Students are reading now more than ever, but they’re not reading books, magazines or newspapers too often.
Instead, they’re reading text messages — and a lot of them.
Broadcast, telecommunications and mass media major Meg Minner said she does not read unless it’s for school.
One day, Minner woke up with eight text messages. In fact, she said that she sends and receives roughly 300 text messages a day.
Though it is generally known that a text message takes only seconds to write and send, what Minner doesn’t know is that every time she is texting, she might be learning better reading, writing and comprehension skills.
Dr. Beverly Plester, a research psychologist and professor at Coventry University, said “newer research shows a stronger causal relationship between text abbreviations and literacy skills.”
In short, skilled texting is linked to proper spelling.
However, some Temple professors are just not buying that texting can teach literacy. First-year writing teacher Joseph Yearous-Algozin said he firmly believes that there is “no direct correlation” with teaching proper literacy and text messaging.
Sociology professor Daglind Sonolet said she feels that students should “be able to keep the two languages apart.”
Though cell phones offer a new wave of communication, learning literacy is much more complex than text messaging.
However, one feature that most cell phones offer is predictive text software called T9. The way that text on nine keys works is simple. As texters type, T9 predicts a word. If the word doesn’t appear because of incorrect spelling, the texter must retype with proper spelling until T9 finds a match for a desired word, forcing texters to learn to correctly spell words fairly quickly.
“I could never remember the ‘i’ before ‘e’ rule until T9 kind of made me learn it. Now, it comes natural to me,” said freshman marketing major Kelsey Lillis.
“In some of our research, we have found that the better spellers are also the children who use the most text abbreviations,” Plester said.
Plester has been studying adolescents’ texting habits for more than three years and believes there is a positive correlation between texting and literacy.
“Text language generally uses phonetic reductions of spoken language,” Plester said. “In order to create those kinds of abbreviations, you have to have a pretty good sense of the phonology of your language.”
“Using T9 to text has definitely taught me to spell a handful of words, like ‘tomorrow,’ and ‘etiquette,’” said Phil Forbes, a junior pre-med major.
Besides teaching them to spell, Plester said, “Texting gives [texters] greater exposure to the written word, and exposure to written language is positively associated with greater literacy attainment.”
Consequently, practice makes perfect, and the more one writes the better one’s skills develop.
Plester explained that “texting is at least in part about having fun with language, and having fun with a medium often does lead to greater facility with the medium.”
Because texting is enjoyable, it becomes a very engaging activity, which allows texters to learn in a more fun method than studying.
“I love texting,” said freshman elementary education major Abbey Gunzenhauser. “I empty my inbox usually twice a day.”
She also punches out about the same amount, with a total of roughly 400 texts a day, or 12,000 a month.
Despite whether or not texting can informally teach us English, the number of people who text continues to climb, as it is one of today’s quickest and simplest ways to communicate on the go.
It’s just too bad texters don’t receive credit hours toward their thousands of messages sent and received each month.
Matthew Petrillo can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.