Internet lingo snakes into the classroom, no LOLs from teachers

NSFW, defriend, facebook official, tweetup. WTH am I even talking about? Just ask your barely literate 9th grade student.

Besides the technical jargon that comes along with internet technology, there’s also an entire social dialect spoken by social internet users. There is of course the infamously hard-to-crack code of acronyms that began as a way for children to communicate via instant messenger when parents were looking over their sholders. Like a secret code, I guess. Then there is the lingo from social networking sites. If you get defriended, well then that just ruins your entire day. But it’s not as simple as that. I’ve noticed some local girls, usually aged 20 and younger, add extra consonants at the end of words. For example, a younger cousin of mine said, “Can’t waittt til vacationnnnn!” and “ughhhhh. this boyyy annoysss me.” But wait, that’s not even the enigma. It’s that this cousin, a saludatorian candidate and honors student, also wrote, “I wantt to be on prom committee becausssse,” in her offical application letter for her school’s prom committee.

According to a Pew Internet Project Study, 60% of students do not consider electronic texts as “writing,” 73% percent of teens say their personal electronic communications do not interfere with the quality of the writing they do for school or theirselves, but 63% admit that they accidentally incorporate acronyms, informal punctuation, or emoticons in writing for school. How do you not realise you just wrote a smiley face on your English exam? Apparently, for this generation of students, Standard English is no longer the standard. Facebookian has become the national language, and we are going to all the ESL instructors.

My question is this: how is it that internet lingo and fad words come and go so quickly, yet they stick with students easier than the child’s own native tongue?

Hypotheses:

1. Facebookian and other languages are fun. They give the speaker a sense of exclusivity. They can laugh over that Slovak dude in the DirectTV commerical while their parents won’t be in on the joke (BTW, it’s in LOL Kittian or ICanHasCheezburgerese.)

2. This generation goes through trends on a weekly basis. The internet has made theirs an extremely fastpaced culture. If it’s five minutes old, well then, it’s old. These forms of communicating, while not traditional, are fresh, new, and completely unique to Generation Y.

3. They’re teenagers. Every batch of teenagers since the forties has had fad words. This particular set just has a louder voice via the internet.

The problems arise, however, when even good students like my cousin, can’t effectively switch between social language and academic language. Maybe I can turn your 😦  into a 🙂 though. This predicament is a teachable moment. Their problem is not intelligence, but lack of skills regarding audience and rhetoric, which are both in your lesson plans already. Use examples of social networking and electronic communicating with friends in contrast with what is expected when you are their audience. Give them the tools they need to make better writing decisions. With more instruction in writing for an audience, they may find they enjoy writing both in and out of school better. FTW!!

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Fail blogging: Grammar Edition

I hope all of you are familiar with the FailBlog.org website. Fail Blog posts user submitted videos and photos of humans being, well, pretty stupid. Every time I see a “fail” photo I can’t help but to feel a little more intelligent than the poor souls who have, if only for a moment, failed at life. It’s become an internet phenomenon, even spawning the term “epic fail” and spin-off sites like UrPhoneIsFail (of which my boyfriend wrote an article for here, but that is beside the point) and EnglishFailBlog which has, unfortunately exceeded its bandwidth. You may, however, check out their Facebook photo page for an appetizer.

We’re just lowly humans, you know? We’re all bound to make mistakes and selfishly revel at others’ shortcomings. That’s why one or both of these options will work out amazingly: 1. Create a classroom blog that students have editing access to. Whenever they see what they believe to be a grammatical error on a sign or published item, they can snap a photo and throw it up on the blog. I think they’ll feel empowered to have found an error made by someone older and presumably more educated than them. 2. Create your own blog or VoiceThread show using photos that you have taken (or used with permission) that exhibit a grammatical error. Students can then be assigned to comment and decide what the error is and suggest a correction. This exercise will get them actively paying attention to grammar and its use. When they go outside of those big double doors and out into the world, they’ll be on guard for errors and also carrying learning outside of the school walls.

Below are a few links for your entertainment:

Unnecessary Quotes is a user submission-based “photo” blog.

Engrish Funny is another photo blog showing what happens when you trust Google Translate.

The Grammar Vandal is a fellow WordPress user documenting his battle against bad grammar in Boston.

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Why blogs are becoming the norm.

I’m becoming a real believer of digital media in the classroom. The benefits seem to outweight the negatives so greatly that it would seem neglegent not to bring media in to your classroom. I have defended Twitter’s use in the classroom, and today I feel led to talk about blogging.

Among the many reasons to have your students blog, the one most important to me is to improve writing skills. As we have been discussing in class, students are frequent online writers. They instant message, they write about themselves on Facebook, and they post discussions on various fan/special interest sites. They are already familiar with blogging, they just don’t know it yet. When they are assigned a blog, they will be given the chance to use skills they have already mastered (online communication) to explain their thoughts and opinions. Many people, myself included, believe themselves to communicate more effectively on paper than in person. This generation of digital natives have cell phones used exclusively for text messaging. Phone calls are rarely made. They have confidence in their online selves, and will therefore be more willing to participate in online writing. Plus, instead of being seen only by their teacher, a blog, if the teacher chooses, can be available for public consumption. This fact alone may prompt a child to produce better writing. Perhaps they don’t care about impressing the frumpy old bat that lectures them on Medieval culture, but they will be concerned with impressing their peers, both classmates and worldwide.

Di Zhang writes in “The Application of Blog in English Writing” that blogs facilitate students’ critical thinking skills, provide examples for students to model and learn,  positively affect students’ quality of writing, faciliate meaningful learning for students, and give students a purpose for writing. I can’t really think of any more that an educator could ask for.

I think it would be an excellend idea to ban those marbled journal notebooks from English classrooms forever and replace them with blogs. My classmate Pam, whose blog can be found here, discusses this idea herself. How cool would it be to discover how students react differently to writing about novels and poems online than they do in paper journals? I suspect we’ll be amazed.

This could be revolutionary.

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This article is so scary, it could be a Halloween costume

You know the old saying “ignorance is bliss?” If blissful psuedo-innocence is your saving grace then don’t read this blog. ‘Cause after the paragraph break, thinks get real bleak, real fast.

Does twenty-three billion dollars sound like a lot of money to you? Do you think that the government gets their cabooses in action when there’s big bucks and big corporations’ interest at stake? Have you ever copy and pasted a photo off of the internet without written permission from the owner? If so, you best be worried when you hear that distant police siren tonight. The FBI are on to you.

The Federal Bureau of Investigation’s Internet Fraud Division, while primarily focused on monitoring internet activities of terrorists and child pornography offenders, has recently taken it upon themselves to create a internet property copyright infringment team. This includes thefts of photos, games, music and other digital media that is so, so easily snatched without the least bit of guilt. The same people who regularly download music on a peer-to-peer file sharing sites, would never ponder the idea of knicking even the smallest item from a retail store. Somehow, when the item isn’t tangible, it doesn’t feel like a crime. Yet, alas, little stickyfingers, it is. To the tune of $250,000 dollars a pop to be exact. Just because you’re all alone in your white-walled apartment when you steal that photo doesn’t mean that no one took notice. Big Brother is always watching. Along with the new task force over at Big Brother Central the FBI, they have set up a hotline and website where mean people with nothing to do can report those individuals who they believe have infringed upon someone else’s copyright via the internet.

Now, to the rescue (sort of) is the term “Copyfraud.” As defined by Jason Mazzone, copyfraud is the use of false claims of copyright to attempt to control works not under one’s legal control. Mazzone asserts that many times an item in question does not have copyright and is instead public domain. He also says that copyfraud is usually sucessful in court because the US has only a few vague laws governing digital media. For example, Michael Crook  (interestingly his real name) filed claims against websites that posted photos and video clips of him beside scathing articles. He lost the battle, apologized to the defendants, and promised to limit his future copyright claims to material that he actually owned.

Is all this a little confusing to you? Then you’re not alone. That’s what makes this issue all the scarier. When your students bring in a prezi with photos that they obviously didn’t take themselves, and you turn a blind eye, are you then an accomplice to a federal crime?

Maybe the best thing to do is this: inform yourself and your students about copyrights. Copyrightkids.org uses simple language and explains things in a way that, well, a kid could understand. They even include a twenty-five question quiz. If you get pass the quiz, you will get a printable certificate (I’d print my own, but I’m terrified of prison food) stating that you have completed the copyright challenge. This quiz could be a very valuable classroom tool for making sure you have educated your students on copyright laws before the both of you are behind cold, unloving bars.

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YouTube: The Key to Reading and Writing?

When I picked up Indian Killer by Sherman Alexie, the first thing I did was flip to the back jacket and find his photo. “Barnacles!” I exclaimed quietly enough that the librarian wouldn’t tsk, tsk at my boisterousness, “I can’t read the work of someone who thinks mullets are still in style.” Indeed, Sherman Alexie did sport a fluffy 80’s mullet. Fortunately, I suspended my disappointment long enough to read Indian Killers and fall completely in love with his kind Native eyes, knowing smile, and brilliant mind–bad hairdo be damned. After relishing in a novel’s worth of his sharp wit, I decided it was inperative that I learn everything about this man that I could. YouTube.com to the rescue. YouTube had, and has, a plethora of interviews, readings, and film clips all with my favorite author. Every video I watched aided me in understanding the man behind the genious. Is he perfect? No. Is he all the more enviable because he’s a unique, flawed person? Absolutely.

Getting to know the author of the literature you’re reading is an irreplacable tool. Not only does it help you understand the author’s influences and thought process, but it exhibits the author as a real, working individual. Most high school students imagine that authors of their texts live in ivory towers and that words flow right from their delicate fingers to the page as effortlessly as breathing. However, when they see an interview with, for example, Sherman Alexie and learn that he had a very turmultuous childhood, they may be more willing to delve into Flight or The Absolutely True Diary of a Part-Time Indian  because they feel a kinship (assuming that the author isn’t anything like Mort Rainey or Jack Torrence). When they understand that even “real” authors have to revise again and again before the manuscript is even sent to an editor, then they may be more willing to write creatively and for their own enjoyment, because they feel like writing isn’t something done only by “authors.”

And of course, YouTube is the key to all of this. Perhaps you could find a video of a reading on a univesity website or an interview clip on pbs.com. But, YouTube has it all and has it in an organized structure. I encourage all readers, not just high school students, to get to know their authors. It’s a special experience that can only enhance your reading.

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Purposeful Championing of Twitter…Again

Yes, I have that much faith in Twitter.

Though satisfied with previous post, I feel like the topic deserves a wee more discussion. So, I did some digital researching and found another YouTube video that I think y’all will like. It’s about The Twitter Experiment at University of Texas at Dallas, but the instructor and student commentary is applicable to both the college and high school classroom.

Our class discussed the uses of application such as VoiceThread and one point made was that it allows shy or quiet students to have their say. Every class has one or two students that monopolize conversation, with resources like VoiceThread or Twitter, every timid little deer gets the same platform as the big burly bison. When a student, especially those who are teenaged, feel left out of the dicussion, they will retreat into themselves and forget the topic altogether.

Another really cool advantage brought up by one of the U of T @ Dallas students is that all the ideas and research discussed via Twitter are then available for consumption by the masses. An online reader becomes a virtual fly on the wall. An instructor that had to be out of town participated in class when she was states away. An ill student could participate from the er waiting room.

I often question whether requiring student technological participation is viable in a classroom where not everyone’s family has cable television, much less high speed internet. But, in the U of T @Dallas classroom, the students had options. They could bring their own laptops, contribute by cellular phone, or simply write down their comments the old fashioned way–with pen and paper–and the teaching assistant posted them after class.

As a student, I know everyone’s rolled their eyes at someone who starts their comment (read: diatribe) like this: “One time, when I was in the Navy…” or “Me, me, me, me, me, everything must relate to me.” One of the beautiful aspects of using Twitter is that any information that isn’t directly relevent must be weeded out by the author. With just 140 characters to say what you want to say, there’s very little wiggle room for long-winded and self-absorbed contributers. What you get is 140 characters of susinct commentary that doesn’t beat around the bush.

Technology isn’t perfect. There are outages, overloads, and sometimes it just plain doesn’t work. But, as one of the instructors stated in the video, messy doesn’t mean bad. Twitter doesn’t work perfectly all the time, but what does?

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Purposeful Championing of Twitter

I love to twitter. I love others who love to twitter. Those who twitter well, that is. Contrary to naysayers (and those twitterers that do so annoyingly), Twitter is not all about informing stalkers that you’re hittin’ the streets for a good time or fixing yourself a peanut butter and honey sandwich. Twitter is about exchanging ideas and emotions. It’s social commentary, breaking news, flash fiction, and micro-blogging.  When Michael Jackson passed away at 2:26pm, I knew, via Twitter, by 2:45. The news didn’t break on CNN until 4:00. By then it was stale news to me and my fellow twitterers. This application, concocted by Jack Dorsey in 2006, is a way to create peripheral awareness and consume fresh news on the fly–that is why it’s perfect for the classroom.

Here are some ways that Twitter can be used in the classroom:

1. Have students condense theses and ideas into tweets, which have a 140 character limit. This exercise will help them consider their words carefully, remove redundancies and boil things down to what they really want to say.

2. Create a classroom Twitter Twibe. You will be able to communicate directly to students outside of school hours in a public, yet secure manner. If a homework assignment or test date changes, all their phones will ding with the news immediately.

3. Twitter is such an easy way of sharing information. You could require students create a weekly link to a news article they found interesting.

4. Though some twitterati (the tweet elite) aren’t worth the 140 they puke out, some Twitter users, such as @BarackObama and @SenJohnMcCain, are a lesson in politics and propaganda. Students could follow @BP_America and @BPGlobalPR (mock account) and discuss satire.

5. Each student can create an account for an author, character, etc. What would George Orwell think about today’s society? How would Hamlet react to Fall Out Boy breaking up?

6. Micro-write. Someone, maybe you, create the first 140 character line of a story. Then each student takes a turn adding 140 characters.

7. If you’re learning about another culture in the classroom, encourage students to make Twitter Pals with someone from that culture.

8. After they read an article, poem, or short story, have them summarize on twitter. They will them be able to reply and respond to others’ posts.

9. Just because students leave the classroom doesn’t mean they stop using their minds (okay, so maybe some of them do…). They see an item at mall that makes them think of something discussed in class. Twitter allows them to post to a collective class discussion immediately from their cellular phones.

10. Twitter is a great research tool. When discussing current and social events in the class, as students to search twitter. Twitter, of course, won’t supply them with much scholarly information, but it lets them into the minds of the general public.

These are just a few of the many, many uses of Twitter. As people warm up to it more, I wager that the idea of Twitter in the classroom will not be as foreign as it seems to us today. Ideas for uses of Twitter are very easily Googleable (I Googled “googleable” to see if it was spelled correctly). The video above demonstrates the enthusiasm students have for classes intergrating technology into the curriculum. I don’t know about you, but I want students to be that excited about my class.

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