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From a couple of days ago, Steve mentions an article that came across the NCTE Inbox, about the relationship between evaluation of computer-printed and handwritten texts. Among the conclusions:

Researchers examining how evaluators approach student writing on tests have found that computer-printed essays are frequently scored more harshly than handwritten essays.

Steve raises a good point, which is that this question assumes that pen and paper is a common starting point for all writers (and hence that computer processed text has gone through a second draft or revision and should be more polished). My build on that is to turn back to Chrstina Hass's work in Writing Technology, another of those should-be-read-far-more-often-than-it-actually-is books. I wonder if what's being noticed by evaluators isn't some of the weakness that Hass hypothesizes in that book, namely that writers who work exclusively by screen have a less developed text sense than those who work "by hand."

It's an interesting question to me because, a couple of weeks ago, I shared with a group of students the results of an experiment that I participated in, as part of one of my TA training courses, way back when. The group was split into two groups, and each was given a couple of paragraphs, one handwritten and the other typed (or word-processed), and each group was to suggest a grade for their writing sample. And yes, they were the same text, and yes, the handwritten one received a grade a full letter grade lower than the typed one.

So it makes me curious. I wonder too if the critical response to printed text doesn't have something to do with the fact that handwritten text is more difficult to look through (yeah, I'm talking Lanham here). I sometimes have difficulty spelling certain words (gauge and guard are two of my nemeses), but that difficulty is heightened when I'm handwriting them. I can often tell a word is misspelled simply because the word itself is shaped oddly, but obviously that's only true when it's printed out. As I write this, that sounds like I'm "looking at," but actually I'm only peripherally aware of the word itself when I sense a misspelling. In other words, the uniformity of text makes it easier for me to sense "errors."

And I've deadened that sense considerably over the past few years. I find now that I have to read a second time for language to catch stuff that I would have noticed easily once upon a time.

On a completely unrelated note, I'd love to see a smaller, more specialized version of the Inbox. I often gloss over it simply bc I get it so often, and bc so little of it holds any real interest for me. As a result, I sometimes miss stuff I shouldn't. Inbox is effectively an email-based syndication feed, and it may be the single smartest thing NCTE has done with technology--now we just need to learn from it...

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This page contains a single entry by cgbrooke published on March 3, 2004 8:28 PM.

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