Tuesday, September 11, 2018

Spell Czech

Having finished responding this weekend to students' first formal batch of writing, I noticed one unexpectedly frequent feedback comment popping up: "Commonly confused word." For these accomplished eighth-grade writers, my goal was to tap into a phrase they'd likely heard earlier in their middle-school careers in reference to homonyms. I wanted students to look twice at words I'd spotlighted this way in their Google Documents, tilt their heads questioningly, and realize they had the right sounding term, but not yet spelled accurately for the context. (If I'm being honest, I probably did an actual or internal eye roll -- Why can't they see? -- each time I felt compelled to add this comment.)

Cut to class time when a student flagged me down: "Mr. Rozinsky, check this out." She proceeded to type this sentence, "I saw you exit your screen..." By this point, her eyes were on me as Google's auto correct swapped the possessive 'your' for the contraction 'you're.' "It's not my fault," she said. "I'm trying to do the right thing, but Google won't let me."

"Time for us to be smarter than this Chromebook," I said gamely -- or wished I'd said. We browsed the word processor's Tools menu, but initially came up empty. We ran a few quick help searches, eventually finding what we needed; turns out it was in the Google Documents' Tools menu, under Preferences... a long list of automatic substitutions, including several commonly confused words. I advised the student to disable the mindless your/you're correction in favor of her brain's savvier system. I left her to prune the rest of these not-so-smart settings as she saw fit.

Score one, for now, for actual over artificial intelligence.


  1. Wait - WHAT? Google is automatically mis-correcting?ARGH!! My reluctant high school writers are NOT going to be able to fix that. I am anticipating many a discussion in my future. "But, Miss*, GOOGLE said it was right..." Honestly, I may just make everyone write with pen and paper forever. (Ok, ok, I won't. But don't think I'm not tempted.) *"Miss" = Canadian students way of referring to all female teachers.

    1. I took a look at my own Preferences menu, and the auto substitution list proved to be more limited (through no actions of my own as far as I can remember). More research needed, which will involve enlisting my students...