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Professor says kids no longer need to learn spelling and grammar because of smartphones
by mem82
August 4, 2013 at 7:45 PM

Professor says kids no longer need to learn spelling and grammar because of smartphones

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The Daily Caller

Several skills that every kid once learned in school are going the way of the dodo in a hurry. Diagramming sentences is practically an extinct art, for example. Cursive handwriting and memorized multiplication tables look to be swiftly headed that way.

Apparently, the next thing that kids will no longer need to learn is spelling and grammar.

Sugata Mitra, a professor of educational technology at Newcastle University in northeast England, announced that traditional language rules are out of fashion, reports the Daily Mail. Kids don’t need to waste time on those things, see. State-of-the-art computers and mobile phones can make the necessary corrections.

Spelling and grammar are “a bit unnecessary because they are skills that were very essential maybe 100 years ago but they are not right now,” Mitra said. “Firstly, my phone corrects my spelling so I don’t really need to think about it and, secondly, because I often skip grammar and write in a cryptic way.”

The professor made the anti-spelling proclamation at a time when the British government is rolling out a host of educational standards including one that will require students to take a spelling test involving 200 complex words near the end of grade school.

Another exam for 11-year-olds that tests spelling, grammar and punctuation was launched this year.

Mitra is big enough in the world of education that there is a Wikipedia page about him.

He has won a $1 million TED Prize to found “cloud schools,” notes the Mail. The goal is to allow children to learn from each other and from retired specialists.

In 1999, Mitra conducted a famous set of experiments known as the Hole in the Wall experiments. He set up computer kiosks in poor areas of India where kids could play with computers. The goal was to show that kids could learn to use computers and the internet with no formal training—even without knowing English.

The Hole in the Wall experiments moved an Indian diplomat named Vikas Swarup to write a novel called “Q & A” about an impoverished waiter in Mumbai who becomes the biggest quiz show winner in history. The book later became the Oscar-winning movie “Slumdog Millionaire.”


  • gratefulgal
    August 4, 2013 at 8:32 PM

    Awful. Isn't there a quote somewhere about sitting passively by and the dumbing down of society? It would make us completely dependent on a computer/ Ipad/ Smartphone/ etc., which to many is still something out of grasp. Instead of educating people as a whole, we are working to make the social/ class divide even larger. Very sad, and does not bode well for the future. "Wait, let me pull out my smart phone so that I can communicate with you, sir, because I forgot how to speak in sentences and not abbreviations." grrr.

  • SusanTheWriter
    August 4, 2013 at 8:43 PM

    Darn. I used to love diagramming sentences. It was so easy!

  • SarahNElijah
    August 4, 2013 at 11:16 PM
    I would be interested in actually reading or hearing his whole speech.. I heard Mitra on TED talks, and the experiment he performed in India was astounding and mind-blowing! His ideas definitely had a resounding affect on me, and he really speaks along similar lines as unschoolers, speaking of children's ability to teach themselves through interest..

    I think many of us as homeschoolers, have held similar ideas to those he speaks of, such as 'our job as homeschooling moms is more to teach children how to learn, and how to find the information they need' and that with the Internet, it is no longer necessary for our children (or us!) to have to drill all things into our heads! With the ability/knowledge of how to find knowledge, our children's world is limitless. :-)

    His exact quote (after searching, though I disappointedly did not find his whole speech!) was 'so much emphasis on spelling and grammar'. While I DO think it is very important for children to know how to spell and construct sentences, I do feel that children learn spelling and grammar naturally through constant exposure to writing. My son is a young seven, and he can spell most words that follow natural phonetic patterns already just through reading daily, naturally learning phonics (with my help but through everyday activities), and asking him think through the spelling of words when he is writing.

    I believe Mitra poses a threat to public schools in the same way homeschoolers do, so after hearing him speak, I will take any headlines against him with a grain of salt! And I also believe he may have just been speaking of a more natural way of learning spelling than tests/quizzes, INCLUDING use of the computer and/or mobile phones. :-)
  • marrionsmommy
    August 5, 2013 at 12:09 AM
    Do you know how often my spellcheck screws up my sentences? I will write pencil and they change it to penis. I catch it but its becuase I can spell lol, can you imagine if they didnt know how to spell? I feel bad for the tech generation, not for my son though since he will be learning spelling lol.
  • Boobah
    by Boobah
    August 5, 2013 at 7:10 AM
    What about when they want to apply for a job, write a resume, a speech, an article, or just not sound ignorant when they talk? Even an email in a professional situation requires spelling and grammar - and my computer and iPad constantly misspells things.
  • bluerooffarm
    August 5, 2013 at 7:19 AM

     I totally agree.  I had a feeling they were portraying him a bit incompletely.  I also watched his TED talk about the Hole in the Wall. 

    I do believe kids need to know how to spell, and it is one curriculum that we buy.  But I also know that my kids will pick up much of their spelling through their reading and writing.  IMO the schools are testing it too much and going about the process in a cumbersome way.  They would (in early elementary) take 20 minutes to practice writing their spelling words at school and then send home a spelling assignment for homework.  Then in 3rd grade, spelling would become its own class; 40 whole minutes of spelling each day is just too much.

    So I agree with his assessment in too much emphasis.  BUT the kids are not learning spelling by writing as much anymore because they do shorten everything to the "cryptic" texting language.  They will need to learn properly in order to write resumes, college papers, fill out medical paperwork, etc.  It is so important lest they be judged by the generations above, kwim?

    Quoting SarahNElijah:


    August 5, 2013 at 7:21 AM
    Phone- why you no fix grammar?
  • celticdragon77
    August 5, 2013 at 7:24 AM

    Spelling and grammar have long since left the schools - in my area anyways. Hell, I remember back in 2002, talking to my oldest childs school about why they no longer had spelling - she said, the districts stance was there was auto-correct. She also explained how it wasn't just spelling. There was no more handwriting because of technology. There was no more cursive - because so one needs it. No more math drills because it doesn't encourage analytical thinking. History and Science were no longer taught in the grade levels - because it takes time away from Reading and Math. Oh my gosh, there were more but I forget them all. I just remember walking out of there shocked. 

    I have read a lot of old articles about this. In fact, newer articles on the topic, seem to express common consensus that they realize only NOW that these are required skills. However, a common problem is that most teachers trained to teach some of them (like grammar), are long gone. 

  • bluerooffarm
    August 5, 2013 at 7:27 AM


    Quoting celticdragon77:

    Spelling and grammar have long since left the schools - in my area anyways.

    I have read a lot of old articles about this. In fact, newer articles on the topic, seem to express common consensus that they realize only NOW that these are required skills. However, a common problem is that most teachers trained to teach it, are long gone. 

     Trust me, Pitt teaches us how to teach grammar and spelling.  If we do not pass our grammar class and our core content class with a B+ or above, they do not let us take the PRAXIS.  So they are trained to teach it whether they do it or not is another thing altogether.

  • No_Difference
    August 5, 2013 at 8:27 AM
    Interesting. On the radio, the other day, they were saying how some companies were starting to fine their employees for grammar and spelling errors in correspondances. With social media, and thinks like (I believe) Reddit, people can too easily blast a company over those sorts of things, and it makes the company look bad and lose business. They were also talking about how the younger generatio (in their instance they were referring to youger 20s) find getting a message across in less than 140 characters is to the point and find "proper grammar" to be rambling on. The older work force generation feels the complete oppoite. I was able to hear everything they were talking about on it, but I found that interesting too. Honestly...I'm all for it... In a work place setting, its not that difficult to hit spell check or grammar check, read through it once more for good measure, and then send it. If kids aren't learning these skills though, the there would be a issue...

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