Last week, I shared some examples of the writing I see from students at the community college where I work. Most of it comes from essays written before they take writing classes, so the hopeful assumption is that they will improve as they go through their college career. In reaction to that post, Renée over at Lessons from Teachers and Twits brought to my attention this video posted on Profesorbaker’s Blog. It is an interview of Professor Andrea Lunsford, Stanford University’s Director of Writing and Rhetoric, who conducted a longitudinal study of writing abilities, following 190 students at Stanford for almost six years. She explains that she found no significant influence of technology on the quality of writing.
What can this study really tell us? How accurately does it reflect what is happening in schools and colleges these days? Can we really conclude from it that technology is not exerting any influence on the English language or writing skills? Or must we limit our conclusions to more modest proportions? Continue reading
I watched a video this weekend. It was not a comedy or action film, and there was certainly no romance. At the risk of sounding intensely geeky, I will admit that I watched a 30-minute video of linguist David Crystal discussing text abbreviations. I’ve had the link bookmarked in my “Things to read” folder for several months now. I don’t even remember what initially brought my attention to it, but it’s been staring at me daily for far too long, and whatever it was that made me reluctant to watch it was finally put aside as I sat down with pen and paper, ready to watch and take notes.
As much as I tried to go into this with an open mind, my skepticism was already in place before I even started watching. The subtitle of the video is “Professor David Crystal, one of the world’s leading linguistic experts, challenges the myth that new communication technologies are destroying language.” Right away, the bias is revealed. Using the word “myth” immediately implies that any thought that the ideas to be discussed are pure fiction; that there is no truth to these claims of linguistic torture. I feel that it’s a bit premature and arrogant to be so unconcerned at this point, especially since that peace of mind runs counter to the frustrating experiences that my colleagues and I have with students taking our composition courses.
Still, I watched, maintaining as much objectivity as possible, and tried to think rationally about the points Crystal made in his brief talk. He explores four “myths” about texting abbreviations that have taken hold in society since texting became so ubiquitous. In order, he discusses the following concerns: Continue reading