Allow many other tools to be hooked up with them.
A recent study examined poor writers' writing products with and without a word processor (Morphy & Graham, 2012). This student showed the benefits of the word processor tool. Compared to writing by hand, when using a word processor, students produced longer writing documented that were better developed and organized. The were fewer mechanical errors and overall the writing samples were of better quality when rated by experts. Students reported they were more motivated to write using the word processor (Morphy & Graham). This effect has been replicated by other researchers (Zhu, Shum, Tse, & Lui, 2016).
The newest development in the word processor is cloud computing. Microsoft 365, Google Doc, and other web-based word processors have allowed users to work from any deceive, anywhere in the world, as long as they have an internet connection.
For teachers who want to use could-based word processors, check out this Guide to Writing in the Cloud.
Research Rating: Due to the experimental nature of the information cited in this description, this information is to be trusted as valid and reliable.
Effective in circumventing problems for children with writing learning disabilities
More time efficient in circumventing graphomotor problems than teaching handwriting
Easily accessible, as all digital computing technologies will have a word processor of some kind
Instructors need to ensure that students have been taught to type properly in order to ensure word processing is efficient (Mogey & Hartley, 2013)
Cloud-based computing products are available whenever and where students require them, but do need access to a reliable internet connection
Access to a word processor is an important testing accommodation (Lewandowski, Lambert, Lovett, Panahon, & Sytsma, 2014)
Special Consideration: Workflow
Exact prices change frequently, which is why only approximate ranges are listed.
$ - Under $5
$$ - Between $6 and $50
$$$ - Between $51 and $250
$$$$ - Over $250
Lewandowski, L., Lambert, T. L., Lovett, B. J., Panahon, C. J., & Sytsma, M. R. (2014). College students’ preferences for test accommodations. Canadian Journal of School Psychology, 29(2), 116-126.
Mogey, N. & Hartley, J. (2013). To write or to type? The effects of handwriting and word-processing on the written style of examination essays. Innovations in Education and Teaching International, 50, 85-93.
Morphy, P., & Graham, S. (2012). Word processing programs and weaker writers/readers: A meta-analysis of research findings. Reading and Writing, 25(3), 641-678.
Zhu, Y., Shum, S. M., Tse, S. B., & Liu, J. J. (2016). Word-processor or pencil-and-paper? A comparison of students' writing in chinese as a foreign language. Computer Assisted Language Learning, 29(3), 596-617.
Written by Bronwyn Lamond, Last Revision May 2018