Thursday, October 4, 2012

No Red Ink: The Grumpy Grammarians Gift from God

It truly is amazing what we, as teachers, can do with technology these days. Yes, I know I sound as if I spent my childhood taming dinosaurs, rather than growing up in the so-called "digital age."But the truth is that the internet is a completely different beast now then it was when dial-up was still the rage and one couldn't use the phone and internet simultaneously.

One aspect of the beast is educational resources for teachers. Seriously, there are many. And many are actually useful. Take No Red Ink for example. Jeff Scheur (former Master's in Education student from U of M) wanted to create a tool that would save teachers from spending hours and hours correcting papers for grammar mistakes and actually teach the students what they're (I do believe there's a section on the their/they're/there) doing wrong and how to fix it.

The students can take quizes in areas where they struggle or teachers can assign quizes to classes. If particular students are struggling in an area (or if the whole class is) they can continue to work on those skills with detailed explanations of what they're doing wrong, and what they need to do to make it correct.

In a world where grammar is no longer in the curriculum, students get passed from grade to grade without ever learning basic skills. Students have the same problems in 10th grade as they did in 6th grade. I think No Red Ink is a noble attempt to shorten that gap and focus on the areas where students are struggling. And, did I mention the questions are all about subjects and people the students like?

When a student first signs up for the program they have answer a series of questions which pinpoint their interests. There's also a feature which gathers names of some of their friends from facebook. No, it doesn't download personal info on these people, just their names. So when a student gets a problem sentence about, say fragments, the sentence may be about Harry Potter buying a latte from Starbucks, or the student's best friend going to the mall. Keeping the problems focused on the students and their interests is a great way, I think, to keep them focused on the work. And it makes it a little fun.

I know when I was in school grammar would have been infinitely more tolerable if I had learned about split infinitives while discussing quidditch. I would have been able to change the sentence, "To boldly fly where no wizard has flown before!" to "Harry boldly flies" or "Harry flies boldly where no wizard has flown before . . . and then he gets hit by a bludger and loses the bones in his left arm."

Seriously, I think Jeff's website will make better witches and wizards, I mean students and teachers, out of all of us.

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