UK Study Links Technology and Strong Writing Skills
The study, “Young People’s Writing: Attitudes, Behaviour and the Role of Technology” (PDF), surveyed 3,001 children age 9 to 16 and found:
- 24 percent had their own blog.
- 82 percent sent text messages at least once a month.
- 73 percent used instant messaging services to chat online with friends.
Despite the fact that the majority of students use these media tools in their day-to-day communication, 77 percent used pens and paper to take notes in class or to do homework.
The study found that the top five most common forms of daily writing were: text messages, homework, IM, emails, and social network sites.
“Our research suggests a strong correlation between kids using technology and wider patterns of reading and writing,” Jonathan Douglas, director of the National Literacy Trust, told BBC News.
“Engagement with online technology drives their enthusiasm for writing short stories, letters, song lyrics or diaries.”
The report found that kids who blog or contribute to a social networking sites are more likely to enjoy writing—and are more prolific—than those who do not have a blog or contribute to social networking sites. These students also believe themselves to be good writers.
It could be the case, however, according to the study, that this group starts blogging because they already enjoy writing. In other words, it’s hard to untangle which comes first, a love of writing leading to blogging or whether blogging leads to better writing.
Also, responding to criticisms that texting or chatting online limits students’ understanding of proper grammar and spelling and, ultimately, literacy skills, Douglas said, “Our research results are conclusive - the more forms of communications children use the stronger their core literary skills.”
The report found that text messaging does not appear to improve or inhibit the degree to which young people write or the formats they write in.
The study also found that girls are much more likely than boys to enjoy writing and believe they are good writers.
But young people generally also hold ambivalent attitudes toward writing. The authors of the report note that the kids surveyed were split almost 50-50 on whether writing is boring, but “most agreed that they enjoy writing more when they can choose the topic.”
Young people also tended to agree with statements that writing improves with practice. Echoing US research (Pew Internet, 2008), most young people also link writing with being successful in life. The majority of young people also believe that computers are beneficial to their writing, agreeing that a computer makes it easier for them to correct mistakes and allows them to present ideas clearly. Overall, over half of young people also believe that computers allow them to be more creative, allow them to concentrate more, make them write more and make them write more often.
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