Are Digital Devices the Reason Why Kids Can’t Write?
Many parents who look at the messages sent back and forth in their children’s smart phones wonder if schools are even teaching writing these days. After all, the conversations seem to be full of acronyms and emojis, hardly the stuff that made Mark Twain or Louisa May Alcott great writers and less likely to help their children write at all.
The language that kids use for informal chatting and messaging in their digital devices is only one type of writing. Are these digital devices the reason why kids can’t write?
If you’re thinking about handwriting, maybe. Cursive handwriting has advantages over typing and IMing, but we’re talking about writing instruction that fosters communication skills and develops critical thinking – and whether or not digital devices help or hinder writing instruction.
Taking out a blank piece of paper and writing on it terrifies many students. The written word’s sense of permanency can stop inspiration in its tracks, and that’s why traditional writing is difficult for many students. What if it’s wrong? It can seem like the mistakes are set in stone.
Yet kids love communicating with digital devices because the task of writing is more authentic. Students can Google information that will add to class discussions or maybe the word they’re looking for is on the tip of their tongues and OneLook Reverse Dictionary will help them find it.
Struggling writers may find assistive technology useful in improving their ability to communicate.
Critical thinking skills
Writing requires critical thinking. Most writers will tell you that they seek first to understand a concept before they can explain it in writing, and that takes analysis, evaluation, and synthesis. Having the right tools can facilitate the thinking process during writing.
If tools can strengthen writer skill, why not give kids the tools they need for writing at every stage of the process? Digital devices can get kids thinking critically from the very beginning of their writing. Popplet is a mind-mapping tool for prewriting, and Sentence Builder helps students formulate complete thoughts.
Writing correction apps require sophisticated critical thinking. For example, grammar and usage apps like Grammarly or Hemingway Editor are quick to point out possible mistakes in writing, but the writer must analyze each suggestion, accepting it or ignoring it based on intended meaning.
Kids can do a lot more than some adults give them credit for. If we teach students how to use digital tools at every step in the writing process, they will learn to write and think critically, and they’ll master formal writing just as quickly as they have mastered informal writing.
Digital devices are the reason kids can write!