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Kids Need Help ‘Code-Switching’ From Texting To Typing

Jaren Wilkey

A recently published study from Brigham Young University shows that kids are sloppier writers when typing on a computer rather than with pencil and paper.

The students used for the study were 8th graders. So, probably not particularly neat writers to begin with. But when given the same writing prompt, once for a response on paper and another on a Chromebook computer, the typed essays tended to be a little more freeform.


"Some of the common mistakes we saw were capitalization errors, not capitalizing the beginning of sentences, not using punctuation, doing run on sentences," says Royce Kimmons, the BYU professor responsible for the study.


Kimmons says some students even used emoticons, like little smiles, in place of words. He says they are the same kinds of errors found in texting or social media. The kids have developed shortcuts in their writing and it shows when they start typing.


“If I’m an English teacher I need to help my kids understand that though those norms of participation are acceptable in texting or gaming, they aren’t acceptable when I’m writing a formal essay," says Kimmons.


Kimmons says students need to develop the skills to differentiate between a quick social conversation and a school assignment.


“Kids need to be explicitly taught to code switch and it’s not that we’re invalidating those other experiences they have but we’re building upon them," Says Kimmons.


What Kimmons doesn’t want is for teachers to feel they need to choose one form of writing over the other. He says both the computer and the pencil have their rightful place in the classroom just so long as a student understands that a frowny face isn’t quite MLA format.

Lee Hale began listening to KUER while he was teaching English at a Middle School in West Jordan (his one hour commute made for plenty of listening time). Inspired by what he heard he applied for the Kroc Fellowship at NPR headquarters in DC and to his surprise, he got it. Since then he has reported on topics ranging from TSA PreCheck to micro apartments in overcrowded cities to the various ways zoo animals stay cool in the summer heat. But, his primary focus has always been education and he returns to Utah to cover the same schools he was teaching in not long ago. Lee is a graduate of Brigham Young University and is also fascinated with the way religion intersects with the culture and communities of the Beehive State. He hopes to tell stories that accurately reflect the beliefs that Utahns hold dear.
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