Article Critique #1: The Effects of Incorporating a Word Processor Into a Year Three Writing Program Natalie Beck and Tony Fetherston

Camille Maydonik 36428084 ETEC 500 Research Methodologies in Education Instructor: Dr. Clifford Falk University of British Columbia June 13, 2010



Beck and Fetherston’s (2003) ethnographic, qualitative research study attempts to determine if the use of word processing can assist the writing process with young children, specifically seven Year Three students in Australia. Beck and Fetherston (2003) state that, “Learning to write in the primary classroom is essential if young children are to become literate members of society” (p.140) and this argument forms the basis for the three research questions they investigate (p.144): 1. What attitudes do seven Year Three students possess in terms of writing and the writing program currently in place in their classroom? 2. What attitudes do seven Year Three students possess in relation to the use of word processors and writing? 3. How is students’ writing development affected when word processors are used? The study took place over a period of six weeks and the students, who were selected through convenience sampling, were observed each morning participating in pencil and paper writing activities as well as using the word processor, more specifically, Story Board Weaver Deluxe software. Beck and Fetherston (2003) completed a case study for each student in their study using interviews and observations as their main research methodology. Beck and Fetherston (2003) conclude that their study proves that the use of word processing improves students’ writing overall and benefits their overall creativity and motivation during writing activities. They report their results by answering the three guiding research questions and present findings related to other results such as the effect of prior computing experience, keyboard skills, the use of pictures for writing, changes in

INCORPORATING A WORD PROCESSOR attitudes, completion rates, effect on enjoyment and confidence, effects on mechanics, neatness, creativity, time management, the software package and gender differences. Beck and Fetherston’s (2003) research is carried out according to acceptable research methods, presents a logical argument and is well organized, clear, and easy to


read. However, there are some discrepancies. The most important term in their article is “word processor” and unfortunately they do not define it clearly and, furthermore, consider a software package to function in the same way. In addition, they use the terms interchangeably, which has the potential to be confusing for their audience. While reading the article, a number of questions came to mind regarding sufficient evidence for Beck and Fetherston’s arguments and findings. First of all, because the group of students they observed was so small, I do not believe that their findings could be correlated to other similar groups of students in the western world. Secondly, I presume that the audience of their article would be other primary years teachers, such as myself. However, they do not present and refute opposing points of view, which had me wondering if there was an ulterior motive to the purpose of their study. These questions aside, this article helped me to understand the subject, students using computers for writing. In conclusion, I believe that this article has the potential to be an important contribution to the field of primary years education. Beck and Fetherston’s (2003) statement, “A word processor, if implemented into the curriculum should not be used merely in isolation to perform unrelated tasks, or used as a reward tool” (p. 141) evokes a response from me in that technology, and word processors in this case, hold the potential to be integrated into instruction in order to personalize student learning.

INCORPORATING A WORD PROCESSOR Reference: Beck, N., & Fetherston, T. (2003). The effects of incorporating a word processor into a year three writing program. Information Technology in Childhood Education Annual, 139-161.


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