Thursday, 29 August 2013

Text Messaging May Harm Grammar Skills

As many of us may have suspected: Text messaging seems to be negatively impacting kids' language skills. This is the conclusion of a study published in New Media & Society, a top-ranked, peer-reviewed journal. The authors of Texting, Techspeak, and Tweens: The Relationship between Text Messaging and English Grammar Skills say: 

There is no question that text-speak has crept into classrooms; however, the question to date was whether or not adolescents were able to switch between writing text messages and using correct English grammar for class work. The results of this study indicate that most adolescents are not able to do so.

The fundamental question is, will kids be able to limit their texting language to just text messaging? Or, will the frequent use of texting bleed into kids' use of language in more formal settings? If the latter is true, then we've got a problem on our hands.
How Texting Impacts Grammar - the Study

The researchers compared 6th, 7th, and 8th graders' scores on a grammar test to the frequency with which they used these common adaptations in text messages:
  • substitution of homophones (like gr8 for great, or b4 for before),
  • omission of non-essential letters (like wud for would),
  • abbreviations (like btw for by the way),
  • adaptations of punctuation, and
  • adaptations of capitalization
The study found that adolescents' frequent use of word adaptations in text messages correlated to lower grammar scores. But frequent structural adaptations (capitalization and punctuation) did not negatively impact test scores. 

The Limitations of the Study

The research showed that the more kids' used word adaptations in texting, the lower they scored on the grammar test; but this does not prove that their texting habits caused their poor test performance. It may be the other way around: that kids who are less skilled with grammar use more word adaptations in their texts. 

The study does not definitively answer the question of whether texting harms grammar skills. But it gives enough cause for concern that we should be paying attention. Here is its message to teachers and parents: 

"Adolescents should be educated to understand the differences between tech-speak and Standard English grammar, recognizing that there is a time and a place for both."

Wednesday, 14 August 2013

Common Core -- Overview

Common Core Standards implementation and new testing should start about 2015. The new standards are integrated to some degree with the best of our current CA standards, but the teaching methodology will be quite revolutionary.

First, teachers will share their techniques and results with real samples of student work online and in videos across the state.  This will allow a rich data base from which we can develop a deeper understanding of the thinking processes and misconceptions of kids, and know how best to provide correction.  By contributing problems and answers which require the student to “explain your answer”, all teachers will be able to “see” into the thinking of students and get a better idea of where and when confusion starts.  

You have probably heard about the CCS being less spread out (fewer) and much deeper.  Students will be encouraged to think carefully and creatively about a concept or problem.  There will be shared work and multi-media presentations.  The idea is to prepare these students for the new global economy.

STAR testing will be staged out.  These tests are based on the old standards.  The new tests will be online and kids will need to be taught how to feel comfortable with this (many, if not most already do). Answers will not be filled in bubbles, but combinations of multiple choice and written answers with explanations of answers.   It will require teams to analyze results with a lot of sharing going on.  Instead of merely right and wrong answers, results will indicate percentages of students who selected each answer and give details on their reasoning to highlight where they went off track.

I am excited about the changes and believe it will start to pull California out of the low rankings it has suffered for too long.  There will be huge hurdles and issues, but everyone will be involved and hopefully working toward the same goals.

I found this site to be particularly thorough and informative – with even a good preview of how students will learn in the classroom (Watch a couple of the videos):