Tag Archives: texting

The Other Side of the Microphone: I’m the One Being Interviewed


On September 14, 2010 I was interviewed on two CBC morning talk shows about my documentary. I discussed how as a result of my research, I am allowing students to use cell phones in the class room so that I can teach them proper social etiquette, digital citizenship, and help them learn how to manage their compulsion to text through cuing their attention. By the time I drove back to Kitchener, I had two messages from CTV asking to do a feature on teens and texting and a story on how I handle cell phone use in the classroom. The next day, while I was taping CTV’s Provincewide the Toronto District School Board announced it would be reviewing their policy on banning cell phones in the school. Ontario Premier Dalton McGuinty was then asked to weigh in on the issue and supported the Board’s decision, saying schools should be open to using cell phones in the classroom. The CBC called me back and asked me to participate in their radio talk show syndicate circuit for the following day. After CTV spent the morning in my classroom taping footage for the news story, I went home and spent 3 hours on the phone speaking with 11 talk show hosts across Canada. A special thanks goes out to Neil Andersen for sending me a copy of one of the live recordings from St. Johns.

CBC Ontario with Wei Chen -September 14, 2010


CBC Metro Morning with Matt Galloway -September 14, 2010


CBC St. Johns -September 16, 2010


CTV Kitchener -September 16, 2010

Please keep in mind that restricted use is the first step in teaching students to become self-regulators. It is the only way to draw their attention to their own habits and open a space for discussion. Gradual release of responsibility follows.

Is it the death of texting?

A former media instructor of mine, who has since become my online friend in all things media, sent me an article from the U.K. called, “The Death of Texting”, asking what my students would think about it (thanks Neil!). The Online Mail article claims that the slowing growth of the number of texts signals an end to texting. I’m not an analytics specialist by any means, but I’m pretty sure it’s common for trends to stagnate at some point without it meaning the death knell is about to ring.

While it’s true that more and more people may opt for the texting services that are on their data plans rather than messaging by SMS, I don’t forsee an “end” to the craft of texting. I also don’t see video chat “replacing” texting, as the author claims. While the technology or platform may change, the communication itself doesn’t necessarily change. Instead, we end up with an expanded repertoire of tools.

Texting is popular because of its anytime, anyplace nature. As long as teenagers continue to stay in touch with friends in their every waking moment, whatever technology that helps them with this is surely going to survive. In an interview with Microsoft researcher, danah boyd, she explained to me that teens use technology to help them find their place and identity as their social circles continuously shift through their development.

The teenaged students I interviewed about Facebook and texting gave me some pretty good insight into the popularity of texting as a medium of choice, saying it’s great because it’s intimate while requiring short spurts of commitment, and participants don’t have to worry about how they look. Students talked about carrying on multiple conversations and the enjoyment of no one else knowing who or how many other people they were conversing with at the same time. Not only do they benefit from feeling connected, but they also reinforce or move higher in social status.

Although I didn’t talk to students about video chat, there’s a whole different dynamic going on in a visual conversation. You can’t talk to multiple people at the same time without the other person knowing about it, and body language and voice expression come back into play. The time commitment and attention required for such a task continues to keep this form of communication limited.

The question of “user friction” also comes to mind. Friction is generated by the number of steps it takes to follow through in using the technology, as well as the commitment required on the part of the user. In online commerce it’s been found that customers feel most comfortable with about 3 steps in making online purchases. This friction is generated through the desire of ease of use against the peace of mind required when it comes to making secure transactions. Not enough steps will cause a customer to question the security of the transaction, while too many steps make the customer feel like online shopping is an arduous task. In communication with close friends, we want to be one-step away. Texting is a one-step process. Straight from your contacts, you can compose and send a message. It’s an easy way of maintaining close friendships.

In Facebook, the “Like” button is what I would call a half-step process. It only requires hitting the button of something you’re already on anyway. The time commitment and attention required is minimal, maybe even too minimal. It’s a perfectly easy way of signalling that you’re aware and somewhat interested in your friend’s or acquaintance’s life. These tiny bouts of commitment are part of relationship maintenance.

Video chat is a multi-step process. You need to make sure you look okay, you need to make sure you are in a suitable location, and then, you have to make sure the other person is available at the same time, under the same conditions. These steps come before the ones you have to take in operating the communications device. Going through all the steps of a video chat signals a serious investment in the relationship and will likely be reserved for such.

(moved over from July 1, 2011 Blogger post)

Questions from Teens on Texting

Great discussion is being generated in class with all the media buzz around cell phones in the classroom. I took the opportunity to discuss texting with one of my grade 11 classes, asking students to think about the fears around teens and texting and to frame questions around those fears. Here’s what we discussed:

“Is texting really making us become more anti-social?”

Texting is actually quite social. In fact it’s hyper-social. Teens are connecting with each other around the clock and staying more connected to each other than ever. Adults worry when teens go off to their rooms and text because face-to-face interaction with them drops off. Adults equate your physical absence with anti-social behaviour because they have learned to be social by being physically present. They are worried about being kept outside of your social space. Spend some face-to-face time with your parents every day.

“Won’t we have a harder time communicating face-to-face?”

Just because you are communicating less face-to-face doesn’t mean you’ll forget how to do it. It’s just another form of communication that you can choose from. That means you’ll need to assess the most effective way to get your message across when communicating. For example, teens enjoy using sarcasm with each other. That’s difficult to read in a text. You’re probably already reserving that for face-to-face interaction.

Some teens I interviewed during my documentary said they use texting to help them think about what they want to communicate when responding in a difficult situation, instead of acting impulsively. This can be a benefit in preventing a situation from escalating, however, teens do lose the opportunity to read body language. Sometimes what we say or write isn’t exactly how we feel. Teens need to think ahead about the possible outcomes of using each kind of communication before they engage in a difficult conversation. It’s not much different than before cell phones when teens used notes to express themselves instead of dealing face-to-face. Teens have already been negotiating between written forms of communication and face-to-face.

Another question that came up was “is texting ruining our ability to spell correctly and use proper grammar?” The response will appear in an upcoming post.

Booked for Interview with CBC’s Metro Morning

Finally, the re-edits of my documentary on teens and texting are done. I have just burned the project to Blu-ray and will hand it in to Ryerson tomorrow.

This project has really got me thinking about how we can address the issues of cell phone use in schools. We need to start talking about it and come up with some solutions. I’m going to be interviewed on CBC’s Metro Morning Tuesday about my doc and plan to talk about the compulsion that students feel to text using their phones and all the social pressures that surround that. I haven’t received the questions for the interview yet, but during my pre-interview I talked a lot about self-regulation to fight compulsion so I’m hoping that will be the focus.