Multiliteracies in ELA Classrooms

Seminar Lead Blog Post: Texting (Monday, July 14)

July 12th, 2014 · No Comments

The articles on instant messaging, texting, email, and other forms of informal electronic communication raised some interesting questions about the language we as English teachers are supposed to teach. For the purposes of simplicity, I will refer in this blog post to “texting” or “texting language” to mean any abbreviated and/or condensed form of communicating often found in digital spaces.

One of the major questions concerned in these two articles is: Is texting language degrading “standard” English? Though they were written around 2005, sentiments seem to have changed very little since then, and texting language is still associated with teenagers and young adults in an often criticizing way. Texting is still thought of as dangerous to students’ ability to master academic and professional English, with fears of lol’s and omg’s littering an essay or a cover letter. I definitely ran into that fearful attitude at my practicum school as teachers worried about what this language meant for their students’ futures, especially those with weaker English skills to begin with.

This notion of the degradation of some sort of “standard” English reminded me of something we worked on for our second Inquiry Seminar. On our “Inquiry into Writing” blog, Ceilidh posted an interesting video on African-American Vernacular English (Ebonics) under her section on writing and culture. The video shows a school that treats Ebonics as a distinct dialect with its own features and grammatical rules. Teachers teach students the differences between Ebonics and “standard” English in a way that does not devalue students’ home culture, unlike the typical viewpoint that sees Ebonics as an incorrect or lowly version of English.

Hence, the question of whether texting language is degrading “standard” English is quite similar to the questioning of the value of Ebonics. In both cases, there is a direct comparison between and value claim about the “nonstandard” and “standard” forms of English.

The backlash against any non-standard form of English, especially forms that considerably break the conventions, invites us to think critically about who the gatekeepers of this knowledge are, and who benefits from the maintenance of some sort of “standardized” English, and who loses? Also, to what extent can language accommodate change over time, and what changes are permissible?

And most importantly, is our role as teachers to teach our students how to switch registers while still upholding this “standard” English? If yes, perhaps we can learn how better to go about this by learning from other situations, such as the teaching of Ebonics in a way that still values students’ background knowledge.


To view Ceilidh’s piece from our old blog, click here.

Tags: Presentation · Seminar Prompts

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