REFERENCE: Franklin, S. (1991). Breathing life into reluctant writers: The Seattle Public Schools Laptop Project. The Writing Notebook, 8(4), 40-42.
CONTEXT: This article focuses on three different laptop programs
established within the Seattle Public Schools with the goal of improving the writing
skills of "a group of bright, verbally articulate, but at-risk students identified as
'reluctant writers'." (p. 40) The programs included Alternative School #1, Asa Mercer
Middle School, and Middle College High School. Many of these "dysgraphic"
students could not write even a simple sentence; writing assignments typical of their age
group were out of the question. Their often illegible handwriting added to their
frustration and contributed to academic and self esteem problems.
The author reviews some of the advantages computers in general and laptops in particular provide to students, including:
PRACTICE: At Alternative School #1, an "experiential learning center
for grades K-8, students begin writing on laptops in kindergarten by copying letters and
reading words which match those in their story-books. The more experienced sixth through
eighth grade students pair up with the younger students and help them with their stories.
Some of the older students write ongoing books, similar to historical diaries, in which
they relate the assignment topic to their own life. An exciting grant project undertaken
in conjunction with the Seattle Group Theater involves a weekly multicultural dance, song
and story presentation following which the students use their laptops to write their own
stories based on the particular culture presented. They then create masks to help tell
their story and present both at a multicultural pageant. In a follow-up activity, five
small groups of these students will work cooperatively, using their laptops to create a
playlet which combines the five masks into one story. The students will focus on
expressing in writing the feelings they experience while wearing the masks of their
At the inner city Asa Mercer Middle School, all 33 students will work on their own laptops in the seventh grade language arts class. In progressing from writing simple sentences to more complex sentences to paragraphs and then into papers, the students progress through three basic steps:
Benefits the teacher sees include:
The teacher plans to have a laptop for each student so they can write their individual
papers directly on the computer. "At that point, my students will be able to practice
content editing and revising using the laptops. I'm looking forward to seeing how the
laptops affect the composing process - and their enthusiasm for writing and publishing
longer pieces (p. 41)."
Middle College High School (MCHS), a unique Seattle high school which opened in 1990 on the campus of Seattle Central community college, seeks to reinstate drop-out youth (ages 15-20) in a quality high school completion program. Writing and research papers in all major classes are standard across the curriculum. All MCHS students routinely use laptops to create, draft, and revise their writing (particularly in science classes), carry them to the library for note taking, and take notes in class (particularly those attending college classes).
Laptop Project Coordinator Moses Howard indicates that the students "have
discovered a new 'open sesame' to writing success . . . The laptop has created a positive
attitude toward writing, and in so doing has assisted us greatly in unlocking the
educational potential of our students (p.42)." Not only are they stimulated to write,
but also students think alone and remain focused when using laptops. Laptops have become
an important tool for students to use in the core curriculum, and as a general means of
communicating in writing. Staff found that students felt more comfortable writing thoughts
on the computer than they did on paper. Many students wrote about very personal problems
and made progress in solving issues that were impeding achievement. Now one of the biggest
problems is that they're always running out of batteries!
CONTACT(S): Sharon Franklin, The Writing Notebook, TWN Editorial Officers, P.O. Box 1268, Eugene, OR 97440-1268. (503) 344-7125.
Collection Table of Contents
[ Home | Library | Videos | Tour | Spotlight | Workshops | Links ]
This material was developed by the National Center to Improve Practice (NCIP), located at Education Development Center, Inc. in Newton, Massachusetts. NCIP was funded by the U.S. Department of Education, Office of Special Education Programs from October 1, 1992 - September 30, 1998, Grant #H180N20013. Permission is granted to copy and disseminate this information. If you do so, please cite NCIP. Contents do not necessarily reflect the views or policies of the Department of Education, nor does mention of trade names, commercial products, or organizations imply endorsement by NCIP, EDC, or the U.S. Government. This site was last updated in September 1998.
ŠEducation Development Center, Inc.