Recently, while perusing the internet, I found this interesting article about how computers changed the writing process for people with learning disabilities. It was written by Richard Wanderman. I was taken back by how much Richard and I agreed with this concept. As an educator who has taught students how to type for the past 16 years, it was refreshing to see this concept finally taking center stage!
Richard was an adult with learning disabilities when he discovered how important it was to work on a computer to write instead of using the pencil and paper mode. As he says, “In fact, if I didn’t write with a computer I wouldn’t be able to share this article with you because I wouldn’t be able to record, work with, and share my ideas and I wouldn’t know from personal experience how doing these things with a computer changes the writing process for people like me.”
People with dyslexia struggle so much trying to form letters with the pencil that they never practice enough to become better writers. Richard makes this point when he says, “When we do write with pen and paper, it’s so difficult that we do it awkwardly, if at all, and we don’t enjoy it. So we avoid it and of course, don’t improve from lack of practice.”
There are some people with learning disabilities who have a hard time moving thoughts from their head to a medium. Richard found that “computers allow this recording process… to happen more quickly, relieving the pressure to have a decent short term memory. Also, storing information digitally makes the information malleable for later editing and manipulation as your ideas change. And, lastly, using the computer as a digital extension of your memory makes it easier to find things when you want them (providing you set up a decent filing system, which few people actually do).”
Here are 3 facts about computers and the Writing Process:
- Computers make it easier to get ideas recorded outside of your head.
- Computers make it easier to edit, change, and work with ideas.
- Computers make it easier to publish or share ideas.
Editing also becomes easier when it is done electronically. With the ability to change things comes:
- No emphasis on spelling during composition
- Less emphasis on getting the ideas in the right order the first time
- More emphasis on content
- More emphasis on recording ideas, even in crude form
- Expanded vocabulary (before computers, dyslexic writers would rarely take a chance on words they used in their spoken vocabulary but didn’t know how to spell because they couldn’t fix mistakes easily)
All of these effects together; change in the input process, change in the editing process, and change in the output process make writing much more accessible to students and adults with learning disabilities.
As I finish this blog, I take to heart the challenge of, like Richard, convincing schools to implement the skill of typing into their curriculum. And if school don’t, then parents need to teach their children to type at home.
As computers become more numerous in schools the expectation is that students will be doing more work on the computer. WE need to make learning how to type a priority!
Carrie Shaw is President of Keyboard Classroom. She can be reached at carrie@KeyboardClassroom.com