conventions · technology

Standard English vs. Texting.

In my most November 2008 issue of The Journal of Adolescent and Adult Literacy, I came across an article by Gloria E. Jacobs, “We Learn What We Do:  Developing a Repertoire of Writing Practices in an Instant Messaging World.  The tag line caught my eye:

Students can be proficient in instant messaging as well as in the writing expected in school.

I’ve been tossing these ideas around in my mind for awhile about the place of texting in school.  Now that I have the opportunity to use chat rooms and discussion forums in my high school English classroom, the thoughts have skyrocketed!  If I allow text-ling and lowercase proper nouns and smileys and unconventional punctuation, am I doing a disservice to my students?

However, if I insist on Standard English, even in these forums of informal English, am I really tapping into the power of technology.  In fact, I’ve went as far as questioning the fairness of imposing Standard English in these places.  I don’t expect text-lingo in formal essays, so why should they expect Standard English in chat rooms?

The article, which follows the journey of a highly successful high school English student, who is an award winning writer, as well as a self-defined “hard core IM user,” helped me come to terms with some of these issues buzzing in my brain.  After reading the article, I was affirmed in my use of technology — it is important to teach students to live in both worlds and to find the formality of language that is appropriate.

Jacob writers:

I propose that Lisa [case study student] gained facility in IM and in school-based writing because she was aware of the differences between writing for school and writing for friends and made the effort to match her writing to her audience and purpose expect when pressured by time constraints [where she would slip into informal conventions].  I suggest that working with students to develop this metacognitive awareness of how they switch language and literacy practices according to context may contribute to a decrease in the crossover of IM conventions in school-based writing.

This gives me the needed push to create a bulletin board in our classroom, identifying the types of writing we do + the level of formality needed in each context.  Look for a photo later this week.

One thought on “Standard English vs. Texting.

  1. I really like this concept of “code-switching”. I have encountered teachers who were quite critical of such talking and writing; however, don’t we all have different levels of formality for work, home, family, friends, blog, journal, etc.? I am also a young teacher who uses quite a bit of IM in my free time, so…

    Thanks for the post.


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