The Surprising Effect Technology Has on Kids' Writing

A recent study from Pew Research says technology is shaping students' writing in a myriad of ways.

The positive side of technologies such as social networking sites, cell phones, and texting encourage personal expression and creativity.  It also broadens the audience for students' written material and encourages them to write more often than prior generations.

Among teachers...
  • 96% agree that technology “allows students to share their work with a wider and more varied audience.”
  • 79% agree that technology “encourages greater collaboration among students.”
  • 78% agree that technology “encourages student creativity and personal expression.”
At the same time, there are unique challenges of teaching writing in the digital age.  This includes formal writing assignments and educating students about issues such as plagiarism and fair use.

Among teachers...
  • 68% say technology makes students more likely to take shortcuts and not put effort into their writing.
  • 46% say technology makes students more likely to “write too fast and be careless.”
  • 40% say technology makes students more likely to “use poor spelling and grammar."
  • 88% spend class time “discussing with students the concepts of citation and plagiarism.”
  • 75% spend class time “discussing with students the concepts of fair use and copyright.”
Despite these challenges, 50% of teachers say technology makes it easier for them to teach writing, while just 18% say technology makes teaching writing more difficult.  The remaining 31% see no real impact.
Figure 2

Many teachers are using technology to help teach writing:
  • 52% of teachers say they or their students use interactive whiteboards in their classes.
  • 40% have students share their work on wikis, websites or blogs.
  • 36% have students edit or revise their own work and 29% have students edit others’ work using collaborative web-based tools such as GoogleDocs.
  • 56% say technology makes their students more likely to write well because they can revise their work easily.
Alongside the use of technolgy to promote better writing, almost all teachers surveyed say they encourage their students to do at least some writing by hand.

Their reasons are varied, but many teachers noted that because students are required to write by hand on standardized tests, it is a critical skill for them to have.

Other teachers also say they feel students do more active thinking, synthesizing, and editing when writing by hand, and writing by hand discourages any temptation to copy and paste others’ work.

How do you think technology has affected kids' writing?  Positively?  Negatively?

The floor is yours.  Share your thoughts with us in the comment section below.