Yes Virginia, Texting is Bad?

I’ll admit it.  Eduflack is not a big fan of texting.  I am pretty wired to both my iPhone and my iPad that I get emails just as fast as I get texts.  And any reader of this blog knows I tend to be a little wordy.  So other than those Tweets at @Eduflack, my writing — emails and texts — run a little long.  At this point, my texting is pretty limited to my wife (who doesn’t monitor her email as I do); my younger, hipper sister; and a few friends who drop a text occasionally.

Don’t get me wrong, though, I definitely see the value of it.  Texts provide us instant information, allowing for a real-time electronic conversation.  It provides a written record of these electronic conversations (a fact I can state with certainty, as my wife quotes from texts I sent her two years ago).  And it offers a quick way to reach a lot of people.  When my local school district had to close schools early for a recent snow, it was able to text the news to all families who signed up for text updates. 
While I would never want to see texting (and texting shorthand) replace the ancient art of actually writing in complete sentences and with words spelled out in the Queen’s English, I do see the value of texting.  And part of that value is potential interactions between students and teachers.  Questions about assignments from students.  Updates on class schedule from teacher.  Texting can be a useful classroom information management tool when used correctly.
Unfortunately, not all seem to see it that way.  On January 13, the Virginia State Board of Education is expected to restrict or outright ban teachers texting with students.  Apparently, some believe that a teacher texting a student can result sexual misconduct.  The State Board in the Old Dominion cites 120 actions in the past decade where action was taken regarding misconduct involving minors (though no mention of what role texting may have played in those 120 cases).
Additionally, the Virginia State Board is looking to prohibit teachers from interacting with students at all through online social networking (such as Facebook and Twitter).
I’m all for protecting our students.  And I’m all for eliminating inappropriate conversations between teachers and students, while providing guidelines for both parties on the proper use of electronic communications.  But this is truly a case of throwing out the baby with the electronic bathwater.
Teachers should be bound by codes of conduct, whether it be in person or virtually.  Violators should be addressed, directly and swiftly.  Just as their teachers, students should be educated on the appropriate uses of electronic media.  This should be about responsible use, not prohibition.
Yes, I realize that Virginia is proposing guidelines for restriction.  But we all realize how this slippery slope works.  Restriction offers up too much room for misinterpretation and potential problem.  Elimination is much easier to understand and enforce.
We already have too many instances of de-connecting our students in the classroom.  We have too many examples of students being unplugged from their 21st century lives so they can be taught exclusively through a 19th century medium.  Shouldn’t we be exploring how to better integrate one of the most common methods of communications for 21st century students — the text — into the current learning environment?  
Used correctly, texting (and to a lesser degree, social media) can be a powerful instructional tool.  We should be looking at ways to maximize the resources available and better engage students in their preferable mediums.  Virginia, there has to be another way to protect teachers and students, share information, and offer a more transparent communication than shutting down that which is new.  

3 thoughts on “Yes Virginia, Texting is Bad?

  1. I’m a licensed secondary teacher in Virginia (though I’m living in The Netherlands now) and I’m disgusted by this move by the Virginia board, though not really surprised given the backward nature my home state and its governor with a history of stamping out online predators. It’s another situation where all teachers are being treated as predators just waiting for the chance rather than the professionals that nearly all of us are, aside from the few bad apples that get dealt with case by case. I think it should stay that way – a case by case basis. I know not to be inappropriate with my students in the classroom and just because I might choose to connect with a student on a social network doesn’t mean I’m all of a sudden going to throw out those principles. Where is the logic and common sense in Virginia?Students need digital role models and to see that social networks aren’t all about sexy pictures taken in bathrooms and posted to Myspace (is anyone on there anymore?). They can be used as real opportunities to make connections with people across the world and enrich our lives and learning. We should be joining students on these networks (assuming our accounts are professional) and being the virtual role models they need just like we should be in “real” life. Boogeyman tactics don’t work. Kids are going to be there anyway, why not have some adults and trusted friends they can turn to when they need help or suspect they might be victims of exploitation or bullying?I personally don’t connect with students on Facebook because I still have some college pals that like to tag unflattering photos of me they might dig up (and by unflattering I mean a beer in my hand or a cigarette from my smoking days – nothing truly salacious!), but I’m all for it if a teacher believes his or her account is professional enough to do so. I’m happy to connect with students through email, Twitter, and my Web site. Shame on Virginia for even considering this. Always taking the easy way out.

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