The other day I happened to catch a segment of The Current CBC broadcast as I was driving between school appointments. The topic was big data based the book Dataclysm, which certainly captivated my interest for a variety of reasons.
Image from Amazon.com
I happened to tune in just at the moment the discussion was focused on analyzing data written in social media, Twitter in this case. While many view social media communications as somewhat inane, an in depth analysis reveals some interesting facts.
- writing tends to be more sophisticated
- word length is 20% longer
- lexical density , the proportion of meaning carrying words, is higher than in many other forms of writing (email, magazines etc. – perhaps opposite to what you would think)
- with a limitation on the number of characters per message or post, 140 in this case, people learn to improve word choices
- in turn, this improves editing skills
In the interview, Christian commented that this type of analysis can and has been repeated. This is not an isolated ‘one time’ look at this area.
When one considers the writing benefits summarized here, I believe there is a strong case to incorporate the social media writing medium in the school system. Of course there are natural connections to digital citizenship, engagement, real world audiences etc.
As a classroom educator, if you are already doing this, keep going! If not, consider giving it a try with an age appropriate system, a collaborative document with simulated limits or even offline.
Listen to the CBC Podcast with Christian Rudder on Dataclysm
Book: Dataclysm by Christian Rudder
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