Technology and child creativity in writing

Technology may have a detrimental effect on children’s creativity, according to the Pilot Pen Australia Creativity Report by psychologist Kimberley O’Brien (details are from an article in Xinhua Net).  There are at least two areas worthy of note in the report: confidence in handwritten tasks decreases, and creativity in computer-aided composition is lower.

First, dependence on tools such as grammar and spell-checkers can affect children’s confidence in handwritten tasks:

…the report suggested that students are becoming scared of handwritten tasks as there is no spelling or grammar check tool to pick up their mistakes as they go along.

“Children who develop this kind of dependency on computer software are less likely to write using a pen and paper given that they will feel a vulnerability to failure,” the report said.

But computer composition also has an effect on creativity:

It said using software that immediately tells children to correct errors like spelling and grammar could disrupts their thought patterns and stunts their ideas, and children who hand write are able to produce almost twice as many ideas as those using computer technology to write a creative story.

The report… found handwritten essays were completed significantly faster and contained a higher standard of sentence structure, grammar, punctuation, cohesion, ideas development and organization than those completed using keyboards.

A further study found students in Years two, four and six produced up to twice as many ideas writing on pen and paper as those on computers.

O’Brien suggested that the results might be due to writers feeling pressured to edit as they go.

What you can do

O’Brien notes that children are most likely to develop handwriting skills between the ages of 8 and 10.  One of the best things you can do is simply to ensure children meet community standards for legible handwriting.  (O’Brien does not suggest that computers should be removed entirely from a curriculum, although it’s evident that the ability to write without computer assistance is also helpful).

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