Word processing

Word processing is the writing, manipulating, and storing of textual material in a com- puterized medium, and it is a tool that has become a vital everyday function in class- rooms, offices, and homes. Advanced software features now allow users to move beyond these simple operations to interact with other software, to embed multimedia elements into documents, and to easily save files in web-ready format. (See Table 2.2.)

Word Processing in Education

Word processing is often the first use of computers in classrooms because its capabili- ties can quickly improve efficiency of PreK–12 students and teachers alike. Word proces- sors in the classroom can expand the horizons of learning in ways not possible before this technology was available. Users can produce professional-quality documents with the limitless ability to edit, change layouts, and reformat. As students and teachers create documents, the word processor prompts them to consider how the material will appear on the printed page, including choices about margins, spacing, and fonts.

Spelling and vocabulary are other areas

in which students are provided with instant feedback. By using the spell check feature, students can tell whether a word is spelled incorrectly and often can select the correct spelling. The thesaurus feature provides a list of words with similar meanings, allowing students to vary word choice and to aug- ment their written vocabulary. Grammar check features highlight any problematic sen- tence structure, encouraging students to consider options for rewording. The immediacy of these individualized help options promotes continuous learning, prevents students from repeating errors, and extends the teacher’s capabilities by offering another dimension of assistance to students.

By using a word processor’s many func- tions, students can produce better first drafts that are eye-pleasing and easy for the teacher to read and grade. Students are able to see their work as valued, and are more able and likely to make revisions, retrieving the original and making the necessary changes, without having to reproduce the whole text. Composing text on the screen is a new skill made possible by word processors (see Figure  2.1).

Depending  on  the  age  and abilities of students and the type of work being done, the steps of handwriting a rough draft and then typing a final version can be bypassed. On-screen composition requires different organizational and mental skills, which likely will be necessary for future employment. Teachers also might prefer to evaluate text on screen rather than from a printed copy. The editing feature enables collaborative writing processes between teach- ers and students as well as among peer teams. One piece of writing can be edited by multiple people, thereby encompassing a variety of expertise and viewpoints. The time saved for both student and teacher is one of the positive aspects of word processing.

Content areas such as history, social studies, English, foreign languages, science, and the arts also benefit from the use of word processing. On any level, teachers can prepare lesson plans, examinations, and other classroom materials using a word processor (see Chapters 8–10). The material can be updated from year to year as nec- essary without having to recreate the whole body of information. In addition, teachers can administer and grade exams and quizzes using a word processor (see Chapter 15). Word processing can assist educators to meet professional and administrative needs, including writing manuscripts, research reports, grant proposals, and public relations materials (see Chapter 12).

How Does This Look In The Classroom?

  1. Teach students peer editing by using the editing features in word processing software. Have one student distribute a piece of writing electronically to a series of partners. The Track Changes feature automatically saves each editor’s contributions in a different color. If students have the ability to change their user information, each student’s com- ments will also appear with the author’s initials.
  2. Experiment with different fonts and text formatting as a design study. Have students discuss how the perception of a piece of text changes when formatted in various ways.

  3. Tables are simple ways to format student work pages, from fill-in-the-blanks to  lab reports to flash cards. Either print for students to work with on paper, or protect the document as a form so students can fill in on screen.

  4. Design templates for reuse in a range of assignments, such as a template for a picture story book or report in which students can enter their text and insert clip art or photos. Teach students to open templates from an easy-to-find folder and Save As to their own directory or disk.

  5. Use the Auto Style formatting to demonstrate the organization of a paper with multi- ple heading levels. Students can quickly see whether their headings are organized by viewing the paper in Outline view.

TABLE 2.2 Word Processing Fundamentals

Many characteristics are common to most word processing software, so that once learned, users can typically transfer similar skills among different    programs.

Break A break is a mark inserted to manually separate pages, columns, or sections so that text can be segmented or formatting can be customized.

Bullet An individual character that marks the items in a list is a bullet.

Columns It is often desirable to present text in multiple vertical sections on one page, similar to newspaper text. Text in columns can continue from one column to another on the same page and onto subsequent pages, with the word wrap function keeping the text within the defined column width.

Grammar The Grammar Check command identifies grammatical mistakes in the document and

Check suggests alternate wording.

Insert The insert feature allows the user to add items to the text of a document, such as pictures, other files, objects, comments, and symbols.

Justify The word processor can easily produce text with even, or justified, right and left margins.

Merge The merge function allows information from two or more documents to be combined. The classroom teacher can use the merge function to combine a form letter with a document containing student and parent names and addresses so that the letters appear to be individualized for each family.

Spacing Spacing refers to how many blank line spaces there are between lines of text. The usual defaults are single spacing and double spacing, although there are capabilities for half-line spacing options as well.

Spell Check Spell checking features use a preloaded dictionary of common words. The spell checker will highlight  words  that  are  spelled  incorrectly  or  that  are  not  recognized,  when  activated either manually or automatically as words are typed. The user may then select the correct    word from a list of choices or type the correct spelling. Some common words can be       corrected automatically as they are    typed.

Tab Similar to a typewriter tab, the cursor moves a predetermined number of spaces to the right each time the tab key is pressed.

Tables Tables consist of individual cells arranged in any configuration of rows and columns, limited only by the width of the document itself. Table columns and rows can be manipulated in much the same way as other text, such as inserted, deleted, moved, and copied. When revising a document, each column is treated as a separate block of text or media elements and can be changed without affecting other columns.

Thesaurus The thesaurus will, on command, produce a list of words of similar meaning that may be substituted for a given word. If the list contains a more appropriate word, the user may then instruct the computer to exchange a word for the given word.

Track This feature allows multiple writers to edit a single document, marking insertions and

Changes deletions in different colors for each user.