Page last updated at 12:14 GMT, Thursday, 3 December 2009

Children who use technology are 'better writers'

By Zoe Kleinman
Technology reporter, BBC News

children looking at a computer
Six out of ten young bloggers rated their writing skills highly.

Children who blog, text or use social networking websites are more confident about their writing skills, according to the National Literacy Trust.

A survey of 3,001 children aged nine to 16 found that 24% had their own blog and 82% sent text messages at least once a month.

In addition 73% used instant messaging services to chat online with friends.

However, 77% still put real pen to paper to write notes in class or do their school homework.

Of the children who neither blogged nor used social network sites, 47% rated their writing as "good" or "very good", while 61% of the bloggers and 56% of the social networkers said the same.

"Our research suggests a strong correlation between kids using technology and wider patterns of reading and writing," Jonathan Douglas, director of the National Literacy Trust, told BBC News.

"Engagement with online technology drives their enthusiasm for writing short stories, letters, song lyrics or diaries."

Mr Douglas dismissed criticisms about the informal writing styles often adopted in online chat and "text speak", both of which can lack grammar and dictionary-correct spelling.

The more forms of communications children use the stronger their core literary skills.
Jonathan Douglas, National Literacy Trust

"Does it damage literacy? Our research results are conclusive - the more forms of communications children use the stronger their core literary skills."

'Love and kisses'

He said that children needed to learn to distinguish between different writing styles but that in his opinion it was no different from learning when to end a letter "yours sincerely" or "yours faithfully" - and when "love and kisses" would be acceptable.

However not all teachers share the view that encouraging children to spend a lot of time online in the classroom has its advantages.

"Most primary school teachers are doubtful about hooking children up to computers - especially when they are young," said John Coe, general secretary of the National Association for Primary Education.

"They see enormous advantages in the relationship between teacher and child. Sometimes the computer is closer to the child than the teacher by the age of 13."

Mr Coe said he was in favour of using computers for research purposes in classrooms and that he agreed that all forms of communication helped young people to develop core literacy skills.

"Young people aged nine and upwards are texting like crazy - inside and outside the classroom," he said.

"It is a form of reading and writing. It might not be conventional but they are communicating, so there is a general gain."

He added that the NAPE was looking into ways in which this passion for texting might be incorporated into teaching methods.

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