By Andrew Pass, CEO, A Pass Educational Group, LLC
The very first time I heard of Twitter I thought it was doomed to failure. Who in the world would ever use a communication tool that was limited to 140 characters? It just was not the way that people wrote. I guess I haven’t always been right in my life. Hopefully you will agree that this is not such a bad characteristic.
Though I learned to blog and Tweet over five years ago, I have not been using these tools since I started A Pass Educational Group. Of course, this blog has now been going since the beginning of the year. But, until now, I have not used Facebook or Twitter effectively to market A Pass. This is now changing. This past week I have begun to both update our new Facebook account and Tweet as well.
This leads me to what you will hopefully agree is an interesting question. Should educators be helping students learn Tweeting, Facebook and blogging skills in the classroom? For the purpose of brevity let’s focus on a much narrower question — should teachers be helping students learn to write complicated ideas in 140 characters or less?
Several days ago I Tweeted the following: “I’m writing a paper on value of connecting learning 2 hands on activities connected 2 real world scenarios. Any suggested sources?” Certainly this sentence is not grammatically correct, but I believe it gets the point across in fewer than 140 characters.
I believe that it is essential for students to learn to write in ways that work for their purposes. Some might think that this approach is too radical, that writing is not important in its own right, and rather it is only important insofar as it helps people achieve specific objectives, namely communicate. Within the last decade, patterns of communication have changed. Today people sometimes communicate important ideas within a framework that is constrained by 140 characters.
Educators must prepare students for these new patterns of communication. This means that sometimes it is okay to substitute arabic numbers for words. Sometimes it is actually good to omit articles and spell words without vowels. It’s acceptable to do what has to be done to fit ideas into constrained contexts. However, and this is important, students must learn that different types of writing are required for different media.
As a business owner, I would be very unlikely to hire somebody who wrote a cover letter in which the numbers one through nine were written using the arabic numerals. I would expect to see proper articles and punctuation. In short, I would be most likely to respond to a letter that would have been considered appropriate ten years ago. However, a cover letter and Twitter are not the same things. They require different kinds of writing. (Of course, it is possible that these expectations will change in another decade, but for now, let’s focus on our current world.)
Ten years ago, I did not believe that Twitter would gain popularity. Today, this application has gained so much popularity that it has added to the skills that students must learn in school. Today, students must learn to write traditionally and write for new social media. This is no simple task!
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