Hey, here's a thing that's suddenly not cheating anymore: using a computer spell checker on school writing exams. This week's top head-shaking sign of the times is courtesy of Oregon, now condoning the practice for middle and high schoolers.
If this sounds utterly asinine to you—well, you're right! Everyone uses spellcheck. It's wonderful. It's convenient. But, at a certain age, it's not an instructive tool, but a way to keep yourself from inadvertently looking like an idiot. It corrects mistakes. But a fifth grader? He probably isn't sure how to spell a lot of words to begin with. At this point, being given a magic word wand while trying to prove his aptitude with the English language isn't a fallback—it's a crutch. And it's going to hurt that kid's ability to write.
But! The state of Oregon seems to disagree: "We are not letting a student's keyboarding skills get in the way of being able to judge their writing ability," explains state Superintendent Susan Castillo. Now pardon me while I load my spellchecker, but I'm not really sure what this is supposed to mean. Aren't "keyboarding skills" the use of a keyboard to correctly type a word? Isn't that... spelling? Is the use of a keyboard—which enables a human being to write far faster than with any pen and paper—really what's holding back a spelling-challenged kiddo? This line of defense also crumbles once you read that spellchecking will be available to those taking the paper version of the test too, as OregonLive reports.
The easiest way to learn how to spell a word right is to spell it wrong and be corrected. By giving kids a digital cheat sheet for every word in their written language, they won't have to learn anything. The school defends the system by pointing to the fact that misspelled words won't be automatically corrected, but will rather prompt kids to pick from a few options, one of which will contain the properly spelled word. Which, again, teaches nothing—the prompt will ever be a freebie or a futile test-within-a-test. Quick tip, Oregon: if they knew how to spell it right, they would have spelled it right to begin with.
Technology is a great way to learn. I credit an inordinate volume of the things I know (some of them more valuable than others—whatup obscure Wikipedia pages on Star Wars characters!) to the use of a computer. But the line between help and hindrance can be thin. And with American teens already sending and receiving a nauseating 3,339 texts a month (I am a hypocrite), spelling will count more now than ever—lest we want the next great American novel to be written like a series of 2 AM drunk tweets. [OregonLive]