Once upon a time it used to be called English. However today, the subject of English has been broadened to literacy to cover the gamut of components that have come to make up this subject area.

In years gone by,  English as a subject was taught so that students would progress through a sequential study of Reading, Spelling, Grammar and Writing so they would develop strong literacy skills. While the more recent curriculum calls upon students to master these skills, it has become richly diverse with the need for students to be literate in multimedia including a wide range of technology.

The blackboard and the overhead projector have given way to smart boards, laptops and ipads. Students believe that being a master of spelling and grammar is no longer necessary due to spell and grammar checks on computers.  They are encouraged to submit computer generated assignments that have a large visual component such as power point presentations and graphics through imported photos and clip art. The world of “Apps” has revolutionised visual media and taken learning into a whole new spectrum both in the classroom and at home.

These changes have caused educators to keep on their toes to keep pace with new ways of teaching and learning to engage students.  Educators work hard to incorporate the new media’s and technologies into the classroom to prepare students for 21st century learning.  This is a noble sentiment and one which teaches students a variety of skills but there are some problems inherent in this shift in teaching and learning.

For instance, our national guidelines continue to require students to sit bi-yearly NAPLAN tests across the country from Year’s three to nine.  While classes and students are working to learn and enjoy the continued onslaught of the technological revolution in schools, NAPLAN continues to be a pen and paper test that challenges the more innovative method of teaching.  NAPLAN requires students to read and analyse visual and written material, but does not provide a spelling or grammar check for their written responses.

NAPLAN gauges a student’s ability to demonstrate a good grasp of spelling and to understand grammatical conventions in the written component of the test.  It asks students to demonstrate a solid understanding of unsighted reading passages and to respond critically and analytically. Finally, it requires them to write legible extended responses without the support of a computer.

I have often heard educators say that Naplan is only one type of test and should not become the grading factor of a student’s ability in English/Literacy. However Naplan results are often used to group children for future learning and to make assumptions about their ability to read and write coherently.  So is the NAPLAN test really relevant?

This question can be easily answered if we consider the types of testing administered in the latter years of schooling.  Guess what – they are also pen and paper tests that require students to read and write well without the support of technology.  I am not suggesting that technology has thwarted a student’s ability to do well at school but we as educators also need to ask if we are serving our students well by not thoroughly preparing them in correct spelling and writing conventions in preparation for pen and paper tests.  After all, these tests are those which determine university placements and the potential careers of students following years at school.  Is our curriculum so rich in engaging students with technology that we have forgotten to focus on the basics that are still highly regarded skills at the tertiary level and in the workplace?

If this article resonates with you please take a look at Nepean Tutoring and what we strive to offer our clients. Give us a no obligation call to discuss this topic and your needs as a parent or student. We are committed to raising the standards of literacy for our students to prepare them for 21st century learning that concurrently incorporates a solid grasp for the basic concepts of good academic writing.