Friday, October 17, 2008

changing world

Three things happened to me recently that were all worth noting, and though only one was unambiguously related to this weblog, all were worth noting in their own way, and the one involving chat had perhaps the most far-reaching consequences.

First, I noticed that a student had the entire Azar book in pdf on a thumb drive. This student was waiting for the opportunity to print as much of it as he/she could, in order to be prepared for class. The book sells for what? $90, about four times what it's worth. The copies were free; the pin drive was part of the scenery.

Second, students managed to score a huge and unwarranted score on the TOEFL without apparently turning their necks, either through a listening device, a hidden cell-phone, or a trip to the bathroom; in any case it happened more or less under my nose, and was a sophisticated and technologically innovative piece of work.

Finally, a student was posting things on blogger, and this was part of a class exercise being run by a writing assistant; the window was open where one publishes work. Up in the corner of the computer as part of the toolbar, a steady flow of 3/5 chat appeared. It was mixed with chat in Arabic. When a teacher walked by, the student minimized the window; when I was gone, he reopened Meebo and told his partners, on the other end, what was happening in the class.

In this last episode it wasn't a case of cheating; he was just engaging in a lively conversation in two different languages at once. 3/5 chat, for clarification, is Arabic written in English letters and using an occasional number or symbol that looks like an Arabic letter. It is its own chat language, very common among my students; I plan to learn more about it if possible.

By not cheating I mean that there was nothing he could possibly gain, in this instance, from being in constant communication from friends in an unknown area. But he was clearly telling them whatever was happening in the class. I could see that, because of his reference to the people whose names had no Arabic equivalent. And he was clearly able to hide what he was doing effectively, except that the conversation was so lively that I couldn't help but spot it flashing up there in the corner.

More about this later. I just wanted to recount it, while it was alive in my head. There's more going on here than meets the eye.


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