Blogging may make teens better writers
By JEAN NASH JOHNSON
KNIGHT RIDDER NEWSPAPERS
Someone in the academic world finally said it. Blogging, e-mailing and instant messaging among teens pay off.
Despite punctuation lapses, grammar shortcuts and creative spelling, online communication invites critical thinking and better writing, says Purdue University English professor Samantha Blackmon.
"Who cares if a student, to save time, types 'u' for 'you?' I want to see them writing more and if that means breaking a few rules, that's OK."
Students now come to college with years of online writing experience, putting them ahead of the game for research papers, says Blackmon, who studies computers and writing as well as minority rhetoric.
The best part is when they get on the computer to write to friends. They don't view it as work or learning, but see it as fun, she says.
By routinely using a blog, a kind of cyber hangout for journaling and information gathering, young writers master sourcing and critical thinking.
"Blogging forces students to be more accountable for what they say," Blackmon says. That leads to more solidly written papers.
Crandall High School senior Ansley Miller is on the computer hours at a time writing in her online journal and talking to her friends. Blogging and instant messaging have empowered her writing, she says.
"When I write in my journal I feel comfortable with expressing myself."
Students are not just gossiping or writing about nonsense. Ansley says many of her friends are serious writers. The idea of building on a community of thinkers through the blog appeals to her generation. Her friends have awed her. "My friend Calvin, who writes short stories, is an immaculate writer."
Ansley, like many of her peers, has been communicating online since she was 13 and loves the convenience. On her blog, the 17-year-old writes poetry and has a comments box. She regularly receives feedback from her harshest critics - her good friends.
"Mostly their opinions help me write better," Ansley says. The experience pays off, too, because English has become her "easiest subject."
Blackmon's not surprised. High school students embrace the fun of writing in the virtual world, and in the Real World that produces English students with better attitudes, she says.
"Grammar, punctuation, the mechanics, that's possible to teach. It is not possible to teach the love of writing or critical thinking. You learn to love it by doing it."