Texting: My smmr hols wr CWOT

Texting: My smmr hols wr CWOT

Ian Jukes

Today’s kids are dramatically different from the way we were when we were kids. I’m not talking about their clothing, their hairstyles or even their music. What makes today’s kids different is that they are part of the Instant Messenger generation.

Today’s kids are dramatically different from the way we were when we were kids. I’m not talking about their clothing, their hairstyles or even their music. What makes today’s kids different is that they are part of the Instant Messenger generation.

For example, recently a 13-year-old girl submitted an essay, which began, “My smmr hols wr CWOT. B4, we ud 2go2 NY 2C my bro, his GF & thr 3 :-@ kds FTF. ILNY, it’s a gr8plc.”

Translation: “My summer holidays were a complete waste of time. Before, we used to go to New York to see my brother, his girlfriend and their three screaming kids face-to-face. I love New York, it’s a great place.”

Today’s students have grown up with video games, cell phones, pagers, computers, the Internet and other digital wonders that define their world. These kids are what Marc Prensky, a designer of software games, calls “digital natives.”

Reprogram Your Brain

Digital natives process and interact with information, and communicate in fundamentally different ways from previous generations. Take Instant Messaging (IM). More than 19 billion instant messages are sent every day in the United States alone, a significant portion of them by teenagers. As a result, we’re seeing the emergence of a rapidly evolving hybrid write-speak language based on words and pictures. Using just a few key strokes, complex messages are rapidly composed, sent and instantly responded to from wherever: bus, movie theater, classroom or even the exam hall.

Meanwhile, many of us who grew up in a relatively low-tech world can’t comprehend this generation’s fascination with game playing, IM and surfing the Web. That’s because we’re DSL: We speak digital as a second language.

But there’s far more to this story than meets the eye. Research from the Washington University School of Medicine in St. Louis and other studies suggest the brains of the digital generation are different physically and chemically. And they continue to change.

Conventional thinking has been that each of us, by the age of three, develops a fixed number of brain cells, which then die off, one by one. However, during the past five years, neurobiological research has shown that the brain constantly reorganizes itself structurally throughout life based on input and intensity. This reorganization is called neuroplasticity — the brain literally and continuously restructures neural pathways. Yet sadly, almost none of what we have learned about how the brain functions is being applied to learning or instruction.

The reality today is that increasingly high-stakes testing and accountability are driving education. How can we deal with the gap between the issues of accountability and what the research tells us, while at the same time addressing the growing dissonance between digital kids’ learning and our DSL instructional styles?

This isn’t about creating some far-out vision for learning in the future. As professionals, we must continue to address the issues of accountability on one hand, and the abilities and preferences of digital learners on the other. Therefore we must be fully cognizant of the implications of not only what is being taught, but also how it should be taught.

Confirming Brain Differences

A new field of study known as neurobiology has emerged in the past few years. This is the digital analysis of brain processes using imaging scanners to analyze the brain’s thinking patterns at the molecular level. If we were to take electronic scans of our brains and compare them to those of our kids’ brains, we would find they use fundamentally different neural pathways than those we use to process the same information.

This might explain why digital kids process information differently from us digital immigrants, and it helps explain why they act the way they do. It might also help to explain the fundamental difference between our generation and theirs.

Common Text Messaging Abbreviations

● A3: Anytime, anywhere, anyplace ● BOOMS: Bored out of my skull ● BPLM: Big person, little mind ● EBKAC: Error between keyboard and chair ● KPC: Keeping parents clueless ● SMHID: Scratching my head in disbelief ● SOMY: Sick of me yet? ● T+: Think positive ● YMMV: Your mileage may vary

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Oct 30 2007

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