Computer anxiety and the computerized writing classroom: A qualitative and quantitative study

Michael Walter Gos, Purdue University


Beginning in the mid-1980s, there has been a move toward using computers in writing classrooms at all levels. While the reviews of their effectiveness are mixed, computers continue to play a larger role in the teaching of composition as time goes on, possibly because today, and in the foreseeable future, computers are the way we write at work. Traditionally, students have been excluded from literacy, and hence, empowerment, because of economics and social class. But today, with the predominance of computerized writing, both in the classroom and at work, we are finding a new exclusionary factor is surfacing--computer anxiety. This study, structured in two phases, looks at computer anxiety in the composition classroom in an effort to find ways to deal with the problem so students can succeed at computerized writing. Phase one consisted of a multiple case study of two computer anxious students and preliminary quantitative studies of six other computer anxious students. Phase two examined 185 subjects with respect to prior experience and eight computer anxious subjects on various personality traits. Findings show that computer anxiety is strongly correlated not with experience, but rather with the pleasantness or unpleasantness of prior experience (r =.75954). Subjects in the study who had no previous experience with computers also were without anxiety. Further, computer anxiety may actually be programming anxiety in disguise. Students who were computer anxious often talked about bad programming experiences as the genesis of their problem. Students who did prior planning, and were adventuresome and/or self-reliant had a better chance of overcoming computer anxiety than did their less adventuresome and self-reliant counterparts. Task avoidance, composing with pen and paper, and editing on screen may all predispose the computer anxious student to failure in overcoming the problem. The results of this study suggest that instructors in computerized composition classes should identify computer anxious students when possible, strongly discourage absences, especially early in the course, pay special attention to keeping the students on-task as much as possible, and encourage them to write on line, but edit on hard copy.




Evans, Purdue University.

Subject Area

Curricula|Teaching|Educational software

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