teens want more in-class writing

Yesterday, I wrote about the latest Internet report from Pew, which focuses on teens and how they use technology for their writing. First, some interesting facts about internet use, which impacts writing. The Pew survey claims that virtually all teens, 94%!, use the internet on a frequent basis. This high percentage crosses all ethnic and socioeconomic strata, ranging from whites at 96% to Hispanics at 87%. I think we have the enormous popularity amongst teens of social sites such as MySpace and Facebook to thank for that.

Nearly all teens (89%)  access the internet from home, while 77% do from school. Minorities and lower-income students rely more heavily on schools and libraries for their internet use, though over 70% have access from their homes. Nevertheless, your experience may be similar to mine. While the high school library has extended hours for before and afterschool computer use, many minority students used the bus system and were therefore unable to take advantage of those extra hours. This alone is a powerful argument for installing computers in the classroom.

And what do students want to be doing in the classroom? More writing! Nearly 90% of them believe that writing will help them be successful in their lives; over half say that it is essential. Nearly all teens report that they write everyday in class, mostly note-taking, but that their writing comprises only about a paragraph to one page, and they want more so they can improve their writing skills. A high percentage also believe that using computer-based instruction would help them become better writers:

Most teens feel that additional instruction and focus on writing in school would help improve their writing even further. Our survey asked teens whether their writing skills would be improved by two potential changes to their school curricula: teachers having them spend more time writing in class, and teachers using more computer-based tools (such as games, writing help programs or websites, or multimedia) to teach writing. While the options presented in our survey were quite different in nature, teens find the approaches equally appealing. Overall, 82% of teens feel that additional in-class writing time would improve their writing abilities, similar to the 78% who feel the same way about computer-based writing tools. (my emphasis)

Responses to the Pew survey demonstrate that teen writing is purposeful. They write when they have a particular reason to: assignment completion, grades, college acceptance, personal expression. They prefer assignments that are relevant to their lives, and they would really like teachers to comment in detail on their work. They state that technology does not make much difference whether they write or not, but it does make it easier to revise their work, and therefore much more likely that they will.

There are many nuances from the survey that I’ve not been able to include in a short post, but this is fascinating stuff, and is well worth reading.


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