British Educators Angered by "Texting" I say "don't get mad, get creative!"
by Erin Jansen, author "NetLingo The Internet Dictionary" and http://www.NetLingo.com
Texting is a new form of online communication. Texting is English that's been adapted to rapid fire conversational style of instant messaging. Commonly transmitted over cell phones or mobile devices, "texters" use keypad to type written messages to each other.
You've seen bits and pieces of it: brb, cul8r, lylas, b4n, cu@8... It's one of most popular sections on NetLingo.com.
For teenagers, texting is like knowing another language. Since it is an online language, it is global in nature and is quickly becoming a universal from of English.
Given that you must type messages, shortcuts have been created in an effort to type more in less time. Shortcuts such as r, u, and b4 make these text messages look like code, but in fact it is conversational writing.
It is this kind of conversational writing that is infiltrating students' schoolwork and educators are wondering what to do about it. In a recent interview with BBC entitled "The Pedant's Revolt" I came face to face with those who fear Queen's English is losing her ground.
While everyone agrees that language evolves, there are groups of highly educated speakers and professors who are dead set against presence of texting in schoolwork and who are arguing for ways to stamp it out. My presence on program, however, forced us to look at cultural implications of online communication and to look for creative ways to deal.
It is not only a subculture of youths who are texting: 60% of online population under age 17 uses text messages (according to Nielson/Net Ratings). They use it primarily to socialize and communicate, in other words, for recreation.
It is certainly true that at school, kids need to know difference between formal writing and conversational writing. They need to know where to draw line between formal English and informal English.
Before we solve problem with text shorthand found in schoolwork, I want parents and educators to realize and appreciate there is a culture associated with this style of writing, and that culture is important and meaningful to our youths.
After all, when kids use text messaging, they are communicating and isn't that something every parent wants to cultivate? Don't you want your child to express him or herself? To communicate more?
The same is true for educators, after all, because of Internet, kids are writing more than ever. Isn't that what every teacher wants, to get their kids writing?
Texting poses two major challenges for educator. One, should not be to overcome this new abbreviated language, but rather find ways to use it creatively.
The second challenge texting poses for educators is solved when teachers impress upon their students that there is a clear distinction between formal and conversational writing and that in class, only formal writing is accepted in final draft.
The opportunity exists to encourage students to use text shorthand to spark their thinking process. For example, when you're writing a first draft, it's all about freeing up your creativity.
A sixth grade teacher said "When my children are writing first drafts, I don't care how they spell anything, as long as they are writing. Remember creative writing class? If this lingo gets their thoughts and ideas onto paper quicker, more power to them."
It is during editing and revising stages of a writing project that switch needs to happen. The switch from using elements of text shorthand to only standard English needs to happen. If text shorthand still appears in final draft, it is educator's responsibility to work with student to make sure this writing is translated or converted into proper English.