Egbert, Ch. 9
The limitations mentioned here are good topics to consider. There are obviously a number of issues, cultural, physical, and personal, that come into play. Working in publishing, I am hyper-aware of the plagiarism issue, and I always take extra care in choosing and citing any source I have used in developing material. With access to something like Wikipedia, however, the lines become blurry. We do not have a way of knowing whether or not the posted material on Wikipedia is from a new or a "borrowed" source. It is very tricky. Between Wikis, You Tube, and the like, these are the questions that keep creators of new material up at night. However, our best defense is a good offense (another example of an uncited quote--it has been called an old adage, but who came up with it?), and we should teach our students whatever the accepted norm in our milieu is. They need to learn our cultural values and legal restrictions insofar as their work will be evaluated based on these rules, and we must explain the impact that an obviously plagiarized work will have on their grade and credibility (all depending on where we are teaching them).
For visually impaired students, working in the Microsoft tools set should not be a problem--we would just have to teach them where the tools are to maximize the pages/fonts they are working on. Again, these issues just come down to training our students on how to use the technology we are requiring of them. Of course, if we were training students to use a chemistry set or a globe/map for a project, we would teach them how to use these tools before requiring a particular outcome, and the same should be said of digital or analog technology.
Additionally, we should consider these limitations that may arise: certain groups, such as the Amish or the Hutterites, often prohibit or restrict the use of computers as part of their unique laws (reflecting social, religious, or communal values). These cultural mores must be considered. The options here must include paper versions of assignments, including providing paper versions of any necessary reference materials.
In terms of the spell-check or handwriting questions Egbert notes, it seems to be a matter of balance. Our ELLs (and native speakers even) often use phonetic spelling as they are learning vocabulary. I think knowing the "best" way to spell something is important, but much less so today in the global reality we are living. There is a chosen dialect in each region that prescribes the accepted spelling rules for that area (North American vs. British English, for example), but with so many dialects and varieties of English around the world, and with the proliferation of chat rooms, e-mails, and text messages, the plain truth is that the importance of "proper" spelling has been lessening steadily for some time. Spelling has always changed over time, anyway--has anyone in this class tried to read an Old English or Middle English text?? And of course, that will cause conniptions among many sticklers, but I live in the real world. Therefore, my solution is that the students who need it use spell-check when possible, but not for a test situation. Spelling bees are still really great, but let's look at things in the context of real world language use. I have friends who are smart and successful native English speakers whose spelling is simply tragi-comic, but very few people think any less of them for it. Modifications are, by their nature, personalized to the student and his or her needs, anyway, and it should not take an undue amount of time to come to an agreement on the best way to serve a student in a situation such as this.