Friday, 15 January 2010

Language 2.0

Today I was called out by one of my students.

I teach tenth grade Literature and Composition class back to back for first and second period. I am teaching them through various Web 2.0 and open source venues. Every now and then we tend to digress into a conversation about technology and its role in the 21st century classroom. I often tell them that technology is changing faster than ever and everyone else is playing catch-up. This is very evident in education and the way in which we use language and communicate. I like to feel that I am on the cutting edge and can see what is around the corner before anyone else, however, today I felt archaic.

During a random tangent in class, we began talking about text messaging and the length. One of my students said, “I bet Marcinek’s text messages are like this five paragragh essay we are writing. He probably uses punctuation as well. “

I paused. Reflected on how cool I thought I was and how quickly I became my father. Standing in front of the next generation of learners and realizing that I was behind. Or was I?

From a distance, I showed my students a text message thread I had going on my iPhone. They all began to laugh and couldn’t believe the length of each individual message.

One student interjected, “How do you spell ‘though’?”

I responded, “Though.”

“What! You mean you don’t spell it tho?”

“No, what’s the point?” I shot back.

“Yo, if I got a text that long I would never read it. I’d be like, delete!”

This conversation, this tangent provoked my thinking and led me to question the relevance of my entire career and what content I was teaching. If this is what kids are currently engaged in, they why am I teaching them to read a novel at length? Why am I teaching them to spell and use grammar if the majority of their day is spent not using it? What is the future of language and grammar and punctuation? Are we on the precipice of a major language shift? And if so, what will it all look like in five to ten years?

In a brief vision I could see the future of education. Students walk into class, sit down in complete silence. I give them a copy of Lord of the Flies which has been shortened to 140 characters. They tweet me their thoughts on the 140 character novel they just wrote. They hurl me shortened adjectives over their all in one, do everything but slice bread Smart Phone. This smart phone is ironically titled Brain 2.0.

That vision started to scare me. Kids spend the majority of their day reading and writing, however, none of it is correct. They read more facebook profiles through the week than content from a text book. They write more text messages, e-mails and wall posts than essays or critical analysis responses. And this, THIS is where we, teachers in the 21st century come in to save the way in which we learn.

*Standing on my soap box* we need to be responsible with the spelling, grammar and mechanics of the English language. Teachers must teach students that when they post on walls, or send emails that they cannot break down language and toss the rules aside. Students must take it upon themselves to know when to type ‘you’ and when it is ok to type ‘u’. When technology is brought into the classroom and students find themselves typing more than writing with a pencil, we, as teachers, as facilitators, must monitor the content to which they present. We cannot sit back and let this slide or we will be disrespecting everything that is good about our language.

However, I still think there is merit to twitter and facebook in the classroom. We should not take this trend and simply ignore its appeal. I have posted before on several lessons which I have built around these two social networking forums. I use concept of twitter to elicit key ideas and focus a student’s thoughts when reading a chapter in a novel. I use the concept of facebook for characterization and reflecting on character arcs throughout a novel. There are plenty more as well. The key factor is that we need to teach our students to not just use technology, but use it with purpose and responsibility. We need to create rubrics that catch students writing when it digresses into text message format on a blog response or a discussion thread. When we combine the two, the technology in the classroom can open up many learning opportunities for our students.

Finally, I asked my students what they thought about the idea of language digression in online and text forums. Here are the two questions I asked them along with some of their responses. NOTE: I did not edit their responses to make my point. This became a teaching moment and a lesson on the responsibility we have when writing online.

Yesterday I was called out by several of you for sending paragraph length texts and it prompted two questions;
1. What are the language requirements or responsibilities when we write online and in text messages?
2. What will become of language if we continue to shorten it in length?

Answer each question in a brief paragraph. I will post these responses on my blog and share the comments and reader responses. Proofread your response for spelling and grammar.

1. i tnink that u can use and make ur own language when we write in txt meassages and in e-mails but when we are doing something professional then we need to use the write way of spelling and talking.

2. i think that sometimes you may forget how to spell a word or two nbut i think we will be fine.


When you’re online you try to talk proper and try to make sure you spell your words right. But when you text you spell words a different way. If we keep spelling words short i think that it will be hard to write a story..!


The language requirements for certain people when there writing online is just being thrown out the windows when they are online but at the same time it’s still there in ways too. I say this because when we write a text message we do still use things like acronyms in our text messages. If we continue to write like this our language will be way different because most people will want to write the word in a different way than it is properly spelled


When many people in the world don't always follow the rule of language while they text. They either use lol (laugh out loud ) idk (i don't know ) and for the people who follow the rule of language don't always know what it means. Many people throw out the rules of English because they figure that they don't have to apply it to modern life. The same for online like myspace facebook etc . In other words people now days are too lazy to type a full sentence, and instead write a response to have less to type .the language rules we learn now could be no use if we continue if we don't apply at all times.