David Crystal & Text Messaging

In this weeks lecture I was really struck by the position David Crystals’ take on text messaging. He argues that literacy scores rise with the amount of text messaging students engage in. He seeks to de-bunk some of the beliefs and assumptions that various educators and adults have towards digital fluency and its perceived negative effects. Crystal points out that parents are always complaining that their children do not do enough reading and writing—however, he believes that through digital communication, children are in fact constantly reading and writing. Texting would be impossible for someone who does not know how to read and write. Thus he believes that children who own a cell phone and text message—are always reading and writing. Crystal also addresses the use of abbreviations in “text-lingo”, many have said that when adolescents use abbreviations, it proves that they are not fluent readers and writers. However, after researching and interviewing adolescents on this issue, Crystal concludes that abbreviations are simply used because they are “cool”. Furthermore he states that in order to use abbreviations, one has to know how to spell the entire word. If you do not know how to spell the whole word, how can you know which letters to include and which to leave out in such a way that the message can still be understood?

After listening to David Crystal’s argument I was very surprised. I had never heard such a compelling argument in favor of text messaging before (at least not from a professional’s view point). I agreed with some of his ideas but also disagreed with some things. I think that text messaging does provide people (children included) with an opportunity to read and write throughout the day, in a way that is meaningful and relevant—unlike reading Shakespeare perhaps. However, there are a lot of times that text messaging is happening during class time. Personally, I feel that when that is happening it is taking away from potentially very helpful learning experiences in the classroom. I know that this morning my brother Philip who is in Grade 5 was reading Proverbs 18 from his iPod while he waited on the stairs for his bus to arrive. For convenience sake, I can see how this is a lot easier that bringing your entire Bible in your backpack. An iPod is small, and easy to keep in your pocket—much like any cell phone. I can see how children as young as ten (and likely even younger) are able to use electronic devices to make their lives easier and I can also see how this is helpful.

I have also seen my sister who is in Grade 7 role her eyes in annoyance anytime she is asked to spend 20 minutes reading—and yet will happily text her friends on her phone for hours. Both of these circumstances lend themselves to developing literacy skills. However, I don’t think traditional bookwork can be replaced by text messaging by any means. But perhaps texting during free time is not as detrimental as some would like to believe…


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