Challenging the knee-jerk use of .doc in education

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I was pointed to this from SolidOffice. The article is “Critical Thinking About Word and .doc” in Kairosnews: A Weblog for Discussing Rhetoric, Technology and Pedagogy. It is must reading, in my opinion, if you just keep using .doc in education because you think everyone else does, and that’s just the way things are.

For example

Writing teachers have an obligation to explore the assumptions regarding the one tool we can’t do without in the teaching of writing, the word processor. The following will explore some of the common reasons I believe people continue to use and promote MS Office and its file formats, and I will challenge some of the assumptions behind those reasons and the consequences.


I doubt teachers can immediately switch from .doc to ODF, and many teachers will likely continue using Word. But ten years ago, we successfully taught writing with word processing software. There are applications today other than Word with a wider range of features than what was available then. Weigh the pedagogical benefits of using Word now against how you taught writing then and the problems with using Word outlined here and others you can think of. Make an informed decision. Be willing to inform your students about the implications of using Word and .doc.

One Comment

  1. It would be nice if educators taught ‘writing’ as writing.

    The likely tools are ‘pencil-and-papel’ (which still work, surprisingly), ‘open-source tools’ ( ) and ‘commercial products’ (of which the dominant one is Microsoft Word; IBM has one by the name of Lotus WordPro; but if no-one ever buys another copy of WordPro then I don’t think IBM will be too sad. The IBM salesman has other products and services to sell.)

    I suspect some of the reason for specifying Microsoft Word formats is the ‘lock-in’ contract that schools have with Microsoft’s distribution partners; unless a school decides to drop all its Microsoft software in the bin, it doesn’t free up any money to invest in anything else.

    Teachers can switch. They can make ‘reviseable’ documents available in ‘.doc’, ISO ODF XML, and pencil-and-paper form. It will take a little more time, but it will succeed in communicating to a wider audience.

    And they could choose to accept submissions from their students in the ISO format, of course. As well as any vendor-specific formats they can handle.

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