Handwriting, Writing Skills and Laptops

27 10 2008

There has been much debate about the use  technology and  the effect it may have on writing skills. 

Recently Naplan results were published and as a result questions were raised about the writing skills of “up coming” year 7 students. Below is a response to this debate and indeed one which is echoed  by a few of our leading technology schools in NSW.

The Armidale School for example has published the following statement.

The nature of school and state wide testing continues to dictate that students are required to take the bulk of tests by hand rather than with their laptop. With this in mind, it is school policy that handwriting skills and handwriting activities will remain as regular activities across the curriculum. This is particularly the case in senior years as students prepare for the external exams of the School Certificate and HSC. However, this is not to say that the use of laptops for writing tasks causes a deterioration of handwriting skills. Though it may seem counter-intuitive, research from a very large scale study (Silvernail and Gritter, University ofSouthern Maine, 2007) of the impact of 1:1 laptop use on writing skills in the US state of Maine over a five year period has found that laptop use has a positive impact on writing skills. It is argued that as students learn to take advantage of computers for writing, their writing strategies change. Revisions of drafts become easier and accepted as a normal part of the process, improving the overall quality of writing. The study concludes that using laptops for developing and producing writing helps students to become better writers both when using a laptop and when writing in longhand. 

The research report may be found at:


Ready access to on-line resources provides students with a wealth of material to assist their writing. At the same time it has focused attentionon problems of plagiarism across NSW and education on this issue is a part of the curriculum. This occurs at all year levels and in Year 10 all students complete the compulsory ʻAll Your Own Workʼ unit before commencing HSC studies. Students are expected to approach writing tasks using their laptop with the same attention to spelling, grammar, text type and format as they do when handwriting. Spelling and grammar checking functions on the laptop are important learning tools as they provide students with immediate feedback on their writing.


 regards John Coppola