Multiliteracies in ELA Classrooms

Thoughts on txting

July 14th, 2014 · 1 Comment

Both Baron and Carrington’s articles raise the question of whether texting or other forms of computer-mediated communications are “degrading the language” (Baron 29). Carrington quotes a BBC news article which states that “text messaging, email and computer spell-checks have long been blamed for declining standards of spelling and grammar” (162). It also links “txting to youth to declining standards to poor achievement to social” (163).

I find these claims interesting because it appears to create a dichotomy between the two. You either text or you write “properly”. There does not appear to be a middle ground. What is not being recognized is the fact that different mediums have different expectations and conventions, and that while written English has its areas of use, so too does txting. If someone texted or wrote on social media like they did on their essay, their peers would view such a practice with eyebrows raised. Likewise, submitting an assignment as the Scottish girl did completely in text will draw the ire of teachers.

As I mentioned in class, during my practicum, one of the students handed in a set of comprehension questions marked with hashtags. For example, for the question “What is Paris’ reasoning behind his request for Juliet’s hand in marriage in Act I Scene i?”, the student answered “Women back then got married early. Juliet’s mom was married when she was 14. #teenagemom”.

This was a very interesting phenomenon and highlights my perspective of whether txting is “the end of written civilization as we know it”: the importance is knowing the appropriateness of when to use what.

When I handed back assignments, I asked the student, “do you hashtag answers for other teachers too?” to which he replied, “no. I did it on this one because I knew it wouldn’t go over your head, and I wouldn’t get in trouble for it”. When I asked him “so you wouldn’t have hashtagged on an assignment for Mr. _____ (my SA)”, he answered “basically”.

In my opinion, this encounter and conversation reflects and summarizes the place of txting within society today. This student was able to masterfully determine when and where it was permissible to use txting language, not only to the type of assignment (comprehension questions), but to the audience in which he was presenting his assignment to (the younger student teacher who was familiar with twitter). When I had the class write essays, he wrote it in “written English” in the “structure deemed appropriate” and there were no hashtags or any other silly social media-appropriate/”formal” English-inappropriate stylistic traces.

The question to ask is not which is appropriate, but when and where they are appropriate. It is interesting to note that by sticking an appropriate hashtag in his comprehension questions, I was sure that he had read the assigned reading and understood the content. By demonstrating his ability to bridge the gap between the different registers, he demonstrated understanding and comprehension in his work. Oh, and he also proved he didn’t simply Sparknote his answers. I bet Sparknotes does not give you hashtag versions of their summaries now, do they?


~Jackson Leung


Works Cited: 

Baron, Naomi S. “Instant messaging and the future of language.” Communications of the ACM 46.7 (2005): 30-31. Web. 8 July 2014.

Carrington, Victoria. “Txting: the end of civilization (again)?” Cambridge Journal of Education 35.2 (2005): 161-175. Web. 8 July 2014.

Tags: computer-mediated communication · Presentation

1 response so far ↓

  • vinaysharma // Jul 15th 2014 at 12:58 pm

    Great points, and I definitely agree with you on what I believe is the underlying message of your post: that writing in this shorthand text-savvy language is not ultimately detrimental to the state of oral and written language, as long as we educate the students on appropriate registers and when to use which form of language.

    I am glad to read that you didn’t punish the student who submitted the comprehension question, which you justified by noting that the student had definitely understood the question, the text and the context, and that the student had “bridged the gap between the different registers”.

    I had a similar experience where a student included a hashtag on an answer for a plot quiz during a Twelfth Night unit on my long practicum. In a response to the question “Why does Malvolio continue to embarass himself in front of Olivia?” the student answered “He is blinded by his irrational love for Olivia, so much so that he doesn’t realize how ridiculous he’s being made to look #crazyinlove.” Like your example, the student effectively answered the
    question. demonstrating his knowledge of the act, but also experimented with the other register as we had used Twitter in class the previous week. He knew that I would be able to follow this register, but still supplied the standard “academic” register required in the school setting. In supplementing his answer with the hashtag also reflecting the situation in the play, the student, like yours, bridged the gap between different registers without sacrificing the integrity of his answer by including a hashtag not relating to the content.

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