SparkNotes sparks interests in students for the wrong reasons

The SparkNotes webpage is easy to use and useful for comprehension. (Photo  courtesy of S. Biernat)

The SparkNotes webpage is easy to use and useful for comprehension. (Photo courtesy of S. Biernat)

Sarah Biernat

Reading frantically, junior Emily Hawkins sat in her eighth hour English class. Procrastination had taken over once again.

“I’m only on chapter 8,” she said. “There’s no way I’ll finish!”

Then for about ten more minutes, her Bic mechanical pencil scribbled down meaningless comments and reactions. This was not the first time this has happened, except for the previous few times she had a helper nearby.

The SparkNotes webpage is easy to use and useful for comprehension. (Photo  courtesy of S. Biernat)

A student using SparkNotes in place of reading a novel. (Photo courtesy of S. Biernat)

English teacher Jessica Volkening was having her class read the novel, “Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep?” by Philip K. Dick. While her students were taking this as a blended class, those like Hawkins who may not have been enjoying the book, or just simply were too lazy to read, may have resorted to speed reading or using online summary websites. The class time provided was not being used.

Among all the possible options, SparkNotes is by far the most popular. With thousands of chapters of novels to review, and brief overviews of the complete plots, you would think reading the dull novel you are expected to comprehend for English would not be necessary. In reality, students are just setting themselves up to fail by using this method.

While they may be tempting to use during a late night study session, skimming through summaries does nothing more than drain your eyesight, as it is on a computer screen. It may seem like a harmless action in the moment, but the outcome is affected, and teachers can tell.

The SparkNotes webpage is easy to use and useful for comprehension. (Photo  courtesy of S. Biernat)

The SparkNotes webpage is easy to use and useful for comprehension. (Photo courtesy of S. Biernat)

“[If students use it] as a way to avoid work, they are in fact the devil,” Jessica Volkening said jokingly. What she was trying to get across is laziness does nothing. You are wasting precious time doing something with only 50 percent of your true ability.

SparkNotes is not Satan, however, it should be used to “consult for further understanding,” according to Volkening. If something does not make sense after putting in 110 percent effort, there is no reason why clarification should be looked down upon by teachers.

To keep it simple: be smart with online resources. There is a reason why they are considered study tools, and not made to be accomplish schoolwork.

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