Green Squiggly Lines:

Integrating Micro- and Macro-Levels of Response: The Place for Student Voices?

In word processing-or at least in word processing where spelling and grammar checkers are enabled, the feedback-the formative comments students receive from their software-is not idea oriented, but rather based on surface errors-mechanics and spelling. Writing with a word processor, the feedback from the software is formative and it is focused on error correction.

These two modes of response to student writing are combined in software but are interestingly from different ends of the spectrum in terms of approaches to teaching writing: error correction is most often be associated with what Jim Berlin (1987) called current traditional rhetoric and formative feedback is an ideal tool for engaging students in a process-based pedagogy. Yet, in the form of the word processor, we have a writing tool that combines these apparently opposite impulses.

We have micro-level, sentence-level feedback on mechanical errors but we have this feedback as the writer is writing not afterwards. In word processors, we have formative evaluation, Bloom and Bloom's (1967) dreamed of "symbolic presence" of the teacher intervening as the student is writing, but intervening only in relationship to surface features, in relationship to mechanics. The equation changes as students compose in word processing environments and the environments become capable of responding to student writing.