According to Pew Research Center, 38% of teens say they have written “lol” in school assignments. ((Photo Credit: Adriana James-Rodil/Piktochart/Achona Online))
According to Pew Research Center, 38% of teens say they have written “lol” in school assignments.

(Photo Credit: Adriana James-Rodil/Piktochart/Achona Online)

The Effects Modern Technology has on Spelling

October 25, 2019

With the invention of modern technology, traditional ways of writing essays and assignments has transitioned from paper to laptop. Academy of the Holy Names is recognized as an Apple Distinguished School in which each high school student receives an IPad and Macbook Air which serves as one example of schools adopting modern technology.

High School Instructional Technology Specialist Deborah Collins commented on the advantage students have as a result of easy access to technology. Collins said, “Global communities seem so much smaller and closer. You can learn beyond what’s right in front of you, and be more connected with what’s going on all over the world. Printed textbooks become outdated very quickly [as well]. You can have the opportunity to research and learn the different perspectives on historical events and then take action from that. Having the ability to continue to learn on your own as you grow beyond these walls here is going to serve each of you a wonderful purpose down the road and into society.”

High school students today have a difficult time remembering a time when technology was not integrated into the classroom, and although it has its benefits, it may be at the expense of students knowing how to spell words correctly without help from auto-correct or the free-writing assistant Grammarly (it helps students “compose bold, clear, mistake-free writing”).

English teacher Virginia Pendleton said, “When I first started teaching, there weren’t devices. Students had textbooks, they wrote down things. They had grammatical rules they would remember like ‘i before e, except after c.’ Even in the honor code, everyone misspells receive, so I feel that there is such a heavy reliance on spell check and your computer to fix the mistake. I just see an exorbitant number of misspellings and grammatical mistakes in in-class essays which transfers to poor writing skills.”

For instance, several students at the Academy have Grammarly on their devices to assist them with writing essays. 

Maria-Paula Owens (‘20) uses Grammarly, and she said, “I mostly use it when I’m writing papers or important homework assignments. I want to make sure I didn’t mess up anything. [For instance] When I finish writing a paper, I copy and paste it in their [Grammarly], and it helps me see the tiny grammar mistakes that I may have missed. I know a lot of times I’ll be writing at night, and I don’t realize I make mistakes. It checks misspelled words; it suggests to put different pronouns and things. It catches everything under the radar of grammar.

English teachers from grades nine through 12 assign in-class, handwritten essays to their students. Eleventh grade Advanced Placement Language and Composition (AP Language) students, especially, have begun to have in-class essays frequently, in contrast to previous years, as they prepare for the AP Language exam which consists of writing three, handwritten essays under time constraints.

Teachers see the influence auto-correct or Grammarly has on their students’ handwritten essays.

“If you’re always running your essay through some sort of houser like Grammarly or through a tutor or through some sort of auto-generated word finder, then you will never learn how to appropriately locate the mistake and then learn how to fix it,” said Pendleton.

Along with spelling words incorrectly, some students also write informally in school assignments by using acronyms, such as “lol” (laugh out loud) and “nvm” (never mind), shortcuts for words, such as “r” and “u,” and emoticons—which stem from the texting culture teenagers have grown up in.

Nyonyose Varmah (‘23) said, “I usually do that sometimes, and I have to go back and redo my work. Nowadays we are texting a lot and just using acronyms instead of actually typing out words. Instead of spelling out you, we just type the letter ‘u.’ Instead of why, we just press the letter ‘y.’ That affects our school assignments because our brains doesn’t have to think that much anymore, and it’s affecting our grades because we are not getting full points [because we are not] typing out full words.” 

In April 2008, Pew Research Center released a report which found that 64% of teens “say they incorporate some informal styles from their text-based communications into their writing at school.”

As a result of modern technology, are students forgetting how to spell and losing touch with writing in formal language in school?

Pendleton said, “What you would do in a grocery list or a note to a friend is now somehow transferring to student written work. You need to use academic language. There’s this informality now with language. I always say it’s because of this overuse of technology.”  

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