Some linguists are worried that the proliferation of text messaging among students may hurt the development of formal English. Johnson does not agree.
“I don’t buy it,” Johnson said. “I think students can distinguish between different contexts. What they would say with their friends is different from what they would say to an instructor.”
Text messaging may be an important tool to help students learn the difference between different English and behaviors that are appropriate for different situations.
“Sure, text messaging can help teach that difference,” Johnson said. “I would put the emphasis on explaining the importance of context.”
In fact, Johnson says that text messaging may have a positive effect on language, especially with English as a second language students. —Teaching through Text Message; Cell Phones Emerge as Learning Tool (Rebel Yell)
I tend to agree. If instructors teach that text-message lingo and academic English are two points on a sliding scale (not necessarily the most extreme points), that’s a good way to help students learn about the importance of audience and rhetorical context. I try to make it very clear that my expectations for blog entries are slightly more formal than in-class timed writing exercises, but I really don’t mind shorthand or typos in the comments that students leave on peer blog entries.
Of course, I do ask students to demonstrate that they are capable of leaving an in-depth comment from time to time, and naturally I hope that when students are doing any sort of course work that they will be practicing the appropriate writing skills.