I had an interesting discussion, and continue to have them, with colleagues and fellow teachers/educators on the issue of spelling. It all started with a classroom situation, somewhat abridged for the sake of reading:
PUPIL: How do I spell Buckingham Palace? Oh, I'll get a dictionary. [looks intently through said dictionary] It's not in here.
ME: Google it?
You get the idea and I want to keep this post short and sweet. However, the truly incredible points here are written below. By 'Googling a word', a child:
* attempts to spell the word to the best of their ability
* is presented with suggestions to an incorrectly spelt word
* receives a list of search results to explore the word further
* receives access to thousands of images relating to the word
* is likely to encounter further or serendipitous learning
It is very important for me to emphasise at this point that I am not saying that we need to do away with the teaching of spelling. In fact, quite the opposite. Children need to learn spelling patterns and guidelines as part of basic human life. But the point that I am trying to make is that we, as professionals, need to appreciate and embrace the impact (and slant) that Google can add to spelling. And it does seem to be doing so...
You only have to speak to a handful of remotely-technologically competent people to find that many of them will Google a word for the sake of ease, either for spelling or defining purposes.
What makes me proud is that children in my class flutter between dictionaries and Google naturally when it comes to spelling. They will often use the two in conjunction too (dictionary --> Google) and it works an absolute treat. What's more is that Google seems to be the more efficient option in terms of time and results. Children with dyslexia seem to stand better chances too (but I'm not putting an umbrella up here!).
So, I'm not for burning dictionaries. I'm not for crushing the teaching of spelling. But what I am passionate towards is a 21st Century approach to spelling. I call it 'Realistic Spelling'.
A LITTLE EXTRA
An interesting quote from fellow teacher, Jen Devaney (@mooshtang) via Twitter: 'taht tinhg aoubt olny nedenig frist and lsat ltteres in rghit palce to make out meaning illustrates spelling not be all and end all!'