Why is Microsoft Word better than paper?

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In my previous post, New year's resolutions for modern learners, I discussed how the data that Microsoft Word automatically generates can be used by students to make better decisions about their own learning. Today I want to keep that theme going at look at some other reasons why having students use Microsoft Word is much better than having them use paper.

Microsoft Word can combine documents.

Modern technology has seen a move to a remix culture. Very rarely to when writing in real life do we start with a blank document. Rather, when writing for a specific purpose, we first see what already exists that will increase the quality of our writing. With Microsoft Word copy and paste is no doubt the most widely used tool for this purpose, but there are other features we can use, such as the combine documents feature. Is remixing and building on the work of others a necessary skill that our students need to have to become competent modern writers?

Microsoft Word's "track changes" allows multiple students and teachers to edit the same document.

Modern technology has made it very easy for students (or anyone) to get feedback on their work and ideas. Microsoft Word's track changes are a quantum leap compared to receiving feedback written on paper. The days of students lining up at the teachers desk so that their work can be checked are long gone. Using the track changes feature of Word enables multiple users to give feedback on a piece of writing, opening up peer editing and equipping students as skilled editors, in addition to being skilled writers.


Microsoft Word can compare two versions of same document.

When writing with paper, a writing piece typically goes through a number of drafts before it is completed. When using Word we can take this idea of a draft and use it not only for improving the document but also for assessment. Assessment by the teacher and self-assessment by the student. The compare feature in Word can be used to understand how the student has improved the piece of writing, it can illuminate the editing process and thus identify strengths and weaknesses.


Microsoft Word can check spelling.

Probably the most obvious of the lot, but it must be said that the humble spell check enables writers to be more confident about the words they use in their writing and thus write wither a wider vocabulary.

Microsoft Word can allow the writers to add additional comments.

The comment tool in Microsoft Word can be used for many reasons. I like seeing students narrate their writing process. Get your students to use the comments to explain the purpose of each section of the pieces is for. This will give additional context as they and others proofread and edit the document eg. Is it clear what the writer is trying to convey in this section?

Microsoft Word can create multiple copies of a piece of writing.

Again, very obvious but extremely powerful. With paper we are bound by a single copy with modern technologies we are not? What does this make possible? Reuse of work? Multiple proofreaders? Multiple publication points? The list is endless.

And for the sake of completeness, from my previous post:

The data that Microsoft Word automatically generates can be used to help the writer make decisions about the quality and effectiveness of their writing.

In summary, modern technologies, like Microsoft Word, open up new possibilities for our students. When using them we need to look deeper and ask ourselves "what is now possible?"

Questions for commenters: What other reasons make writing with Microsoft Word better than paper?

What are the higher expectations you ave of your students when writing with Microsoft Word rather than with paper?

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