Instant Message Shortcuts Creep in2 Homework; Abbreviations Dot Student Essays, Exams

By Diamond, Laura | The Florida Times Union, April 29, 2003 | Go to article overview

Instant Message Shortcuts Creep in2 Homework; Abbreviations Dot Student Essays, Exams


Diamond, Laura, The Florida Times Union


Byline: Laura Diamond, Times-Union staff writer

Imagine getting an essay on what students did during summer vacation like this:

"My summr hols wr CWOT. B4, we used 2go2 NY 2C my bro, his GF & thr 3 :- kids F2F. ILNY, it's a gr8 plc."

What that means is: "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."

While educators in Northeast Florida have not received anything so confusing yet, English teachers say the shorthand created through instant messaging is beginning to appear in students' homework and papers.

Instant messaging is like a visual walkie-talkie, allowing one person to type a message on a computer or telephone or pager and have it appear almost instantly on another's screen. To type as fast as one can talk, users have developed their own sort of shorthand.

Originally this shorthand was used specifically for communicating through personal computers. But it has spread to schools, with students using the abbreviations in essays, exams and homework assignments.

While not an epidemic, the trend is something English teachers must correct, said Leila Christenbury, past president of the National Council on Teachers of English.

"This issue with school is that once kids have spent an hour a day instant messaging and using this shorthand, will they be able to pull back and not use it in their school work," said Christenbury, a professor of English education at Virginia Commonwealth University.

Local teachers say that when it comes to computers the bigger problem is preventing students from copying papers off the Internet.

"Still, our teachers are getting the abbreviations, like LOL," said Sandy McCoy, English department chair at Mandarin High School. "Some students are taking the easy way out.

"But we realize that computers are an integral part of their lives," she said. "We just explain that that part doesn't belong in their schoolwork."

About 13 million children between the ages of 12 and 17 use instant messaging, according to a study from the Pew Internet & American Life Project. Most children instant message at least several times a week and each session lasts at least a half hour, according to the report.

Students said they unconsciously slip the abbreviations into their school work.

"It happens when I'm typing really fast on the computer," said Amy Maletzky, a freshman at Bishop Kenny High School. "I normally don't catch it, but I don't really worry about it because it is something that everyone does."

Carl Smith, director of the ERIC Clearinghouse on Reading, English and Communication at Indiana University, said it is not a surprise that students incorporate instant messaging shorthand into other forms of communication. …

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