In recent decades, students have been relying on technology more and more. Instead of actually doing work manually, students today use PowerPoint presentations, Microsoft word, e-boards, and many other technological aids to help assist them with their schoolwork. Among these technological aids lies a site called Sparknotes, which supplies students with a guide that they can use to help them with their assigned readings. Although this site can be helpful at times, it appears that many students rely on this site too much. Sparknotes should only be used as a tool to help you, after you read, and after you have made a good attempt to comprehend the underlying messages of the actual text.
A survey administered to 70 students throughout the school, about the use of Sparknotes, resulted in an alarming 87 percent answering that they have used Sparknotes this year. However, those students also utilize Sparknotes differently. While one person may use Sparknotes as a substitute for the book, another might be looking at it for one small answer for their homework.
For example, Becca Fisher (’13) said,” they give good summaries and they have analysis that helps me to understand different points of view of the books”.
Thirty three percent agreed with Becca , saying that Sparknotes helps them better understand the details of the book. If you read the book well, then you should be able to identify those important details and write them down as notes. However, taking notes can become monotonous and time-consuming. The notes you would take are already on the internet, and their neatly organized. After you have actually read the book, and tried to grasp those details, Sparknotes can be a good tool for memorizing those small yet important facts.
Kelly Feinerman (’14) said “I use it to get the overall theme of the book.”
Fisher also said, “they are very helpful but definitely not enough to replace reading the book altogether”.
Many students say that they read the book but then look at the Sparknotes, thirty five percent to be specific. Students can form opinions of the text while reading the book, but then cement their opinions of the themes, motifs, etc of the book with a site that analyzes the text thoroughly. It might be considered cheating, but at least the student reads the book and analyzes it by themselves. Sparknotes can be pretty helpful, in that respect.
Mike Suli (’14) said, “It’s better if I read the book, but I use Sparknotes, because it’s easy.”
Suli said that he gets a passing grade with the use of this method. According to the survey, 28 percent agree with the use of this method and 24 percent of those students get B’s or higher on their tests and homework assignments. Thirty three percent answered that they don’t understand the book when they do read it. One of the reasons those students might not understand the book is because they have been relying on Sparknotes too long. Their dependency on Sparknotes could have created a dispassionate outlook to the reading of a book, because reading a book takes work and skill, while merely looking at Sparknotes does not. Every student possesses that skill, but one needs to read the book to discover it.
Although those kids do well using Sparknotes alone, most teachers, rightfully, do not encourage the use of Sparknotes.
“Sparknotes is fine as a supplement to the text, but not as a substitute.” Mrs. Demarco, an English teacher at Cherry Hill East, said.
Mrs. Demarco adds that the literary language is found in the text itself and not in a summary of the text. Even though 75 percent of the students who use Sparknotes get a B or higher with the utilization of the site, they may be missing out on the actual reading experience. Sparknotes gives readers too many answers and it doesn’t give them enough freedom to actually think. English is different from other classes, in the sense that there are many possibilities to each answer that you give.
Students should not use Sparknotes, because it distorts the reading experience and it causes students to forget their own intellectuality that they use when analyzing the book.
Sparknotes can give you some of those thoughts and answers, but it is cheating you of your own imagination and creativity.