Academic Minute
11:42 am
Wed May 4, 2011

Dr. Jeff Grabill, Michigan State University - Is Texting Writing?

Albany, NY – In today's Academic Minute, Dr. Jeff Grabill of Michigan State University reveals how the modern technology of texting is creating a generation of writers.

Jeff Grabill is a professor and co-director of the Writing in Digital Environments Research Center at Michigan State University where he teaches courses on technical and scientific writing. His research interests include professional and technical writing, rhetorical theory, and literacy theory. He holds a Ph.D. from Purdue University.

About Dr. Grabill

Dr. Jeff Grabill - Is Texting Writing?

It is commonplace to bemoan the poor writing skills of students today. Yes, there is no question that writing effectively is difficult. Yes, it is true that we don't provide enough high quality writing instruction. And yes, the demands of a knowledge economy require excellent writing abilities.

But the university students we teach today write more than any generation in human history, and one reason for that is the pervasiveness of writing technologies in their lives.

My colleagues and I recently conducted a large survey as part of a study to understand the writing lives of college students. The findings that have captured most people's attention concern writing practices like texting and the importance of hand-held devices like mobile phones as a writing platform.

We found that the types of writing that participants report most frequently are text messages and emails, along with some forms of academic writing. Texting was particularly important, as participants reported doing it frequently and valuing it highly. We expected the frequency. That participants valued texting surprised us.

Cell phones have become a writing technology. Students use phones for texting, sure, but they also use them for a range of other writing practices, even occasionally for academic genres including notes and academic papers.

We have been witnessing an explosion of writing activity driven by networked computing devices for some time now, and so we are living through a period of particularly rapid changes in how we write. In many respects, the cell phone is the new pencil. Digital writing matters, and our challenge in education is to figure out precisely how in order to ensure that we can be useful to those interested in leveraging these new writing platforms with thoughtfulness and power.

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