By pen or by keyboard? The effects of writing mode on the online writing processes of adolescent students with written language disabilities.

By pen or by keyboard? The effects of writing mode on the online writing processes of adolescent students with written language disabilities.

First Author: Scott Beers -- Seattle Pacific University
Additional authors/chairs: 
Terry Mickail
Keywords: Writing, Dyslexia, Learning disability or difficulty, Adolescent
Abstract / Summary: 

Purpose
For students with written language disabilities, keyboarding instead of handwriting is often recommended as an accommodation, despite little evidence that these students benefit. This study asks: How does writing mode (handwriting vs. keyboarding) affect the online composing processes of adolescent students with and without written language disabilities?

Method
Students (aged 11-14) were recruited and screened for written language disabilities, resulting in three groups: dyslexia (n=20), dysgraphia (n=19), and typically developing (n=15). Students wrote autobiographical narratives, using either a stylus and digital tablet or a word processor. The following process and text data were collected: total composing time, total words, words composed per minute, frequency and average length of pauses in production, average length of language bursts (words produced in between pauses), and spelling errors.

Results
Main effects across writing mode indicated that when keyboarding, students paused more frequently (p = .000), composed in shorter language bursts (p = .000), composed more words (p = .004), and wrote for longer times overall (p = .022). There were no differences for words/minute.

Post-hoc comparisons indicated significant differences between typically developing students and students with dyslexia, but not students with dysgraphia. Typically developing students had longer language bursts for both handwriting (p = .045) and keyboarding (p = .031), more words per minute (p = .036, .033), and fewer spelling errors (p = .000, .000). When keyboarding, students with dyslexia also composed fewer words (p = .039).

Conclusions
For adolescent students, keyboarding appears to facilitate some aspects of writing production (total words), but at a potential cost to writing fluency (more pauses, shorter language bursts). For students with dyslexia, who tend to compose shorter language bursts than their peers, keyboarding may bring more costs than benefits.