When they face off at the annual Howard County Spelling Bee Friday, March 8, students will not have access to electronic spell checkers, those ubiquitous online programs that flag misspelled words.
But spelling bees aside, is learning to spell really necessary in the era of spell checkers?
"Oh my, yes," wrote Zeleana Morris, coordinator of Secondary Language Arts for Howard County's schools, in an email response to the question of whether spelling is still important. (Spelling is not taught explicitly in the secondary schools, but is part of the vocabulary development and the structural analysis of writing that are taught there.)
"While spellcheck is indeed a very useful tool, spellcheck does not replace individual responsibility when writing," she continued. "Real life writing situations require on-demand writing and are not accompanied with technological devices and tools."
Waterloo Elementary School Principal Michelle Leader added: "Maybe down the line, when all children have hand-held devices, spelling will be less important. … But you'll always need to have at least a basic understanding of the spelling of words even then … I don't see spelling going away, ever."