The new language – it’s more than just smiley faces

I was just reading Silvia Tolisano’s post on her Langwitches blog about 21st century writing.

My children (16, 18, 20) are writing more and more. Their friends do too… Probably not in the way some of you can imagine… nor think of as writing…but nonetheless they are writing. They are texting… 8000 texts (per month) sent and received… Can you imagine probably 5-10 words on average per text…40,000 -80,000 words per month: A collaborative monthly story of their lives in WRITING!

Silvia quotes the US National Council of Teachers of English:

Good writing may be the quintessential 21st century skill.

Just as the nature of and expectation for literacy has changed in the past century and a half, so has the nature of writing. Today people write as never before—texting, on blogs, with video cameras and cell phones, and, yes, even with traditional pen and paper.  People write at home, at work, inside and out of school.

How has this impacted on the ways that we teach writing in our classrooms? From what I’ve seen in my parts in Australia, not at all. Seriously. We still focus solidly on textual responses and evaluations. As important as these are to critical thinking and understanding of contemporary issues and literary texts, writing has taken off in a life of its own mainly outside of school. Have we considered this kind of writing at all? Are we only concerned that adolescent texting will result in the complete disintegration of language? Well, why aren’t we talking about it?

Last night I read about Jenny Luca’s  talented young daughter in her post A story about longing, loving and coming to a realisation.

I am one very proud mother tonight. This is the work of my beautiful daughter; it’s her multimodal creative response for an English assignment based around the theme of ‘Romance and Relationships’. It’s all her own work, inspired by thepoet Rives and his ‘Story of mixed emoticons‘ that we used as stimulus material in our English classes.

I just love Jenny’s daughter’s modern take on a love story where she uses emoticons so creatively while developing an engaging storyline. I just wanted to share this because I think it shows that ingenuity and ideas can be expressed through any kind of language. If you’re sceptical you may be imagining the Bible written in emoticons, but that’s not what I’m suggesting. I’m suggesting that we open up our classroom tasks to include a richer variety of options so that young people can find a medium they can relate to.

Without further ado, here’s Jenny’s daughter’s story

And here is Rives’ TED talk which inspired this piece.


Filed under 21st century learning, writing

3 responses to “The new language – it’s more than just smiley faces

  1. I don’t know that this kind of language isn’t being used. Probably it isn’t in formal assessments but it has been used in class activities. Students have converted scenes from Shakespeare into text messages and other forms of language. Certainly these types of communications will find themselves more and more often in schools, the problem at the moment is there is no single formula or set of rules applied to these and so standardised teaching or use and judgement is really quite impossible.
    Thanks for sharing these videos.

  2. Good to hear you’re aware of this kind of classroom activity, but I wonder how common these kinds of activities are, Cassandra. As you say, we haven’t seriously worked out a way to assess these things. From what I’ve seen, inventive activities get pushed right back when assessment is coming up and teachers realise they have to return to the serious business of textual response. I realise my perception is based on my own limited experience and discussions with my pln.

  3. jennylu

    Thank you for providing another forum where my daughter’s work can be appreciated Tania. I think she has produced some wonderful work, and, as I said, I am very proud of her efforts. : )

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