Impact of technology at WLU

An article recently published by the CBC entitled “How Texting is Putting the Squeeze on Academic Writing” examined the question of whether texting is negatively impacting the ability of students to write in formal situations. Educators in the article had differing opinions when attributing issues in academic writing to texting and social media.

However, according to the Laurier Writing Centre, the state of academic writing at Wilfrid Laurier University doesn’t seem to be affected by texting.

“From personal experience I don’t see texting having an effect on academic writing,” explained Boba Samuels, a writing consultant at the Writing Centre.

Samuels continued by saying she hasn’t seen a decline in the quality of academic writing at Laurier.

“If you think about texting, it’s all about getting the message out there right now, it’s not about thoughtfulness,” she said. “It’s nothing like academic writing, so it doesn’t really make sense that it would have huge effects on it.”

Emmy Misser, manager of the Writing Centre, agreed that it’s doubtful that texting is directly affecting students’ academic writing.

“One thing we do notice when we work with student writers is that any distraction is going to be detrimental and text messaging is one of many possible distractions,” she explained.

It could be that texting is a scapegoat for a problem in literacy that isn’t being addressed. Samuels explained that teachers aren’t being given effective methods of teaching students about grammar and language.

“There needs to be a new generation that takes a genuine interest in it,” added Misser. Beyond this, Misser said that “if there’s a problem in students’ writing, it’s that they’re not reading enough.”

Samuels said that she has noticed a definite decline in reading, which she attributed to an increase in forms of social media. In turn, this is affecting the vocabularies of students, of which are imperative to their university career.

Misser said that vocabulary comes down to a few things.

“How quickly do you get through the assigned readings and how willing are you to look things up. Are you looking them up on any old online dictionary or do you have actually a reputable dictionary by your side from a publisher that’s done the research that stands behind it. Are you willing to do that kind of groundwork to extend your vocabulary,” were some of the questions she posed in explaining how students carry out steps to fully understanding their work.

Providing students with an over-arching tip, Samuels said, “I would say that the single best thing you can do is to read more. Read more and read from a variety of sources.”

The Writing Centre is also an available resource to students who are looking to improve their writing.

“We teach students to recognize recurring features and then talk about what purpose they serve, so they can rationalize making changes themselves if they have a slightly different purpose,” explained Misser.

“There’s so much more to academic writing than surface errors,” she said. “Unless those structures are in place that show the reader what your ideas are and how you support them, you’re not going to get very far even if every surface error has been eliminated,  and that’s a big step for students to understand.”