According to a national survey of teachers, text messaging and similar technologies have helped students improve in areas such as creativity, personal expression and cooperation.
The Pew Research Center’s Internet & American Life Project, which conducted the poll, reports that teachers gave more than half their students good grades for effectively organizing writing assignments, considering multiple viewpoints, synthesizing content from multiple sources, using appropriate style and tone and constructing strong arguments. The findings contradict the popular belief that texting, tweeting and instant messaging are ruining students’ writing skills.
“What is texting?” asked linguist David Crystal, author of the 2008 book “Txtng: the Gr8 Db8.” “Texting is writing and reading.”
Still, some teachers expressed worries about “creeping informality” in student writing. They said that more than two-thirds of their students had trouble with plagiarism or understanding long and complicated readings.
Scott Mandel, who teaches English and history at Pacoima Middle School, said that most middle school students have difficulty writing. Mandel contends that texting leads students to produce shorter sentences and show less critical thinking, significantly detracting from the quality of their compositions.
Jared Yamasaki, a 16-year-old Valencia High School student, supports Mandel’s conclusion. In an interview, Yamasaki said that his writing has been hindered by his use of text abbreviations and the auto-correct spelling feature on his iPhone.
Yet texting will likely become more common in schools as classrooms incorporate technologies such as iPads into lessons. North Carolina teacher Cindi Rigsbee, a 2009 finalist for the National Teacher of the Year Award, even uses texting to teach. Rigsbee has asked students to translate passages from classic literature to texting-speak in order to demonstrate language comprehension in different contexts.
English teachers told Pew that texting and other digital writing can serve as “building blocks” for students to express their ideas. When this expression is combined with training at school, student writing can vastly improve.
Despite his disparagement of abbreviations and autocorrect, Yamasaki concurs. “I don’t know how much I’d write if I didn’t have texting,” he said.