IM vs TTT: Classroom Culture Clash of the Century

(Spoiler Alert! Digital won a long time ago)

When I was a younger student, I hated sitting in classroom where the teacher talk time (TTT) was nearly 100%. Now, students love a teacher who rambles on and on, spewing knowledge without engaging them. It gives them more opportunities to catch up on the latest gossip, news, and music via their smartphones.

There are 4.6 billion accounts for the top four Instant Messaging apps (WeChat, WhatsApp QQ and FB Messenger). In other words, digital has won the culture clash already. So why not teach writing from a mobile IM framework? This would allow learning to become more real because it ties in to the learner’s real world outside the academic environment.

This sector is exploding in exponential fashion, so the value will become even better understood by learners in the years to come. Instant Messaging has changed writing altogether, because it has altered when and how people write. People write much more often now, and in small bursts. Writing in this format has also become a speech substitute, making teaching in this format doubly important. WhatsApp is a constant part of the daily lives of my students. In fact, my classes have WhatsApp groups for the class. I use it to check up on a student who may be late for class, or absent. I even use it to give out homework. By integrating it into the classroom experience, I am modeling correct syntax, formulations, grammar, structures and chunks of vocabulary.

There are so many benefits of using IM in the classroom. There is a positive peer pressure to make students’ writing look good. It also helps shy students who don’t like to speak in English (especially Asian students). It allows students to help one another in real time. It blurs the line between school and real life, and keeps the lesson going 24/7.

The benefits of connecting English language learners to emerging technology as a learning tool are obvious and many, specifically those technologies which may be developed after the class has finished and outside of the classroom. Let's develop collaborative writing tools, as well as emerging technologies beyond just those of email and internet. Collaborative writing tools are valuable for promoting writing fluency and strategies, and for helping students develop a more confident identity as English writers.

Maybe it’s time for you as a teacher to make the switch from analog teaching of writing to digital teaching of writing? The world and nearly every culture in it has forever changed, and we have to change with it. I held fast to the old methods of handwriting and mechanics, but even in the academic and professional spheres I no longer see the point. It’s abundantly clear that by “going full digital,” not only will learners' accuracy and mechanics improve, but they will also develop a strong sense of audience and begin to understand the social nature of writing, explore their identity as writers and master multiple modes of representation to achieve their rhetorical intent.

Consider expanding your thoughts and attitude towards the employment of multiple emerging technologies as a method of engaging learners in multiple intelligences using the target language. Consider investigating online to see which ones would be the best additions to your writing/teaching arsenal.



Warschauer, M., & Liaw, M. (2011). Emerging technologies for autonomous language learning.Studies in Self-Access Learning Journal,2(3), 107-118.

Winet, D (2016) Mobile Instant Messaging in The ESL Writing Class. The Electronic Journal for English as a Second Language November 2016 –Volume 20, Number 3

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