The following case study is an example of the ways that technology can exercise Writing skills. The story itself is a variation of one or more patients I have worked with during my years in private practice. Names, places, and other identifying details have been altered or removed.
Sarah is an 11-year-old fifth grade student who is one very happy young lady. Her parents just bought her first cell phone for her, and they observe with wonder as she texts friend after friend. If they didn’t set limits on her, she’d text everyone she knew, including her parents, instead of talking to anyone at all. They are surprised, however, because Sarah has never enjoyed writing anything. For Sarah, putting words onto paper is like going to the proverbial dentist. Book reports and writing vocabulary words have usually been the setting for meltdowns and frustration.
Sarah has had longstanding difficulty with written language. Her written work has always been somewhat shorter and simpler than that of her peers. It often takes her far longer to complete written assignments at home and school than would be expected.
While texting is obviously not the same as writing a book report, it still involves formulating sentences and communicating in written form. For children who cringe when given a writing assignment, providing opportunities such as texting, scribing, or using speech recognition software helps them recognize that they have something to say… and to write it! For parents who think that texting is not a form of writing, we suggest that you read the studies on texting and writing by Jeff Grabill at the MSU and Beverly Pliester at Coventry University and begin thinking about how you can help your texter develop writing skills.
Finding other methods to make writing more palatable such as practicing writing and spelling skills in games like Scribblenauts 2 can get children to ignore how much they dislike writing because they enjoy the remainder of the activity. Eliminating the “hand” from handwriting often is an important first step in encouraging written expression. Many of the new tools and apps that are available on mobile devices give reluctant writers an opportunity to express themselves in writing without their normal reluctance.