Friday, March 29th, 2013
Texting and term papers, NBD
Students, teachers not too concerned over technology's impact on spelling
By Eric Adams
Whether the perpetual evolution of word processing and communication technology is a detriment to grammar and mechanics is debatable.
Chuck Smith, a 20-year member and current chair of the Celina High School English department, recently expressed that spell check, while a useful tool, should not be relied on too heavily.
"Some students don't understand what it can and can't do," Smith said. "If they don't proofread carefully, they may find that it didn't do what they thought ... especially with autocorrect, where it's changed a word you're using to something completely out of left field. It's a matter of attention."
Chris Miller, who has taught at Coldwater schools since 2005, said he enjoys how spell check "streamlines the (writing) process" for his students.
Miller said the context of writing matters more than anything.
"(Spell check) helps you when writing to not lose your train of thought," he said. "It has not been a detriment, even for myself."
Angela Evers, a senior student in Smith's AP English class, admitted spell check makes her less inclined to grammatically analyze essays.
"If (spell check) didn't exist, I would probably have better structure," Evers said. "I think it ruins how people are able to write."
Evers' classmate Chase Owens added "the human eye is always better."
"I feel like the English language is just so complicated in the first place that it's gonna be hard to build that perfectly into a computer," he said.
Smith views technological breakthroughs as just the latest adaptation of our language. He said the greatest difficulty with current students is mitigating their use of texting shorthand.
"Our task as teachers is to make sure they understand they need the right mode of communication for the right situation. They need to be able to still write in a semi-formal way," he said.
Common crossover texting terms are LOL (laughing out loud), NBD (no big deal), obvi (obviously), BTW (by the way), totes (totally) and probs (problem).
"I've had people say LOL to me, and I'm like 'why don't you just laugh?' " senior Brianna Beougher said.
"It's a way to sound informal with your friends," student Miranda Werling said, admitting texting has been a "detriment to her mechanics" because she does not often punctuate her messages.
AP English senior Ally Riley said she despises texting shorthand and has noticed even adults use it.
"I still spell things out and use punctuation," she said.
Students overwhelmingly rejected the idea that abbreviations would ever breach the academic realm.
"If it is (accepted), that is the day our society fails," Owens said.
"That would be awful," Evers added. "But it's in TV shows, so it's accepted for manuscripts."
Miller said he is proud of his students for keeping their academic papers free of text speak. He was not completely opposed to the notion of an eventual linguistic blending, however.
"Pretty soon the dictionary will be deliberating on whether (abbreviations) should be included," he said. "I think overall that would help us communicate cross-generationally ... usage determines everything."
Smith, who began teaching when the PC was first rising to prominence, said he is not troubled by technology's influence on student writing.
"You could see these (changes) coming; once the personal computer caught on ... you could see the way people gathered and disseminated information was starting to change," he said.
For Miller, one especially impressive technological innovation has been the smartphone. He thinks the phones should be implemented for classroom research.
"The volume of information contained in these devices ... we need to allow these kids to use that," he said.
Smith said the rapid advancements in technology have changed "traditional" ways of communicating.
"Younger kids are communicating outside of their immediate sphere more, at a younger age," he said, adding his daughter holds frequent correspondence via Skype with a former German exchange student. "Before, that would be letters. Now it's more personal, more immediate and not as dependent on traditional communication skills like writing."
Smith said overall he has not noticed a decline in skills among his students.
"It's changed in the way they communicate. They're just as skilled but juggling different things than students juggled 10 years ago," he said.