Use of Text Messaging in Classroom Environments: An Analysis of its' Impact on Literacy


wrds, wrds, mere wrds, no m@r frm d hart d effct doth oper8 nothA wa.”


Troilus and Cressida Act 5 Scene 3 - William Shakespeare transcribed by Lingo2 word

The beautiful language adored by many is written in text-message from one of the greatest writers of English.  Reading, it is difficult to believe his words have been so misappropriated at something that was so beautiful to its intended audience. Its’ actual text is:


Words, words, mere words, no matter from the heart:
The effect doth operate another way.

How did we get from one to the other?


                Recent studies over the latest few years have examined the increase of text messaging by students in secondary and post-secondary classrooms. Of note, teenaged students have a marked interest and heavy reliance on text-messaging as a method of communication.. Text messaging usage in the classroom and in the private lives of these students has raised concerns over students' literacy. Whereas Pitman and Gregg shorthand enabled its practitioners to usefully and quickly transpose communication in legal and administrative environments, text-messaging is increasingly being used more widely by students and universally adapted. In fact, a recent study (Pew Research Center) indicates 48% of all teenaged students send text messages daily, 71% have a cell phone and of this 76% use their cell phones for text messaging as their primary method of communication.


                Although text-messaging  has increased as a method of acceptable communication, it has also raised questions on its' effect on student literacy. What has existed as standard educational literacy as essential for success, text-messaging and its' informality has raised concerned of educators, parents and governmental bodies.

                Four major themes will be examined :


Productivity has always been a theme in text-messaging. Like Pitman or Gregg’s shorthand techniques, it is a minimalist method of transcribing words quickly. Twitters’ method of limiting text to 140 characters, has taken the legal dictation used in meetings or by legal administrators to the mainstream. Gregg’s shorthand Centennial Edition (  took the patterns to 139 characters in 1988.  Twitter became an entity in 2006, so it is not a new technology.

The productivity factor is the central matter, whereby the quickness of the message is of utmost priority. Gregg or Pitman shorthand was never transferable to a mobile communication device.  Mobile devices becoming more available than instruction in shorthand, made it accessible to students.



Colloquialism and argot

Colloquialism and argot are used frequently in text messaging.  Often its’ use can be the determining nature of the user and/or defines the gender and age.  For instance, the text  LOL can mean Laughing Out Loud or Lots of Laughs. This is traditionally its’ typical use as these are terms common to those of an elder generation not  a teenager. It also used as Lots of Love  ( In this last usage, it would indicate a term of endearment, therefore the  user and recipient would a more intimate relationship.

The terminology can change the context immensely.  LOL is also used as Like of Likes in teenage slang. Like of course, being a poorly used word in language.

The word like has shifted from its’ original intent by younger generations.  An example of a common young person’s  slang would be “They were like, saying he like didn’t like Nikki Minaj, and we were like stunned.”  Texted  is would  be  “LOL he n Nikki Minaj LOL.”  In this example we have one proper use of like in the sentence,  three colloquialisms.  In text , it defines the user even further as the context of LOL is in this case Like of Likes which indicates a younger or less proper English education.

                Text colloquialism and argot are to the point of a toolbar for your Firefox browser

                Creating the tool itself, has now initialized colloquialism and argot directly to the Internet and mobile devices.

Visual Impact

                The visual impact of text messaging has also impacted how a user digests information. Marshall McLuhan suggested that  “the medium is the message” (McLuhan, Understanding Media 1964).

Mark Federman from the McLuhan Institute agrees further in stating “If one thinks about it, there are far more dynamic processes occurring in the ground than comprise the actions of the figures, or things that we do notice. But when something changes, it often becomes noticeable. And noticing change is the key.”

One example of this is demonstrated in tools such as Locomoda.


The above example uses Twitter, posting and web through text interaction to increase the visual impact of the message. In this case, the tool acts as a “graffiti board” whereby the user can quickly visually see the posts of other users and increasing accessibility. This particular board can be found at

In an educational setting,  the texting is no longer a font based pure text form, but rather decides to take an approach of instant communication and redesigns it to a graphical format easily readable. In this case the medium is not the message. The message is the method and format of how it will be conveyed and how quickly, how does it communicate with its’ users. The message requires an infrastructure for it to be conveyed.

Oral and Phonetical Use in Text Messaging

An example of text impact is L33t speak. This particular form of language how to transcribe a word for a word. Used by hackers in the 80’s, to define themselves, it was a method of communication. L33t is the alternative method for saying elite.  When looking at a word to describe how to use it phonetically it was  taken to its’ oral and phonetic basics. For example, text messaging tools becomes:


The text is phonetically spelled out, 73><7 /\/\355491|\|9 700L5


Used in text messaging, it provides a quick method to convey a message. Although its’ educational use seems arcane for the purposes of learners. Adapting to technology and understanding the learner, it is useful. Again the audience, becomes limited to their use of the tools. In this particular instance, mobile devices are primarily the responsibility to ensure the ability to learn.

Approaches to Text Messaging in an Educational Environment

                Text messaging has never been fully understood as a tool in an educational environment. Many have been tried but the fast evolution of the technique has never been given enough time to be fully studied. Fang-Yi Flora Wei et. al . in Rethinking College Students’ Self Regulation and Sustained Attention suggests “students are less likely to text during class and are more likely to sustain their attention to classroom learning, which in turn, facilitates cognitive learning”

The educational effects have never been deciphered, but the effect of outside media upon younger students affects their methodology. If shorthand is correct, then the language is not a matter. So in many respects the methodology remains the same and the educational value has not changed. Adapting to the technology for educators, will remain the major issue, as in fact the environment changes so quickly it is often the tools to adapt will remain the matter.


Pitman and Gregg are still valuable as tools, but maintaining their methodology is not different to how we quickly communicate. Text messaging has not replaced them, just evolved.  The adaption of tools to maintain current trends in learners is  paramount.  A good educator is one that educates themselves in what they are to educate those in their task to educate.


The  interactive approach to this material is primary to involve the reader completely. All tools are listed in the bibliography.



GPL, 2013






Pitman, Isaac. Pitman Shorthand Instructor and Key: A Complete Exposition of Sir Isaac Pitman's System of Shorthand. Carlton, Victoria (Australia): Pitman Australia. ISBN 0-85896-065-6.

Leslie, Louis (1953). Methods of Teaching Gregg Shorthand. New York: McGraw-Hill. pp. 128–129. ISBN 0-07-037254-3.Gregg


McLuhan, Marshall. Understanding Media: The Extensions of Man. New York: McGraw Hill, 1964.

Rethinking College Students' Self-Regulation and Sustained Attention:Does Text Messaging During Class Influence Cognitive Learning?Fang-Yi Flora Wei, Y. Ken Wang, Michael Klausner
Communication Education
Vol. 61, Iss. 3, 2012