Cell-phone texting has become the preferred channel of basic communication between teens and their friends, and cell calling is a close second. Some 75% of 12-17 year-olds now own cell phones, up from 45% in 2004. Those phones have become indispensable tools in teen communication patterns. Fully 72% of all teens2 – or 88% of teen cell phone users — are text-messagers. That is a sharp rise from the 51% of teens who were texters in 2006. More than half of teens (54%) are daily texters.
I’m not sure that the results of the Pew Internet Survey on student cell phone use and communication patterns reflects an obsession with texting—-something suggested by many critics of today’s kid.
Instead, I think it shows an obsession with social interaction. Most of the students in our classrooms have grown up in a participatory culture. They look for opportunities to connect everywhere, whether that be joining together virtually for conversations in Facebook, partnering with one another to beat the newest version of the hottest video game, or becoming active members of their favorite band’s fan sites.
Texting is just an extension of that desire to connect and participate.
For teachers, the lesson learned is actually a simple one: To capture the attention of today’s tweens and teens, we’ve got to embrace this commitment to participation in our daily lessons. The presentation culture that has defined our schools just doesn’t resonate with kids.
Until we incorporate more collaborative experiences into our instruction, our students will continue to feel disconnected from their own learning.
Does any of this make sense?
Basically, I see the growing commitment to texting as evidence of a much larger desire to connect that has become a basic expectation of today’s kids, but that continues to play an infrequent role in the lessons designed by the American teacher.