Texting, tweeting could be used as teaching tools: Expert

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Washington, Dec 11 (ANI): While debate is going on as to how text messaging and its distant cousin 'tweeting' is degrading formal writing among teens, a media literacy expert at University of Illinois has said that these new forms of communication have a far bigger role to play in education and research.

Carol L. Tilley, a professor of library and information science at Illinois, has said that schools and libraries should consider embracing texting and tweeting as a means of engagement rather than simply outlawing it.

"I think if you're an educator or librarian looking for new ways of to reach out to teens and tweens, then texting is one possibility. Over 70 percent of teens have a cell phone, so I think it's a viable alternate means of engaging with that age group," said Tilley.

When used as a tool for ubiquitous learning, text messaging and tweeting wouldn't be tools of distraction, but a means of engagement for this generation of gadget-obsessed teens.

"Teachers could send reminders about assignments, links to study guides or updates on their progress grading major projects by text or by tweet. If they're away at a conference or need to use a sub for a day, they could use Twitter to stay in contact with their class without having to physically be there," said Tilley.

Texting and tweeting could be seen as continuing the tradition of play and economy in language, which Tilley argues is good preparation for more formal writing assignments - provided that the use of emoticons and text-speak don't spill over into their final drafts.

"Young people learn about the importance not only of argumentation but also how to deliver a certain message to an audience, especially given the limitations of the medium itself. From an educational standpoint, that helps students become more in tune with language," she said.

Tilley said that Twitter, the popular micro-blogging site that lets users tweet text-based messages that can't run longer than 140 characters, is actually easier to integrate into instruction than text messaging because "you can broadcast tweets to a wider audience than texts."

"In terms of strategies for creative or critical writing, having a limited number of characters to work with opens up all sorts of cool ways to play with the medium," she said.

He argued that most educators make the faulty assumption that text messaging and tweeting are akin to formal writing.

According to a recent Pew survey, teens view texting not as writing or as a distraction from "real" communication, but on par with informal conversation.

"People have always spoken informally in short-hand codes. With text messaging, you're using your thumbs to tap out letters on a device you ordinarily use to talk to someone else with. So it's obviously more conversation than formal correspondence, especially since it allows for that almost instantaneous back-and-forth volley of messages," she said.

She said that since texting can be thought of as closer to a dialogue than a formal piece of prose, one couldn't expect the same level of polish and grammatical correctness to texts or tweets.

"Texting is also dependent on context, interpersonal dynamics and how you construct your messages, rather than the actual content, in some cases," she added. (ANI)

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