Can new technologies improve our writing?


Today new technologies flood our lives. If we look around us, it is very difficult to find someone who does not use a mobile phone to search for information, read the news or communicate with others through written messages in chats or applications.

Although Information and Communication Technologies (ICT) have meant a great advance in society, there are people who think that their use reduces the ability of young people to express themselves in writing. But is this true? Are new technologies so harmful for writing?

The ubiquity of technologies

The fact that young people are digital natives has led to changes in schools , where little by little pencil and paper have been replaced by laptops or tablets.

In this way, technology has become a learning environment through which different subjects and basic skills are taught, including writing.

How do they improve writing?

In recent decades, different  reviews and meta -analyses have been carried out to find out what are the effects produced by different instructional programs focused on teaching writing and developed through new technologies in improving students’ written competence, compared to with instructional programs carried out without this technological support.

The results suggest important benefits at different levels of instruction through technologies such as word processors, intelligent tutoring systems or educational applications.

First of all, scientific evidence shows that the use of programs and applications for touch screen devices significantly improve students’ calligraphy through games in which they have to review the spelling of letters with the help of a stylus or their own finger. .

These types of applications include animations to show how the letters are written and give the opportunity to practice the different spellings through templates that reflect the student’s stroke. Likewise, it has been shown that when students use tools such as error detectors, they make fewer spelling and grammar errors than those who do not use technology.

More complex and better organized texts

However, the effects of technologies in the instructional environment go much further. There are intelligent tutoring systems that guide students throughout the writing process, teaching them complex cognitive processes, such as planning or text revision, and strategies to carry them out. Previous research has shown that students who use these types of tools write longer texts, with more complex content, better organized ideas and, ultimately, higher quality .

To all this is added the positive impact of technologies on motivation . When technological tools are part of teaching, students show a more positive attitude towards writing tasks, spending more time on them than those who do not use technology.

The benefits of the new information and communication technologies seem undeniable, but how can they be used in the classroom to improve students’ written proficiency?

Are teachers aware of the possibilities offered by these technologies applied to the teaching of writing? We have tried to answer these questions, through a review (forthcoming publication) in which different instructional practices carried out with them and focused on improving written competence are analyzed.

Variety of digital tools

Currently, there is a wide variety of digital tools that make it possible to teach writing content using different formats (images, videos, etc.).

Among those developed so far, we find some aimed at improving processes such as spelling or grammar. For example, there are digital correctors that allow you to write a text and at the end they present that same corrected text, showing the errors made and, in some cases, the reasons for those errors together with advice for improvement.

These tools also allow you to work on more complex writing processes such as planning or proofreading. In addition, there are tools that work on these processes around different textual genres, from narrative texts to more complex genres such as argumentative texts.

Not just digital writing

The most important thing is that digital tools not only give students the opportunity to write digitally: there are educational software that go further, incorporating functions that allow different types of activities and even teacher-specific tasks such as guides or explained corrections. .

Some tools can carry out tasks such as explaining lessons, including videos that show the contents to be worked on and, on many occasions, they also include games to practice the contents observed in the lesson. These assignments reduce teacher workload and allow students to work at their own pace.

What matters is how they are used.

In short, technology can perform teaching tasks such as explaining content and evaluating texts. In addition, it allows you to work on content beyond grammar or spelling, teaching complex processes such as planning a text. Likewise, technology allows responding to the individual needs of students, offering them the resources they need to overcome the difficulties they encounter when carrying out tasks.

The review we have carried out suggests that technology contributes to the improvement of students’ written ability. Although some people believe that students are distracted or taken away from learning by digital devices, our research seems to suggest that technology, used well, can be an effective teaching tool.

Author Bios: Maria Victoria Gonzalez Laguna is Research Staff in Predoctoral Training in the Area of ​​Evolutionary and Educational Psychology at the University of León, Gert Rijlaarsdam is a Professor in Innovative Language, Literary fiction and Arts education at the University of Amsterdam and Raquel Fidalgo is a University Professor in the Area of ​​Evolutionary and Educational Psychology also at the University of León