Friday, December 18, 2009

Teaching the Texters

"Viewed from the other side of the Atlantic, text messaging by adolescents in the United States seems reminiscent of the early days of desktop publishing. Once we reveled in experiments with point size, font style, and color. The results were often graphic disasters, as we failed to heed the Delphic warning, "Nothing in Excess." Gradually word processing became a workaday tool, and our documents calmed down. In Europe, text messaging (generally known as SMS) first appeared in 1993, giving young people a decade more experience with the medium than their American counterparts. What is still often a toy in America, played on with youthful abandon, has settled into a pedestrian appliance elsewhere, particularly as teens mature into young adults." - Naomi S. Baron, author of Always On: Language in an Online and Mobile World in a blog post.

Now that Twitter, Facebook, and YouTube have embraced the mobile phone - and Apple has made the mobile phone a true mobile multimedia computing device - we as instructors have to accept the fact that our students are never far from their mobile friends, in or out of class. This video, first uploaded to YouTube in 2007, challenges teachers to incorporate texting assignments in their classrooms to help engage and motivate students. It suggests, for example, that you use class time to ask students to text someone outside of class and find out what they had for breakfast, what the weather is like where they are, and what they last purchased. Bonus points might be added for text messages that come from another country and/or in another language.

Marc Prensky believes we educators must incorporate cell phones into instruction. "Languages, literature, public speaking, writing, storytelling, and history are just a few of the subjects that are highly adaptable to voice-only technology." Texting adds the ability to "conduct pop quizzes or spelling or math tests, to poll students' opinions, to make learners aware of current events for class discussion (e.g., with messages from Cable News Network's Breaking News), and even to tutor students." He goes on: "Can we create programs, or even exams, that we hand out on memory cards for students to slip into their phones? Can homework and exams get marked and annotated automatically?...Can classes and schools (or subjects across those) be set up so that all classmates are permanently connected, and can pedagogies be constructed to take advantage of this?"

The number of text messages transmitted in the United States grew by more than 80 percent over the 12 months ended in June, 2009, to 135.2 billion per month. That number - 80 - is the average number of text messages each of your students sends every day. Along with sending messages, they're reading books, watching and uploading videos, voting on game shows, learning languages, and interacting with tutors. They're learning, in other words. And we're challenged to teach them in a language they understand.

Here's part of the new lingo, in case it shows up in your chat window:
! = I have a comment
10Q = Thank you
121 = One to one
404 = I haven't a clue.
411 = Information
511 = Too much information
::poof:: = I'm gone
AAK = Asleep at keyboard
AFC = Away from computer
AWHFY = Are we having fun yet?
(For more, check this link.)

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