What Should You Do If Your Students Start Using Chatspeak in Assignments?

Guest Writer: Agatha Singer

As it always is with the matters related to teaching, your reaction to some issue should be determined on a case-by-case basis. Therefore, if your students start using chatspeak in their creative writing assignments you should stop and think. Why exactly are they doing this? In some cases, this can be considered a legitimate method of expression. But there are also situations where you’ll need to correct this issue before it turns into a bad habit.

Is Chatspeak the Enemy?

There is this trend for demonizing chatspeak today. Demonizing anything social media and Internet-related really. You can see hundreds of articles and hear dozens of impassionate speeches on how children are wasting away staring at smartphone screens, how they make dangerous connections through social media, or how hanging out online, in general, lowers the IQ of an entire generation.

It’s sad to admit that in a way, all of that is true. However, if you stop and think on the matter a bit more, you might remember that a few decades back you could hear all the same things about television.

And before that, there were radio programs, which ‘corrupted the innocent minds’ with scandalous stories.

And before that, people invented print and book burnings came right after that. During some of those, scholars, authors, and printers were burned or buried along with their works. One can only be proud that centuries of evolution made us less brutal and that today people prefer flaming through online comments as opposed to setting something on fire for real.

But do you see the pattern here?

Every time some new way to expand the limits of communication and entertainment comes along, a fraction of society resents it. In the majority of cases, this is the older generation, which grew up with the previous medium and is clearly struggling to master the new one. This begs to question whether the resentment comes from valid concerns over moral and ethical integrity or from one’s inability to adapt to change?

As a teacher, you have to adapt to the times and use the tools that appear every day to teach the skills that are timeless. For example, you can use comic books to teach creative writing and your students are bound to love those lessons much more than picking through some 15th-century poetry. You also can and should use language learning apps when working with ESL students. Acceptance of chatspeak is a part of this necessary adaptation to the times.

Why Do Students Use Chatspeak?

Youths use chatspeak today because it’s fun, because it’s easy, because everyone is doing it, or all of the above. Simply put, this informal language helps them have more relaxed conversations.

This is what’s really important because even a sliver of a chance for kids to be less stressed is extremely valuable. The lack of free time, constant stress, and pressure have devastating effects on the youths of today. They push students to cheat, make them depressed, and drive hundreds of teenagers to suicide. Stress is the main enemy of students, and one cannot deny that a requirement to write properly articulated sentences all the time would add to it. Not by much, but everything counts in such a dire situation.

Bear in mind that the kids of today already write more than their predecessors did 20 years ago. This means that they spend a large part of their life developing that writing skill, which it is your duty to teach.

Yes, they are doing most of that writing with chatspeak, which has little in the way of grammar and spelling that can make anyone cringe at times. However, studies from the University of Alberta and Coventry University prove that using chatspeak does not affect students’ ability to learn and use proper grammar. It doesn’t even interfere with their essay-writing skills and doesn’t interfere with distinguishing between formal and informal language situations.  

Therefore, the point is that students are writing more and you should use this trend to nurture their creative writing talents. The trick is to teach them when using chatspeak is appropriate.

When Using Chatspeak in Assignments Can Be Appropriate

The use of chatspeak can be acceptable in creative writing if it’s a tool for creative expression. Therefore, if the character or situation from the work allows for such informal language, you shouldn’t scold your students for it.

After all, how is using chatspeak as a valid form of creative expression different from Burgess’ Nadsat or the vernacular in Catcher in the Rye? Both of those are nothing short of atrocious if you try to measure them against the neat formal flow of ‘good English’. However, those are the details that fill the books with life and personality.

As a creative tool, language is flexible and it’s a joy when students realize this and start bending it to find their own voice. That’s exactly what you should be teaching.

However, there is a different side to this coin. The situation when your student uses chatspeak might not be justified by the plot. In this case, you have a problem on your hands.

It’s a fact that informal language can leak into situations where it’s unwarranted. This can happen not only in writing assignments but also in everyday life. And when it does, the person using such vernacular is perceived as uneducated or rude.

This is what you should be explaining to your students who start using chatspeak all over the place. Impart on them the distinction between the kind of creative situations when this is acceptable and when it’s not. However, do your best to be both gentle and reasonable when doing this. Make sure you explain the issue in detail instead of throwing a blanket ban of chatspeak. This is how your students will be able to understand the nuances of situations where formal and informal language can be applied.

Overall, chatspeak isn’t the devil. Regardless of how much of a traditionalist you are personally, this type of language is the norm today, so you can’t pretend it doesn’t exist or diminish its role in modern society. Therefore, the best you can do is to help your students learn how to use it without offending anyone.

I’m Agatha Singer, a work-from-home mom of two little nuggets. My interests range from the latest business management trends to healthy living and adventurous traveling. I always stay open to new ideas and expertise to make my writings handy and captivating for you. I’ll be happy to see you on my blog: http://www.agsinger.com!

Are Phones Distracting Teachers Too?

 

Guest Writer: Frankie Wallace

 

It’s hard to find anyone without a smartphone nowadays. Adults and kids alike seem to be glued to these handheld devices around the clock. While smartphones are meant to keep us connected and help us access useful information and tools, they can also end up causing a lot of problems — especially in the classroom. 

In 2015, Apple sold 300 million devices, which equates to just under 1 million devices being sold each day. The smartphone trend hasn’t stopped from there. In 2019, the number of smartphone users is expected to increase to 2.5 billion. It’s not just adults using these devices, either; about 56% of kids ages 8-12 in the U.S. have a smartphone, and that number increases when it comes to teenagers. It’s no surprise that smartphones in the classroom have become a problem in recent years. 

Cell phones can obviously be a distraction to students in school with so many apps, social media, and the ability to text friends. They’ve become such a problem, in fact, that some schools have pushed to ban them from the classroom. But is it just students who are distracted by smartphones, or are teachers struggling too? 

What Are the Risks of Too Much Smartphone Use?

Smartphone addiction is real, and the risk of it affecting adults is dangerously high. Don’t think you have a problem? Consider this: On average, smartphone users look at their device 80 times a day. This includes checking it right before bed and right when you wake up.

Reaching for your phone so often can be triggered by a variety of things, including the need to feel connected to social media, games, shopping, or even checking on work. Any type of content you could want is in the palm of your hand. Teachers certainly aren’t immune to this problem, and it’s important to understand the risks involved with too much smartphone use. 

The physical and mental implications of too much smartphone use include higher stress levels, anxiety, and sleep deprivation. If you can’t stay away from your phone, you also run the risk of being easily distracted, which can have fatal consequences. Smartphone use is a common problem when it comes to distracted driving. Even a few seconds with your eyes off the road to read a text message or to check Facebook can lead to a car accident. 

If you’re a teacher, the temptation to check your phone regularly can be even stronger, especially if you see kids with their phones out all day. Maybe you have a few minutes of silence while your students complete a test. Or maybe you’re itching to see what your friends have posted on social media in the last few hours and it distracts you from your lesson. Keep some of these risk factors in mind if you start to feel overly connected to your mobile device. If you feel like you’re struggling to stay away from it, you may need a more drastic solution. 

Do You Need a Smartphone Detox? 

Whether you’re constantly using your smartphone to access school-related information outside of school hours or you’re frequently being distracted by using your phone for personal reasons while in the classroom, you may need to evaluate your relationship with technology — a key component of having a healthy work-life balance. If you feel like you have too much of an attachment and don’t want to develop some of the issues listed above, it could be time for a digital detox. 

Detoxing from your smartphone can take many forms. It probably won’t be easy, which can tell you just how “addicted” you really might be. Try some of the following tips to try to make the process feel less overwhelming:

  • Hide your phone away during school hours so it’s out of sight.
  • Turn it off when you’re in school.
  • Download an app to keep you off your phone.
  • Practice being more mindful and living in the moment.
  • Leave your phone at home during the workday.

 

If you’re really struggling with a smartphone addiction, you may benefit from simply not having one. If you feel as though your phone has taken over your life in a negative way and you need a long-term break, you might consider getting rid of your phone entirely. If you decide to take this route, consider destroying your phone to make sure no one else gets their hands on any of your private information. 

How Can Teachers Use Smartphones for Good? 

It’s important to understand that smartphones aren’t all bad. Some schools and teachers have embraced the fact that they can be beneficial tools in a learning environment. In fact, some have actually started giving their students smartphones so they can do everything from sending emails to teachers to keeping track of their schedules and homework. 

Teachers can also benefit from using smartphones. They can keep track of their own schedule, remain connected with students, and even discover digital learning resources like flashcards, tests, and games that they can show to their students. Because this generation is growing up surrounded by technology, kids may be more likely to show interest in something educational if it’s presented to them in a familiar way, such as through an app. 

Smartphones aren’t going anywhere, and they’ll likely continue to become an even bigger part of our everyday lives. While they are unavoidable, it doesn’t mean they have to cause problems. If you’re a teacher, keep your job and your students your top priority. As long as rules and boundaries are set in place with smartphone usage in a school, both teachers and students alike can use them for good.