Spellcheck: Tool or Hinderance?

According to the article titled: Oregon will allow students to use spell check on state writing tests in 2011, there is much debate about using and adapting to new tools. As someone who tries to teach spelling, I can tell you that spellcheck doesn’t always catch spelling mistakes – especially homophones like to, too, and two or there, their, and they’re. And while many words in English follow logical orthographic patterns, some of our most common words (sight-words for young kids) are the exceptions to those generalizations or patterns. For example, why do words like go, no,  quo, and so follow the open syllable rules with the long vowel sound, but words like do and to, don’t. You have to put a silent-e on the ends of those doe and toe  if you want that long /o/ sound after the consonant. Of course you would also have to learn how to spell dough and tow, or Homer Simpson’s favorite cry, “Doh!”

I think a tool like spellcheck will continue to get better and catch those kinds of words described. I also think there is no harm in having kids use all the tools available for a writing test. Don’t authors today use these tools, as well as editors? I know there are evenings when I purge my thoughts onto this blog, but don’t take the time to catch my errors before hitting the publish button since it’s just a simple reflection. However, I have to realize that once it’s out there, other people are reading it. Who knows some of them may be passing judgement on my writing, but I’m not too bothered. That’s not my primary purpose.

Recently we piloted a couple of units from a new math text and I asked the children for their feedback at the end. After reading their feedback and seeing that many children wrote, “It was to [sic] easy,” my assessment wasn’t just how they felt about the elements of the text. I also realized my students and I are going to have to spend some time on the words to, too, and two.