An op-ed piece by Lance Ulanoff on the digital news site Mashable asks an important question that schools need to consider as technology and social media are integrated into the curriculum: Is social media weakening students’ writing skills? Most educators have accepted that we must address the changing needs of society, namely the need to use new technology devices and platforms effectively, responsibly, and in innovative ways. Part of addressing this change means accepting that the way students write has changed—and how they communicate in general has changed dramatically!—but this doesn’t mean that today’s students necessarily are doomed to become weak writers.
At Green Acres, we have chosen to embrace technology in part because it raises student engagement. Our students are excited to use devises and apps, which in many cases has sparked enthusiasm among reluctant readers and writers. One parent, who was somewhat skeptical of our iPad program, reported soon after its inception last year that her 6th grade son had done something he had never done before. He had read past the assigned chapter and well into the next one—mostly because he found the e-version of the textbook more engaging.
Technologies such as iPads also are tools for writing, and they are tools for using social media. Accepting this connection is an essential part of effective writing instruction in this new era. However, educators have good reason to express concern for the influence these digital platforms are having on writing skills. Writing for social media and texting typically applies acronyms, abbreviations, and incorrect grammar—characteristics that are troubling in academic and other forms of writing. These habits are here to stay, though, so our challenge as educators (and users of social media ourselves) is to embrace the benefits of digital tools while also nurturing well-rounded, passionate writers who know and can demonstrate the difference between tweeting and writing a formal essay or letter. Both have value; both have something to teach us. It’s definitely a new era for those of us committed to teaching students to write effectively.