Monday, October 3, 2011

Research Supporting the Benefits of Technology In Reading and Writing

Despite the fact that we’re well into the 21st century innovative educators often still have to make a case for using the tools of the world inside school. This post was written for those looking to justify their decision to use technology to support readers and writers.  Below you will find a compilation of research that outlines the benefits of technology in supporting readers and writers.

Effects of Computer Versus Paper Administration of a State-Mandated Writing Assessment
This article reports that open-ended Language Arts items that require students to generate responses using paper and pencil severely underestimate the achievement of students accustomed to writing using a computer. The article concludes by recommending that state testing programs that employ open-ended items in Language Arts provide students with the option of composing responses on paper or on computer. -Read the results of the study here.

Using Technology to Improve the Literacy Skills of Students with Disabilities
Summary of best practices in using technology to improve the literacy skills of students receiving special education services.  Topics include common literacy problems, suggestions for including assessment info into IEP development, and tools to enhance literacy skills of students with disabilities.  

Writing, Technology and Teens
This Pew Internet report indicates that teens write a lot, but they do not think of their emails, instant and text messages as writing. This disconnect matters because teens believe good writing is an essential skill for success and that more writing instruction at school would help them. I caution readers of this report to note that results in this report have much to do with that fact that few schools value real-world writing for authentic audiences as “real writing” and often don’t empower students to use tech ubiquitously for writing as writers in the real-world have access to.

iPads Make Better Readers, Writers
In a research paper titled “Unlocking Literacy with iPad,” Ohio English teacher James Harmon found that state-compiled statistics indicate that those students with iPad access in the year leading up to the Ohio Graduation Test had a 6-percent greater chance of passing the test’s reading portion than those without, and an 8-percent greater chance of passing the writing portion.

Writing Next Report
This report identifies 11 elements of current writing instruction found to be effective for helping
4th- to 12th-grade students learn to write well and to use writing as a tool for learning. The report is missing attention to 21st century writing skills such as writing for authentic audiences and creating work that is not only text-based.  There is also little attention to global connection and collaboration which is generally seen my this report as something that age and location, rather than passion-driven, and age agnostic. 
Leaders Share How Tech Has Helped Students Learn
Leaders share how they have witnessed technology has enriched literacy classrooms with students who are more engaged, excited, and better behaved and teachers are more alive and motivated.  
The Role of Technology in Primary Grades Writing Instruction
Students showed an increase in both the quality of writing and the number of words and sentences produced. Student and teacher attitudes were favorable regarding the use of a computer for composition.

Computer Use Helps Students to Develop Better Writing Skills
Study indicating that students who practiced composing on word processors were able to write better compositions afterwards.

How has writing for a world wide audience changed the way you write?
Teacher captures students insights into the importance of writing for the world rather than for a grade in school such as: 
“Now I always write as if I’m talking to a large audience, even in school.”“It makes me keep in mind that anyone and everyone is able to see it so I do not want to say something I may regret or something that may be inappropriate.”“It makes me think that I can accomplish great things.”

Student Test Scores Improved in an English Literature Course through the Use of Supportive Devices
This study investigated whether a technology-rich environment used in an English Literature classroom would make an impact on students’ passing rate on their state-mandated reading test.

iPads Credited with Reading Gains
During the four weeks of instruction, the reading comprehension of the Calistoga preschoolers increased from 58.5 percent to 76.4 percent, said Eugene Narciso, COO of Footsteps 2 Brilliance™, which offered the interactive reading and vocabulary iPad program.
Read more about the program here and in this newspaper article. Read the data behind the study here.

If you have research to add, please share a link and description in the comments section.


  1. Thank you for compiling so many useful links. However, I'm somewhat puzzled by the number of reports claiming that computers can help improve a student's quality and length of writing. Other reports I've seen have claimed that the Internet encourages students to not care about their spelling and grammar, which is why the errors present on message boards, comment sections on Youtube, and so on are so prevalent. One report even claimed that frequent Internet usage can cause British children to have difficulty spelling their own names! Perhaps you can take a look at some of these reports and compare them to the works posted above for your next blog post?

  2. I've been throwing my hands up in the air for years at the fact that it's the 2000s and students are tested on writing using paper and pencil. Such things were out of date in the mid-1990s when I was in college.

    In fact, the whole standardized testing situation for writing in my state is screwed up. There's a multiple choice editing test and a hand-written essay where students are given one and only one prompt to answer with a five-paragraph essay.

    Would it not be more worthwhile for a student to work on a typed portfolio that he/she has to submit at the end of 11th grade (which is when we test this) in a variety of styles and topics? You would be able to get better stuff out of the students and it would probably make them want to write more than the way it's done now.

    But in the very least, you need to use computers, etc. for writing because in spite of warnings about bad grammar/spelling or lack of attention it's the primary tool for communication and the primary tool for writing in the business world and combining better writing with said computer skills is a must.

    Of course, such portfolios or other work would make testing companies have to do their jobs a little more. *tear*