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Virginia Journal of Education

Txtng Nt Al Bd

Text-messaging lingo can be an effective method of note-taking, says a Poquoson teacher.

by Candis S. Griffin

Public schools seem positively allergic to cell phones, and often with good reason. Cacophonous ring tones intrude on instruction; teachers consider texting during class a hostile activity; and others fear that clandestine texting facilitates cheating. Finally, text “lingo” negatively affects both the written and spoken word. No one doubts that cell phones can be a problem in school. However, contrary to their negative reputation, cell phones may have a surprising value. The lingo students have become so familiar with using as they send text messages may actually be teaching them a latter-day shorthand with the potential to significantly enhance lifelong learning skills.

Educators and students today face a host of challenges and opportunities from our proliferation of new technologies. Students benefit from an array of information sources, delivered in an array of ways. They arrive in classrooms with advanced communication devices at their fingertips and cell phones glued to their ears, and they have the know-how to program these devices and to navigate at lightning speed through a maze of text messages and instant messaging.

So why not take advantage of those skills in a learning area where it could really benefit them—note-taking?

Often, we still make our technologically-savvy scholars grind through lessons in dog-eared texts and learn using traditional methods not of their own design. But, ironically, the same ingrained tactile tech skills that enable information flow from brain to fingertips for instant gratification can also be a powerful textbook learning technique, begging to be unleashed. Our students’ constant use of their cell phones to text message has left their brains and fingertips charged with an abbreviated lexicon that is fine-tuned daily.

And while this dialect often leaves elders clueless, students get it. Interpretation, understanding and control lie at their fingertips and, whether teachers like it or not, this keypad jargon is working its way into the instructional setting.

In my classes, students apply this coded tongue to enhance personal learning. This approach, which I’ve coined the ABLE (abbreviated lexicon) Approach, incorporates text and IM vernacular into note-taking. Basically, students absorb material, either orally or by reading, and then translate it into the abbreviations they’ve developed from frequent texting. The translated notes make perfect sense to them, and they can take them with greater speed.

I have students put their notes in a specific format involving key words, and it’s not surprising how this grabs their attention because they’re using texting, a skill they’ve been motivated to develop. This form of note-taking involves less effort and, in the process of manipulating their notes, a lot of information goes into long-term learning. The rest will, too, once they review what they’ve “squished” into their notes. This offers them an effective tool for review before tests and quizzes.

Original and tailored to each student, this shorthand approach eliminates the vacuous “copycat” tactic so often used when taking notes. Outfitted with ingrained yet refined fingertip skills in a classroom setting, students confidently apply texting skills to note-taking, capturing ordinary knowledge with an ease and speed unmatched by the old method of simply parroting notes. As they read, students build personal handwritten notes from scratch—deducing, garnering, truncating, transcribing, and “texting,” all on paper.

Students’ familiarity and comfort with this self-prescribed strategy actually amplifies their attention spans. When students accurately compress and transfer knowledge to paper, they acquire ownership, and, more importantly, they experience that magical moment when they take charge of their own learning process.

Of course, there is a time and a place for texting lingo. Obviously, it does not belong in a formal writing assignment. However, instant messaging, texting, and Twittering are here to stay. In order to equip these telegraphers for success in a rapidly-changing academic environment and to actively engage them, up-to-date methods should be encouraged and incorporated into study patterns.  
Deeply rooted within the abbreviated lexicon of the average high school student, cell phone and IM text lingo represent a novel opportunity for young scholars to accelerate their learning every minute, every day. Harmonious with their learning style, this capitalizes on technology’s intrinsic motivation to help students discover efficient and effective learning strategies. The ABLE Approach has blossomed in my years of observation. It works because it’s student-generated and student-owned.

Griffin, a member of the Poquoson Education Association, teaches English, developmental reading, SAT Prep and Study Skills at Poquoson High School.



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