An examination of the effects of using a word processing system on the quality of essays composed by low vision students
Mercer, Dixie Faye
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Recent technological advances have made microcomputers more accessible to visually handicapped individuals. A potentially important ramification of this accessibility is the capability of low vision school students to learn to utilize word processors/text editors in composition tasks. Empirical research into the impact of word processor/text editor use on the composition skills and habits of regular and special education students is limited. However, previous studies suggest that positive modifications in revision techniques, length of essay, and motivation of students to write occur as a result of word processor use. No research was identified as a part of this study which deals directly with the impact of word processor use by the visually handicapped. Four low vision public school students participated in this study. A single subject, multiple baseline approach was used in order to assess the impact of text editor use on the quality of composition by these low vlson subjects when compared to the quality of compositions produced by the same subjects using a typewriter. Specifically, three research questions were posited. 1) Do low vision subjects produce compositions of higher quality, when a text editor rather than a typewriter Is used as the composition device? Three variables were measured in connection with this question. Quality of subjects' essays were evaluated by holistic raters, and scores were compared. An index was computed which measured the spelling performance of each subject on each essay. Finally, the Test of Written Language (Hammill and Larsen, 1978) was administered to the subjects on a pre/posttest basis. 2) Do low vision subjects produce written materials faster (measured by the number of words typed per minute) when the text editor is used? Examination of this question included two variables. The subjects produced standard typing test scores, and a measure was taken of the number of words produced in total composition time. 3) Do low vision subjects produce longer essays (as measured by the total number of words written) when they use the text editor? Positive results were identified for each of the three research questions.