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“You should be reading, not texting”: Understanding classroom text messaging in the constant contact society

Keywords: Cell phone , college students , mobile communication , mobile phone , new literacies , text messaging

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Cell phones are the most ubiquitous communication device owned by young people today, and students’ text messaging during class is a common occurrence in many university classrooms. Analyzing data from a qualitative study involving 34 undergraduate students at a university in the Northeastern United States, this paper seeks to explore: Why do university students text message during class, and what does this tell us about text messaging as a new literacy practice within traditional classroom settings? Drawing on perspectives from new literacies and communication studies, I argue that texting was a meaningful practice for students as it afforded the opportunity for ongoing participation in social networks, and provided a means of exercising power within the controlled space of the classroom.


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