National Writing Project (NWP) and Advanced Placement conducted a survey of 2462 teachers. The survey was to find out whether digital tools shape students writing in numerous ways. Majority of them saw internet as a useful tool in teaching since it built creativity and personal expression. The tools also had their unique set of challenges, the biggest being plagiarism and fair use.
These are some of the ways that the digital tools where beneficial:
- 96% concurred that digital technology offered a wider platform with varied audiences for the students to share their work.
- 79% concurred that the tools encourage teamwork.
- 78% concurred that the tools inspired personal expression and creativity.
The teachers agreed that the combined effect of the advantages above were a great investment among the students in their writing. However, the teachers expressed grave concerns and challenges that came with teaching writing in modern day digital environment.
Some of the challenges were:
- Increasingly use of informal language and style in formal writing.
- Students understanding of writing for different audiences using different “registers” and “voices”.
- Used of truncated forms of expression and students inability to think critically about complex topics.
- Dissimilar skills and access to digital technology among the students.
Teacher had divided views on the impact and role of digital tools in students writing. Specifically:
- 68% said that digital tools were more likely to make students take shortcuts and put less effort in their writing.
- 46% said that the tools increased carelessness in the students writing due to increased speed while writing.
- 40% said that the students were more likely to use poor grammar and spelling while 38% said students are less likely to do this.
Generally, the teachers gave their students modest marks and checked on areas that needed attention
Nine specific writing skills were chosen and the teachers asked to evaluate their students in these areas. “Good” and “fair” were used to rate the students as against “excellent” and “very good”. The students’ ability to effectively organise and structure writing assignments was given the best rating with 24% of the teachers rating them as “very good” and “excellent”. The same rating was given to students’ ability to understand and consider several perspectives on a certain issue or subject.
The lowest ratings were seen in matters that related to copyright and fair use. Reading and understanding long texts was also an area that received low ratings. To address these deficiency teachers incorporated lessons about fair view, plagiarism, citation and copyright. Appropriate citing or referencing was also an area of concern to most teachers. Proper citation was important because it shows the originality of the assignment and prevents copying and pasting others’ work. 88% of the teachers spend their class time discussing the concept of plagiarism and citation while 75% spend their time discussing on the idea of copyright and fair use.
Regardless of the numerous challenges faced by teachers, 50% of them said their work has been easier due to these digital tools while 18% said it had made it harder and the rest saw no impact.
Most of the teachers used digital tools in their lessons which made work easier. Some used white boards, websites, blogs and other web-based tools (like GoogleDocs). The teachers said that this tools helped enhance teamwork, creative thinking and improve the students writing skills. Middle and high school teachers use these digital tools to try and teach essential writing skills that the students need. The teachers place special importance in formal writing and consider it a necessary tool to success.
Though these teachers encourage use of digital tools, the also think it is essential for the students to do some writing by hand. Some think that writing by hand discourages heating and encourages active thinking. Teachers used essay Zoo examples and different essays to help them practice their writing skills.
Overall the survey showed that teacher does think that digital tools impact the writing skills of the students. Most of them even encouraged their used in their classrooms.