Should kids go back to pen and paper?

Writing by hand critical to the proper stages of writing, high school teacher says. On computers, kids don't learn to prewrite, they google for ideas, and they never learn to review and correct their work.
Written by ZDNET Editors, Contributor

When it comes to writing student term papers one teacher posits that computers and the Internet can be too much of a good thing. In a commentary in the Philadelphia Inquirer, Christopher Paslay, an English teacher at Swenson Arts and Technology High School in Northeast Philadelphia, says that many of the tried and true methods of writing—prewriting, drafting, revising, editing and publishing - "has slowly evolved into a system of shortcuts made possible by the Internet and state-of-the-art word-processing programs."

According to Paslay, technology has had a detrimental effect on student writing skills. Students don't have to actually think and articulate their own ideas, they just copy someone else's. They don't actually have to learn spelling and grammar, Word does it for them. And because they tend to edit as they go, they never learn to draft and redraft. What high school student would want to actually put pen to paper when typing it in is so much easier?

As a result, the drafting and revising steps are compromised. Many students don't even bother with drafts and revisions. The first draft – updated as it's written - is the last. Of course, there is the much maligned and often misused spell-checker and grammar checker in word processing software. Could students these days check their spelling and edit without technological assistance?

"Students today are a product of an instant-gratification society. Writing a quality paper takes time, and most teenagers aren't willing to make that sacrifice. Like steroids in major-league baseball, technology has become a way for students to cheat - to bypass hard work and cut right to the end result," says Paslay.
Paslay closes his commentary with a warning to teachers not to give up the imaginative and self-reflective process of pre-writing and brainstorming. Don't abandon the traditional five-step writing process. By doing this, teachers help student learn and reinforce the command of the English language and the creative writing process.


Editorial standards