Could The Spell Be Broken?

The other day I was conducting a PD day looking at how schools are using blogs and what is involved in setting them up. One of the blogs I looked at was Josh C’s Passion Project Blog. Now Josh’s blog is remarkable for a number of reasons. Amongst his 120+ peers, Josh had by far the most content, Josh also generated far more comments than any of his peers. Josh had also adopted within his writing three different personas, there was Josh the student, “The Observer” and “The Fanatic”. Each of the writers write from a different point of view and with their own personal style even though they are all the work of one student Josh.

One other standout features of Josh’s blog is that he has a number of misspellings in his work. Sometimes these are clearly because he has hit the wrong keys, other errors are because he is using words that he doesn’t yet know how to spell and some my well be failure to proff-read is work before publishing. Either way the number of errors is a relatively low and the errors do not interfere with the reader’s level of understanding of the piece.

As usually happens when I show Josh’s blog people readily appreciate the effort and work that has gone into this blog. It is isn’t long though before someone makes comment on the spelling. The question usually follows, “How does the school feel about work with incorrect spelling in it being published?” I usually answer that the school often doesn’t know as not many of the teachers or principal class actually have time to read all of these blogs. As a result it falls back to the class teacher. I also note that there had not been any parent comments regarding the spelling. I then usually question whether the readers can understand and make sense of the work that Josh has written about. The standard response is “Yes, I can understand it quite clearly but……..” I then usually note that I had interviewed Josh about his blog and blogging in general and that he acknowledged he had problems with spelling. He also says that he wished the blogging program  had  better spellchecker but that the most important aspect of blogging is the freedom to write.

The interview where I interview Josh about his Passion Project blog can be found at Podomatic.

For some teachers the problems with the spelling are a real sticking point. They see it that anything going out to world from a school should be correct. Anything less reflects badly on the school and the educational ethos fo the school. Others, as I tend to, see the blog as a developmental space where students are encouraged to experiment and use interesting terminology in the full knowledge that in some cases spelling errors may occur. I see that unless the contents of the blog are unitelligible then the place for learning spelling is outside the blog. I would be interested to know other’s thoughts on this issue.

In closing, the other most interesting aspect of Josh’s blog is that even though he no longer attends primary school and has his secondary school work to consider, Josh is continuing to post to his Passion Project blog. Testament indeed that the blog space is truly meaningful to him.


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3 Responses to Could The Spell Be Broken?

  1. I would much rather my students get content into their blogs, than be too concerned about the spelling of it. However, that said, I do encourage them to use the spell checker withing the blog, or key it in MS Word, spell check, then use the “paste from Word” option in edublogs. I do find that my students want their work to look good and be accurate, and the poor spellers will ask for assistance to ensure that it is as correct as possible.
    Many people do believe that it reflects badly on the school and the student, if blog posts are not accurately completed and often, parents are the worst offender. However, it also gives us a chance to see how the student does write as it is transparent, and it is hoped that as time progresses the spelling and quality does improve, and in so doing, there is a basis for comparison.
    I think Josh’ blog is great. He has many posts, quite lengthy and frequent posts. I would be proud of my students if they would achieved as well as that, and spelling is not the most important outcome.

  2. johnp says:

    Hi Anne,

    We have shown the students how to use the “Word workaround” but most of them choose not to use it. Even then though the whole process isn’t foolproof, (heck I’ve read back through many of my posts on this and been horrified at what I have proofread over.
    Josh is so laconic, as you can tell from the interview. It’s all about the message for him, (and me too).

  3. Sue Waters says:

    One help for students would be to use FireFox but unfortunately most won’t allow it on their computers. Personally I think the content is more important and it is important to educate parents (and others) that it’s not necessary about being perfect but encouraging them to write and learn more.

    PS Anne – unfortunately Paste from Word doesn’t necessarily strip out all the code – copy and paste from Notepad is the better option.

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