Writing is one area where students tend to lack confidence, so I am always on the lookout for resources that can help them. Previously, I shared Quill and NoRedInk, which both guide students through independent practice of writing and grammar skills. They really appeal to the teacher in me that believes students need to practice their way to mastery. Today’s post, however, is about an entirely different type of resource and one about which I feel some amount of conflict.
Let’s take a look at it first. Grammarly is a browser extension that works with both Chrome and Safari that is designed to proofread your work automatically. According to the site, “It checks for more than 250 types of spelling, grammar, and punctuation errors, enhances vocabulary usage, and suggests citations.” An ad for Grammarly on Facebook caught my eye, so I decided to try it. Who doesn’t want to improve their writing and avoid making embarrassing mistakes like using the wrong their, there, or they’re? Even if people know the rules, it is still easy to make mistakes from time to time.
Signing up was simple. I use Chrome, so I clicked “Add to Chrome” on the main page, clicked “Add extension” when it popped up, and then it installed. From there, I had the option to sign up with Facebook or enter my name, email, and a password to get started. Finally, I could choose the free or premium account and was on my way! The tour explained the primary features of Grammarly, and I was able to get started with my exploration.
The demo document that comes with the account really shows what Grammarly is all about. Errors are underlined and clicking on one brings up the rule or rules they violate and what they should be changed to, so it is like having a ton of mini-lessons tailored to the mistakes you have made. If it is not an actual error or the writer chooses not to make the change, then it can simply be ignored and the underline will disappear. Since I installed Grammarly as a Chrome extension, I hopped over to Facebook and typed “I are happy today.” which was automatically checked and I was able to view the suggestion to change the verb to am. The little green Grammarly circle also showed up in Gmail and other sites I visited with areas to input text, too. Besides the browser extension, Grammarly can be installed on your desktop and even as an add-in to Word using the same email and password as the online version. I was really impressed with my experience using it, and now that it is installed and the account has been made, the hard part is done, so I suppose I may as well keep it.
Here comes the conflict, though. As a teacher, do I really want my students using this? It seems a lot like cheating to me, especially if students just click through and accept the changes without reading through them. On the other hand, spellcheckers do the same thing for spelling, have been around forever, and are viewed as an acceptable resource to help us avoid mistakes. Shouldn’t students be able to utilize all available resources to help them succeed? I realize that in my ESL classes, I need students to be able to demonstrate their mastery of English grammar independently without the aid of something like Grammarly. Having said that, I teach adults and college students whose writing for work or university classes is about communicating, completing tasks, demonstrating understanding or in-depth thought on complex topics, and so much more than grammar rules.
So there you have it. Feel free to ponder this conundrum and share your thoughts by leaving a comment below.