Not too long ago I got a text.
When I read the text, I was unsure if I was reading English or if my friend was trying to send me a cryptic message. It didn’t take me long to figure out that my friend’s grammar and spelling were less than stellar. The way my friend speaks is much different than the way she writes. She expresses herself perfectly well. She is by no means a dummy.
She is not my only friend who sends me messages that read like they were written by a first grader. This got me to thinking about a high school English class that I taught while in college. I was a teacher’s aide in a class of twenty-five students. In the beginning of the class, the teacher would pass out laptops to all the students. The students would then have to log onto their computers, sign into the school website to access their school papers, and then they would write their essays on the laptop.
I walked around the classroom looking at the students’ papers and couldn’t help but wonder how writing their paper in class on a laptop did them any service. They could use spellcheck with Microsoft Word; however, spellcheck would not show the word as wrong if used it in its inappropriate context such as: too, to, its, it’s, their, they’re, there, our, are, your, you’re, no and know.
These kids, unlike my friend, had trouble expressing themselves. Using a sentence without ‘like’ or ‘ums’ proved to be a difficult task. They even struggled to find appropriate words to describe how they felt or what kind of help they needed. It’s not that these students were dumb. It’s that these students had not received the proper tools necessary to help in developing social and cognitive skills.
Long gone are the days when one has to really think about something in order to figure it out. Type it into google and the answer will be right at your finger tips. Type a word into your iPhone and it will automatically spell it correctly for you. In essence, we have become mentally lazy.
We’ve also gotten distracted when it comes to learning. Go into any high school and you’ll see students whipping out their phones, texting their friends, playing phone games or surfing the net, instead of paying attention in class.
In a study called the “The Laptop and Lecture,” classes were divided into two sets. One-half of students used their laptops in the classroom while listening to a lecture. The other half had to keep their laptops closed. Then, both sets of students took a comprehension test. Students who used their laptops tested significantly lower on the comprehension test for how well they remembered the content of the lecture.
Technology can serve as an important tool in sharpening the mind as well. “Words With Friends” is a game I love to play on my iPhone. I enjoy the mental challenge it gives me. Sudoku and crossword puzzles that can be downloaded onto smart phones also give people the opportunity to actually use their brain while on their phone. (It can be done!)
However, we can’t rely on technology to keep thinking for us. No more cryptic messages. No more of possessive pronouns being used incorrectly!
And if we think grammar or spelling doesn’t matter, it does. Someone once gave me a button that read:
Let’s eat grandpa.
Let’s eat, grandpa.
Correct punctuation can save a person’s life.
Couldn’t agree more!
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Like this article? Check out other great commentaries by twodaymag’s weekly contributor and pro-golfer, Anya Alvarez.