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Students, teachers see phone texting shortcuts creep into classroom assignments
Seventh-graders Brandon Peck, from left, Alexis Rebollar and Jon Payne of Chestatee Middle School say they have found texting shortcuts slipping into their school assignments. - photo by Robin Michener Nathan

Students' ever-growing texting habits are not only affecting their phone bills, but their high school performance.

As a result, texting shortcuts such as "u" instead of "you" and "bc" instead of "because" are now showing up in term papers and homework assignments.

"I don't have a phone, but I borrow one from friends to text with them," said Alexis Rebollar, a seventh-grader at Chestatee Middle School in Gainesville. "I think it affects me because I use shortcuts a lot now; texting makes writing faster."

Rebollar said because she is a slow writer, these shortcuts help her stay on task.

"I catch myself using shortcuts when I'm not supposed to - like in language arts. I have to go back and erase what I've written and start over again," she said.

Students in one class at the school said they agreed the new texting language is affecting their generation.

That sentiment is echoed in a survey released Thursday by the Pew Internet and American Life Project, two-thirds of teens say emoticons and other informal styles have crept into their writing. In addition, teens who keep blogs or use social-networking sites like Facebook or MySpace have a greater tendency to slip nonstandard elements into assignments.

Half of the teens surveyed said they sometimes fail to use proper capitalization and punctuation in assignments, while 38 percent have carried over the shortcuts typical in instant messaging or e-mail messages, such as "LOL" for "laughing out loud." A quarter of teens have used :) and other emoticons.

Overall, 64 percent have used at least one of the informal elements in school.

Texting may create a faster writing process, but what happens to grammar when you throw it out the window? What happens to spelling? Is texting becoming its own language, or a lazy alternative?

"I have definitely seen texting shortcuts in my students' work," said Natalie White, an English teacher at Chestatee High School in Gainesville. "The other day, I asked a girl in my class to write charts on the board for an activity and she wrote ‘ppl' instead of ‘people.'"

White also said students even talk in texting shorthand - she has heard them say abbreviations aloud, such as "OMG" instead of "Oh my God."

"I believe texting is the cause of the shortcuts I see in my students' work," White said, "These shortcuts are a problem in the classroom; soon enough, students will not be able to express themselves eloquently because their vocabulary is diminishing due to laziness."

While phones aren't allowed in many classes - and many schools require phones to be turned off during school hours - some students are sneaky, some get permission and some do not seem to care if they get caught texting or not.

Some students said it's not that they're trying to write assignments in texting shorthand. Instead, the switch from writing on a phone to writing on a piece of paper - sometimes in the same class - is just a slip of the brain.

"I text in class," said Jon Payne, a seventh- grade student at Chestatee Middle. "Today in language arts I accidentally used ‘u' instead of ‘you' in one of my assignments. I wasn't texting when I wrote that, but I have gotten used to using these shortcuts because I text so much."

Although he has occasional slips, Payne said he does not see texting mishaps as a big deal. "I don't think shortcuts should matter," he said.

Even students who don't text often find that shortcuts are drilled into their brain.

"Unlike most people I know, I don't really text much, only a couple of times a month," said Brandon Peck, a seventh-grade student at Chestatee Middle. "I still find myself using shortcuts when texting, though."

Students' shorthanded-writing may have started with AOL instant messenger - or even before - but it has rolled over into other aspects of communication.

"I think most people started using shortcuts in texting when there were limits to how many letters could be in each text message," said Anna Parlas, a senior at Chestatee High. "People would use abbreviations to stay within the limit of each text message. Now, we have unlimited texting plans."

Ansley Jacob, a freshman at Chestatee High, said she believes texting shortcuts started as a result of laziness.

"People just got lazy. I do it when I text, write notes or even write essays," Jacob said.

Others believe online resources attribute to shortcuts that seem to be making their way into schoolwork.

"MySpace has been my biggest downfall when it comes to abbreviating things," said Aleece Wade, a sophomore at Chestatee High. "I started using MySpace when I was 11 years old and I had no clue what ‘lol' meant. But now I make up my own abbreviations."

Texting, or txtg as some may call it, breaks the rules. Because there are no spelling or grammatical guidelines, some young students find themselves using shortcuts more often than not.

Although it can sometime waste her time, Rebollar said she did find one positive aspect of texting when it came to schoolwork.

"I am not the best speller and phones have spellcheck on them," she said. "So I can learn the correct spelling of words."

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