Better Readers Instead of Writers?

by Emily Jasper on December 4, 2009


One of the criticisms of my generation is that technology is making us a group of horrible writers. We can’t spell because of spell check (guilty), we wouldn’t know a full word if we saw it (thx), and we use punctuation to express emotion : )

Sure, we’re teaching younger generations that texting is the norm, facebook and twitter are tools of the trade, and blogging is a great way to get information. These might be true, but if you noticed, most of these items include words. Written words.

So do we think that these advances in technology will increase literacy?

I’m not going to present you with research done by professionals, but by my own observations.

First, we learn through necessity. I took typing classes for years and was awful at it. I barely passed the classes because my left hand could never keep up. I’ve tried to play musical instruments and had this same problem. Then one day, two things happened. I had to retype handwritten stories for the newspaper I edited, and it sucked. At the same time, AIM made life easier. If I learned to type faster, I could get through the stories quickly and chat with my friends at the same time. So I learned. And I type almost as fast as I think.

Next, technology enables the generations. I was a day care assistant through college. My kids had computers in the classroom at age 3, and many were using computers long before then. Often computer time was a treat. They were learning through this technology because it was considered special and fun. When presented with traditional methods on paper, the connections between the letters and words weren’t always made. But the same letters and words were immediately recognized on the computer screen. Is that an example of learning based on similar vs. different cognitive states?

Finally, as a nanny for a family, I watched the youngest child catch up to the reading and speaking level of her elder sister at a surprising rate. I know that often younger siblings can accomplish their “firsts” much sooner when in the presence of an older sibling. There’s a need to be included, to be the same as the older child.

Again, none of this is official. But by my observations, our learning abilities adapt. So, to make a hypothesis, advances in technology might actually help literacy. Ready to break out your stats book? Next I’m going to break out correlations.

We may lose rules of grammar, and spelling will just go out the window, but perhaps this is a cycle of literacy we have to go though. Go back to simple general education of the masses, then focus on the next level up again.

What do you think? Will technology, social media, and mobile communication improve literacy?

Photo from clipart.