Garner, N.C. — Students of all ages often communicate through texting and social media. Some educators say those abbreviated thought bursts, void of punctuation or capitalization, mixed with numbers and symbols are impacting how students write.
Dena Nealy, who teaches language arts at East Garner Middle School, said she is seeing text message abbreviations have become a huge issue. She said she is seeing the letters “LOL,” which stand for “laugh out loud,” in students' work. However, the informal language of texting presents teachable moments, she said.
“When it comes to a classroom or professional writing, any type of professional or professional assignment, you need to learn to turn it off,” Nealy said
Julie Hoyes, who runs the Sylvan Learning Center in Garner, said she sees students writing the letters “UR” to represent the word “your.”
“Students need to be taught the differences between texting and writing an essay,” Hoyes said.
Hoyes is seeing a rise in spelling mistakes and sentence fragments in her tutoring.
Eighth grade student Stone Pearce admits that he has to be careful when writing.
“I put like 'UR' for your, and then I caught myself and was like, ‘What am I doing?’” he said.
Teachers said they don’t hate everything about texting and social media. In fact, a five-year study at Stanford University published in 2009 shows that students are actually writing more than ever thanks to technology.
“By in large, students understand there’s a different audience,” said Susan Miller-Cochran, who directs the first-year writing program at North Carolina State University.
Miller-Cochran said she doesn’t see text speech as a problem, especially when she's teaching graduate students.
“I really think texting and social media give students the opportunity to think about audience in many ways. And that really is our primary goal as teachers of writing to help students understand audience,” she said.
Some N.C. State sophomores said they know when to draw the line.
“When I’m writing an academic paper, I think about every single sentence I’m writing,” student David Jones said.
But that emphasis sometimes gets lost for students in lower grades.
“When they’re constantly writing broken English, they’re used to reading broken English,” Nealy said.
The topic has even caught the attention of administrators at the Department of Public Instruction.
“If that is carried over into the formal writing environment, then it will diminish their ability to produce a really quality writing product,” said Maria Pitre-Martin, the director of K-12 Curriculum and Instruction for the North Carolina Department of Public Instruction.