Every so often I listen to concerns regarding technology's role in advancing student language & communication. Most often the question posed is whether or not technology is hindering our students' ability to communicate effectively. The concern stems from the language of texting, and that if we as educators infuse greater technology in our classrooms, do we foster 'improper' texting conventions of communication?
Typically when this concern is raised I immediately reflect back to my days as a student in my grade 11 English class. I see myself sitting there at my desk, staring at a book full of words and terms I cannot for the life of me understand. I am told over and over again, how this book contains language of great importance, and I would be wise to learn it. I understand that the author influenced almost every narrative that came after him, but I could never understand what the heck this 'Bill' guy was talking about.
I have never (well maybe rarely) used any of the phrases William Shakespeare so eloquently penned in his great works. As I have said, I understand his works are masterpieces; and believe me, I wish I appreciated them then like I do now. However, I also understand that when I speak to family, write an email to coworkers, or text my friends, I don't utter the phrase "Where art thou?"
Communication has evolved, and continues to evolve. I wonder if someone back in 1650 said "These kids these days! those gents don't knoweth how to writeth properly!" Did they fret about the state of spelling & grammar? Did they wonder if giving every student a chalk & slate would lead to every kid not knowing how to speak properly? Or that they wouldn't know how to write a proper essay?
True, texting has a great influence on the evolution of communication; but I don't believe it's because of the technology. Communication has changed because we have adapted as living, breathing, walking & talking beings in how we use it. No device forces you to write 'U' instead of 'You'. We make that choice. Even if we are talking about autocorrect, we still make the choice to set the autocorrect function to do this, or allow it.
If we are concerned about our students' written communication than it's our responsibility to teach them the proper conventions for each medium. If it comes to writing an essay, then yes we need to teach them how to properly construct one. However, how many essays have you wrote lately? How many students are going to go on to write one in their future?
Students however, are far more likely to blog, text, email, and produce a podcast. Therefore, maybe if we get students to construct these forms of communication, they will take greater care with their conventions? Not because of the technology component, but because these are ways which resonate with them, and ways of communication in which they see in their future.
I hope my students go on to write amazing works of art, essays of great importance, and novels that capture the masses. But I also hope just one goes on to blog a little, maybe like me, and finds their outlet for communication.