Tuesday, December 01, 2009

grammar-checkers cont'd

I have widened the scope of the grammar-checker project, and have become very interested in several aspects of the grammar-checker problem, namely:

1. What influence does constant interaction with a green-line producing program (or even the red-lining spell-check) have on human perception of a second language? How does it affect learning? Clearly it helps their learning in some ways and hinders it in others. I can tell you that what I've learned so far is more or less here although fresh developments at the SIUC web emporium have rendered almost all our sites impractical at least for the time being. You have to tolerate bizarre templates to get to the content. Other things I have written on the topic are at c, b, and a.
2. If computer grammar programs can so quickly and relentlessly influence human behavior, why don't we just harness them to create perfect language learners?
3. What are the results of the work people have been doing to improve these programs? I'm just moving into this territory, btw; can't answer this one at all, yet. But, as concordancers get involved, the equation is definitely more interesting.
4. What is the most appropriate response on the part of teachers?
a. Recommend the best of the programs, show students how to access them and even expect or demand that students use them (this btw is what many people do about spell-check)
b. Ban them entirely from computer labs, and expect students to disable them on all computers used for class papers; give tests on computers with disabled grammar-check, or better yet, in pen and paper;
c. Assume that the default grammar-check on most Word programs are what our students are and will use most of the time, and work with them on their use of this or what we know of this; teach them, for example, to interpret the grammar-check's "Fragment" message properly. If students ask, show them the preferred settings (if we have a mutually agreed-upon choice)
d. Ignore them entirely. Pretend they don't exist.
e. March fearlessly into the future. Before they invented books, people used to memorize entire sagas, what would today be 600-page books. Humans have lost that ability. But who cares? Why do you need to remember anything you can look up in Google?

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