|image from Big Ten Science|
While I think Dwyer is accurate in claiming that better writing instruction is needed, I don't buy it all. "Grammar" is, of course, one of those concepts that fascinates me. Grammar seems to be a blanket statement for everything sentence-level-related. The problem is, aside from the fact that people don't even always know what they mean when they use the term "grammar," that there is more than one form of grammar. What Dwyer and the researchers are looking at is not grammatical correctness, but Standard Academic English correctness.
Texting has its own grammatical rules. If grammar was completely unimportant to texting, there would be no language patterns, and we would have a hard time understanding one another. On the contrary, we easily understand text messages, sometimes more easily than "grammatically correct" academic writing.
Also, it's quite elitist to say that students who text don't understand writing or have corrupted the English language. Language evolves. New words come into existence all the time, as old ones disappear. If it didn't, we'd still be speaking Old English. Language is a living thing that adapts to the times. To stay stuck in a place where we believe that students only need to know the conventions of Standard Academic English is to disadvantage them. They will need all kinds of literacies to navigate the complicated technology-inundated 21st century.
I think we do students a big disservice by telling them they are simply "incorrect," red-penning their paper, hoping they stop using text lingo, and trying to pass that off as "quality writing instruction," which is what Dwyer seems to recommend. We need to teach our students about why we use certain conventions. What does Standard Academic English represent? Why don't we use text language in papers? What do these conventions symbolize and how do readers interpret them? We need to teach students to think about the rhetorical situation-- Who do they want to reach? What do they want to say? How? And why?-- not to apply a formula or use a set of prepackaged options. When they learn to do that, they can better communicate on all fronts, not just the academic or the technological.