Does texting make our kids dumb?

Date August 31, 2009

The fear within our schools as we begin another year is that technology is making our students dumber, but a recent Wired article by Clive Thompson reports findings from Adrea Lunsford out of Stanford University’s Stanford Writing Center has done a massive study that suggests today’s 21st century college student has actually become stronger writers based predominantly on there keen understanding of kairos, how to write for an audience. Of the 14, 672 writing samples her team gathered not a single one used txt lng in formal writing. She also suggested that students would rather write outside of class where they can better engage in a written dialogue with their audience, rather than in classes where they feel they are only writing for a grade. Lunsford asserts that she “thinks [that] we’re in the midst of a literacy revolution the likes of which we haven’t seen since Greek civilization.” I for one am eager to see if the evolution of language is shifting in these coming years, albeit I do wonder how this feeds into verbal, video and visual.What does language look like when the written word has moved beyond the text and words on the “page”. What would Lunsford say about this, and how does that shift language. For example, in my classes we learn to “read” visual through strategies like OPTIC, but as I write I realize more people text, tweet, and update their statuses than pick up the phone to make a voice call.

Kelsey Texting
“Kelsey Texting” found on Flickr by searching Creative Commons using keyterms “texting” and “school”.

Academia may whine that these new forms of writing aren’t good, but Lunsford points out that today’s students and the “modern world of online writing, particularly in chat and on discussion threads, is conversational and public, which makes it closer to the Greek tradition of argument than the asynchronous letter and essay writing of 50 years ago.” I found this argument telling, and push my students to encourage any and all writing. Parents sometimes believe twittering is for teens and wierdos and others are only on Facebook to watch their own children, and I get the sideways glance when I run Twitter & Facebook workshops for the Boomer Generations but ladies and gentleman, I am a rhetorician, a compositon teacher, and a love of language. All language.