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learning.now: at the crossroads of Internet culture & education with host Andy Carvin

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October162006

Should Schools Teach SMS Text Messaging?

You may think that today’s kids already know everything they need to know about SMS text messaging, but some educators are now arguing that students need to learn texting in the classroom. Are they on to something, or is it a waste of time?

As reported several days ago in the popular mobile phone blogs Engadget Mobile and Textually.org, Australian educators in Victoria are stirring up a bit of a storm by teaching SMS text messaging as part of a language arts curriculum. These students, in the Australian equivalent of middle school, practice writing in the short message format that’s common in text messaging, putting together their own glossaries of texting abbreviations. They also compare the language and syntax of text messaging with that of formal, written English.

In an interview on the Australian news program The World Today, Professor John Frow of the University of Melbourne argued in support of SMS education. “If we were simply teaching students how to do text messaging, then it would be a waste of time,” he said. “But if we’re teaching them about the range of different languages that exist in English, and about translating from one language across to another, if we’re teaching them both that kind of skill, but also to think critically about these processes of moving between languages, then that seems to me entirely appropriate.”

Professor Frow continued:

English has literary languages of different kinds, it’s got technical languages, it’s got professional jargon, it’s got sub-cultural languages, it’s got dialects, the kind of language that’s used in chatrooms. Kids today are exposed to a much bigger range of languages than we were in the pre-digital era. Thinking about SMS is actually a way of thinking about English, standard English and about the way it works, the way it’s different from these other languages that students are very familiar with.

Julie Bishop, Australia’s secretary of education, condemned the initiative, citing a recent case in which Australian PhD students were forced to take a remedial English class because of their poor writings skills. But Pam Peters, a professor of linguistics at Macquarie University, argued that students’ SMS abilities don’t necessarily translate to poor writing skills in other contexts.

I doubt that most students when faced with a piece of paper or keyboarding in the fullest screen, would work with SMS which is very much a reduced code to fit into a tiny mobile phone screen, and people who use it know that’s why you have those very cut-down words. Once you’ve got a whole sheet of paper, a whole screen in which to craft your prose, there isn’t this incentive to reduce it to the minimal. And so I don’t think it’s a real fear that students will ever mistake SMS communication on a very limited range of subjects for the real thing.

To me, it seems there’s some merits with these perspectives. Thinking back to my own schooling, I recall the horror I felt when my mother insisted that I enroll in Latin. If I were to learn another language, a dead one didn’t strike me as very practical. Little did I understand at that moment in time that my Latin studies were intended to improve my English studies. Until that point in time I was an impatient reader and sloppy writer, rarely taking the time to craft my thoughts properly. But three years of Latin transformed my ability to write, because my Latin studies taught me about language syntax in a way I simply wasn’t receiving in language arts or literature classes.

Will teaching SMS accomplish similar goals? Maybe, maybe not. SMS is essentially a simplified shorthand for communicating ideas that otherwise take a lot more words when spoken or written in formal English. When studying another language, whether it’s Latin or Farsi or Cantonese, you’re forced to understand the underlying structure of how languages work. Gaining a grasp of a new language’s syntax helps you grasp the syntax of your mother tongue as well. So SMS’s abbreviated, simplified nature may make it difficult to convey they same complex lingustic concepts you’d gain while studying a richer, full-formed language.

Having said that, I do wonder if there’s a place for studying SMS ethics, if you will. The news media has been filled with stories in recent months about students usng SMS for cheating on tests or bullying other students. Meanwhile, some universities are beginning to explore the use of SMS for delivering lecture notes. So it’s not possible to dismiss SMS as an educational waste of time, nor as a silver bullet for distance learning. SMS can be used or abused. And chances are, every one of your students knows 10 times more about SMS technique than you do. But are they doing it responsibly?

So perhaps there is a place for SMS in the classroom. Maybe we need to start by having students teaching SMS to teachers, so they too can understand its potential for both positive and negative impact. Perhaps Professor Frow’s suggestion of having students create their own SMS glossaries isn’t so far fetched after all. -andy

Filed under : Mobile Devices

Responses

In the Western Cape in South Africa we are considering incorporating the use of mobile devices in teaching. It seems as if the sms is the only thing that a learner is eagerly reading or writing; one could just as well use the opportunity to teach them to do it properly.

SMS should be studied by students and anyone else wishing to participate in our technology driven world. Learning SMS is rather simple yet effective and essential for the context in which it is used. Today’s quick moving economy and on the go lifestyle affords us all the luxury of being informed at all times. The arguement of information haves and information have-nots is a prime example of the ability to communicate and utilize the SMS language.

Communication tools and the languages in which we use within these tools are evolving beyond our control or the control in which we would try to teach within a classroom. SMS today will evolve into more dynamic WAP orientated services. Text will evolve in graphics and multi media. Emotions will become easier to express through these new tools and take on forms still to be created by someone with a small keypad and lots of time on their hands.

We should embrace this evolution in expression and communication. Global communication tools and capabilities require new languages, new capabilities to communicate with not only our neighbors but our counterparts in other countries. The reality is we’re not all going to learn Latin, French, Japanese, Spanish or even English – but our younger generation has the opportunity to use tools that communicate and express emotions in any language through simple icons.

Can a classroom or college professor create these new standards in mobile communication then create a stylus to teach them? Maybe – but the creator’s and the teacher’s will be the users. They will not have doctorate degrees and in most cases will not be through high school yet.

Will this change how we type formal letters, use Microsoft word and reflect in our written letters? Absolutely! I look 4ward 2 it! It takes a lot less time to communicate the Xact same thing. Does it offend anyone that I didn’t type out the whole word? Does it make me less educated? Or does it simplify my life, make it easier to communicate faster and give me more time to do something else. More time is what we should be focusing on.

David Raine
Chatter Inc.
www.2chatter.com

I suggest that those who choose an Orwellian “Newspeak” world have at it. Offer classes in I-pod, cell phone, and text messaging communication to those who want it. Leave Shakespeare, Swift, and Orwell to the rest of us who know better.

In my opinion, teaching technology is very important in these days.However, I believe technology is involved on all activities in our lifes, but teaching technology should be limtid in classrooms. Students should learn the best of the technology that will help them on their schools and careers in the future. Tecahing the entertainment side of technology is not usefull for students in classrooms, and students can learn this side by their own and outside the school.

The constantly development of new technologies have made education a complete process, adding audio, visual and virtual reality stuff to give better ideas and get a better knowledge of what is teaching.Actually, the new mobile technologies in this case SMS can be added to the education, you can get assignment through SMS, an important personality of business can send a SMS to student about a topic and many more opportunities that can be added to the education process.

The first step is give an orientation to people on how to use this Technology to get its maximum benefit as we got from Pcs when multimedia classes or video conference were added to today’s educations. The world is moving fast and people must move at the same speed, one way to rise that speed is using the new technologies to help our day by day process.

Students should be taught to use SMS text in the school. Nowadays techonologies has changed life in many ways, including way of learning. We have distance teaching now. However, if students learn SMS text and teachers use it to give lessons, it will broaden the use of distance teaching. Also, using abbr. in the business email is easy to see, it saves a lot of time to communicate and to deal with things. Why not fomalize SMS text? This is a fast changing world which need fast speed tool to cooperate with.

I teach Spanish language to high school students and we are currently working on a unit dealing with technology. Our textbook is teaching our students how to say things like “answering machine”, so I’ve put together some information on text messaging in Spanish among other more current technologies. The students thought this was great, to be able to text in another language. This has also pointed out the logic behind text messaging language. In my opinion, it is always necessary to teach students content that is relevant and within a relevant context. If this is done, then there really shouldn’t be an issue teaching anything.

I have to agree with Mr. Egan. You really can’t say that the bastardization of English is a good thing for students to learn in the classroom. Especially when you’ve picked up essay after essay in a row with “U have 2 read 4 u can get a god grade. lol” embedded within the “English.” It’s enough to make an educator question the field of education. What exactly are we teaching our children? What do we want them to learn? That if you persist in doing things incorrectly, or with short-cuts, eventually the education system will give up and indoctrinate those methods?

I think that the use of cell phones as a resource or teaching aid in the classroom is worthwhile trying since teachers should be open to experiment all kinds of resouces specially if they are technological ones which are so attractive to students, but first teachers must get information about the different uses they can be given in order to know where to start, later the teacher can create new ways of using them and share them with other teachers.

jeez

To elaborate on the comment I put above, I do not believe this is a good thing to be taught in classrooms because it betrays language by making it smaller and handheld, which eliminates the need for education, and it destroys years of formal language that have been intstituted by past generations

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Yes, students should be taught
the art of SMS. After all we spent years training primarily females shorthand
so they could become secreataries and no one was upset over correct grammar, etc.,
becuse that was being taught at the same time. I have just written in my blog
ways instructors can use text messaging in the classroom (www.lifewithmycomputer.com).
My thoughts as a professor is that after trying to keep the cell phones off and
out of use in the classroom (just like previously trying to keep students from
emailing during class), that maybe I needed to come up with a way to meet the
Millennial Generation’s learning patterns for better success in the classroom
- and it is working. Has anyone else been utilizing SMS in the classroom? If so,
how?

I feel really strongly about this topic. So much so that it has led me to write an article on the effects that cyberspace is having on our language. You could say that this topic alone has led me into the world of writing as I’m putting all my energy and focus on becoming a professional writer. I totally disagree with the thought of incorporating SMS language as part of the school education system as we will begin to lose our own heritage. The Irish Government has tried so hard for years to revive Gaelic as a recognised language in the Republic of Ireland and only now are beginning to see results. Do we really want to come to the day when we have to fight for our language? Studying the likes of Shakespeare will be like tapping into the ice age. It makes me so sad. The creativity and freedom of expression of our children will be diminished as a smiley will take the place of all those hundreds of beautiful words that could express our emotions to a tee; adapted and come about after thousands of years of our developing language to make it what it is today. All I know is that I’d rather be Shakespeare than R2D2 any day.

Hello! I am teaching my class how to text in Spanish. I have first and second year students in a local high school. They were really excited to hear about learning this. I have applied it in my letter writing lesson, as our new generation has kind of lost letter writing to texting.We will start this week. Our spanish books are very old and there is not enough talk of technology and so kids are excited to learn that other places use technology just like them, just with a different language.

As with most things in life, there are those who are resistant to change and those that look forward to the new. Computers, i-pods, cell phones, etc are here to stay- at least until they ‘evolve’ into even more sophisticated communication devices.

Teachers should be the first to embrace the challenges and opportunities offered by new technology- including text messaging and ‘e-mail-speak’. It’s not as if you would stop teaching poetry, grammar, literature and other lessons, but it is very important that students relate to the language that is being used and to incorporate text-messaging as a lesson now and again is very valuable.

We used to study different types of writing - from limericks to newspaper articles, Shakespeare to tabloid ‘junk’. That helped shape my opinions on the differences between poor and effective writing and it should be no different just because its writing via cellphone.

There’s a saying about school (teachers) being at the forefront of change yet being the most resistant to it. Come on teachers, learn from your students too, stay up to date with new language and learn to love it. As much as I love classic literature, including Chaucer and Shakespeare (who were modern in their day and up to date with the latest lingo), students today want English that they can get to grips with.

Cell phones should not be allowed in Highschool and below because most students do not have the maturity to refrain from improper use of them.

Some students will send up to 500 text messages a day on their cell phones; how can one argue that it is not detrimental to their learning?

Students also use cellphones to take pictures in class and video their teacher in a set up scenario. Search for Teachers on YouTube if you would like to see some examples of this.

If students are mature enough to use their phones responsibly I would agree with them having them.

Cell phones should not be allowed in Highschool and below because most students do not have the maturity to refrain from improper use of them.

Some students will send up to 500 text messages a day on their cell phones; how can one argue that it is not detrimental to their learning?

Students also use cellphones to take pictures in class and video their teacher in a set up scenario. Search for Teachers on YouTube if you would like to see some examples of this.

If students are mature enough to use their phones responsibly I would agree with them having them.

dsfdf idiot

how do you caca.

what is your name im sorry about that.

Hello. This thread is most engaging to me. We set out to create rtestedu.com years ago, expecting that a robust SMS messagng management system (Linux Server) for high schools would be well received, after school administrators finally recognize that students and their cellphones will never be separated.

Their cellphones are like the clothes they wear - K12 students have a strong emotional connection or bond to all wireless and gaming devices. This phenomenon is part of the human condition in this age demographic. This bond young people have to these devices, can be extended back to the high school setting if managed correctly by teachers and administrators. I hope these comments are insightful to all readers here. Best regards, R. Thiele - Dallas Texas.

I find it interesting that those people arguing against text messaging in the classroom and for sticking to more traditional language are here using a computer to write their responses.

If we stuck with traditional forms of communicating then we would all still be taking books out of libraries, writing rough copies and good copies by hand, sending letters to each other, and spending months and years to do research and write books instead of much shorter time periods.

The printing press was supposed to ruin the English language when it arrived.

The personal computer according to my English teachers in high school was going to destroy the English language because we could edit as we wrote.

Email was going to end communication because the art of letter writing would be lost.

Now people panic over SMS and what it will do. Perhaps it will change the English language, but isn’t it better to adapt and have readers, than stick with an old system and lose these readers/writers?

In my school tomorrow, we are haing a debate about this topic. I say we shouldnt have texting language and I thank you very much for posting this. It gave me a lot of ideas!

wateva to all of dis

If students can’t even spell how does texting language help them. I don’t think it does. Let’s improve literacy and writing in this world. Let’s prepare students for the real world where you need to write and read like everybody does not a short version. I love to read and write and I am 80 years old and I am not going to shorten words to save time!!!!

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