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June 1, 2011 / Thinknology

Teaching to the Text Message

Andy Selsberg, who teaches English at John Jay College, recently wrote an op-ed piece in the New York Times, Teaching to the Text Message.

Selsberg opens the column by saying:

“I’VE been teaching college freshmen to write the five-paragraph essay and its bully of a cousin, the research paper, for years. But these forms invite font-size manipulation, plagiarism and clichés. We need to set our sights not lower, but shorter.

I don’t expect all my graduates to go on to Twitter-based careers, but learning how to write concisely, to express one key detail succinctly and eloquently, is an incredibly useful skill, and more in tune with most students’ daily chatter, as well as the world’s conversation. The photo caption has never been more vital.”

He goes on to say that writing short is not necessarily a shortcut. Being concise and to the point is the key to getting your point across. The fact is that most students are already doing this through text messages, Twitter, and other forms of electronic communication.

Of course, longer writing should not be eliminated but things like the cover letter can be streamlined into a much shorter networking email.

Think about our adult learners as you read this article. Is it really that important that they answer questions in complete sentences or write the five-paragraph essay or know how to set up a business letter?

As we teach writing and critical thinking skills, we must consider how people are communicating now and build on that.


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