Let's face it: Texting is here to stay. The average 13- to 17-year-old sends 2,900 texts a month, according to the market research firm Nielsen. And while it might be a punishable offense in most schools, some teachers say that texting has educational tie-ins and that it can teach positive language skills, the Charlotte Observer in North Carolina reports.
The general thinking is that the more teenagers text, the more likely it is that abbreviations such as OMG (for "Oh my God") or mangled or simplistic syntax will seep into their schoolwork. But educators say those concerns are without merit and are not based on research.
Forward-thinking teachers say the informal writing style that defines text messages can be incorporated into class lessons. And a new study from California State University researchers has found that texting can improve teens' writing in informal essays and many other writing assignments.
Teachers such as Cindi Rigsbee of Orange County, N.C., have asked students to translate passages from classic literature to texting-speak to demonstrate language comprehension in different contexts. A finding from the CSU study supports that concept: "Texting-speak is not a mangled form of English that is degrading proper language but instead a kind of 'pidgin' language all its own that actually stretches teens' language skills." The research does concede that too much texting can hurt students' performance on most formal types of essay writing.
And then there are health concerns associated with texting. News reports have cited physicians' and psychiatrists' fears that the practice could take a toll on children's sleep patterns and their ability to think for themselves. Researchers also are speaking out against texting while driving; they say it can be more dangerous than drunk driving.
But civics teacher Annie McCanless says that texting has become an established part of teens' lives. "It can be used as a real tool as opposed to a hindrance," she told the Observer. Students interviewed by the North Carolina paper said that they routinely text their friends at night when they have questions about homework assignments or about when projects are due.
What do you think about texting in school? Are there ways to leverage the technology to boost student learning?