XKCD vs hand-wringing about what texting does to kids' literacy


It's great, and the tooltip's even better: "I'd like to find a corpus of writing writing from children in a non-self-selected sample (eg handwritten letters to the president from everyone in the same teacher's 7th grade class every year)--and score the kids today versus the kids 20 years ago on various objective measures of writing quality.

"I've heard the idea that exposure to all this amateur peer practice is hurting us, but I'd bet on the generation that conducts the bulk of their social lives via the written word over the generation that occasionally wrote book reports and letters to grandma once a year, any day."

Writing Skills

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  1. dobby says:

    Yea, writing and sending a postcard via post almost seems as big a hack now as making a satellite receiver from a Realtek DVB-T USB dongle, an appropriate band LNB, and a wok.

    Texting manners is like mobile phone manners, or line queueing manners, or table manners; both have little to do with the medium or setting and much to do with general manners.

  2. of course our literacy metrics are questionable. it took me years to dishabituate myself of writing complex but vague sentences which maxed out the standardized testing metrics but were completely silly, if not counterproductive, in many other contexts.

    it's as if we took the quote "If this young man expresses himself in terms too deep for me,
    why, what a very singularly deep young man this deep young man must be!" and reified it statistically.

    i'm still cautiously optimistic about the effect of texting.

  3. Eh, Not particularly biting on the class argument. These days the cell companies seem to have gotten their heads right about costs of continuous voice vs occasional data packets, and unlimited txt seems to be the standard, especially the low end, prepaid month-to-month plans common among the less affluent.

    Sure, Richy Rich kid might be texting on the iPhone9 with platinum bevels, rather than the Kyocera POS, but that dosn't affect the quantity of texts, let alone the quality if the writing.

  4. aikimo says:

    I agree and I think this is at least partly because so much of what kids are forced to temporarily memorize for the satisfaction of the adults is not important at any time in the kids' lives.

  5. Glitch says:

    I had a similar experience, learning to touch type playing in an old text-based MUD.

    I still sometimes rarely will reflexively type out the "LOOK" command in the silliest of circumstances - most recently while mucking around late at night in Blender I needed to check some numeric value in one of the many info boxes and instead of clicking the button to show the box, I typed out "look" and hit enter, unconsciously expecting that to open the window I needed. I cringed so hard I swear I pulled something.

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