Friday, November 30, 2007


My eap2ww (high-level writing) students are ahead of the game; their writing skills are in general very good. If you have any questions about their ability to put together an essay, click on their names in the template of the class blog and take a look at how they construct essays, format them, link the references, and cite and refer to sources. They are about to finish their last project, a research paper, and put it on their weblog also, with the abstract on the class blog, linked to the paper. And, on top of it all, the class blog itself is full of interesting reading- scroll down, click on the topics in November alone- you won't be disappointed. This is fluency writing- we do it for ourselves, for each other, and for the newsletter.

Ah, but there's one more thing I want to teach you, I told them. I think everyone should be aware of chat, familiar with it, able to read quickly and respond appropriately. There are a lot of skills involved, including just being able to find the place, relate to the screen, and type into it. But it's also intensely fascinating, to me, to notice the number of expectations, symbol usages, and patterns that people bring to chat. These come out fairly quickly. It is also interesting to note how people relate to multiple conversations at once. And finally, I learn a lot from them, that I wouldn't learn otherwise. We could sit around and meet each other; some of this would come out just in talking. But we don't; it's a writing class.

In the first two days I've learned a number of things about my students, particularly about where they're from (I requested that this be a topic), but the only assignment is that they get up there once, in a chat space in tapped in, an educational electronic space for which I'm infinitely grateful, and deliver to me a URL about their hometown. Some of these you will see below.

But I don't just do this for me. I know that they will be interested in seeing and perhaps checking out each others' hometowns, but what I really want is for them to just read and write in chat, use it, and notice the development of a chat community that might be different from what they are used to. It is my contention that education and business will both be moving into these places (if they haven't already done so); that skill in recognizing and using these communities (not to mention setting them up) will be useful to their future; and that I am probably in the best position to ease them into familiarity with this environment. I have set out the reasons I've done what I did, and made it a low-level assignment, not worth a whole lot of points; furthermore, I 've made it clear that they should do homework first.

Then, I've had a great time anyway. Let me just say, everyone should do it. I'll bring some examples; I'll demonstrate what happens and how people learn. It may take a while to put into words what exactly I'm teaching and how.

There is distinct resistance to what I'm doing. I suspect that it is this way (though I'm not sure). Chat has been pigeonholed by some cultures, as associated with pornography or the low cultural elements, the trollers, the scammers, etc. The problem with this is that in American culture (and therefore my own perception) there is a naive open-mindedness: my above statement that chat will be accepted, used and absorbed by the business and educational worlds was probably received with somewhat open-minded curiosity, as the hypothesis that it is. But in other cultures, once you're pigeonholed, it takes more than a shovel to dig you out. This is my best explanation. I'm not really sure; I'm not sure I can speak for them, or even that I really know how they feel. I can ask them, and even then I might not know how they really feel.

In an EAP2 class long ago I did chat, and then did a survey with my class, and found some of the same resistance. The survey is buried in this very blog and was criticized once as being difficult to read. I may try to do a better job with the next one. The class that did this first, the pioneers (way back in 2006) lost their blog in an blog-deletion accident this summer. The memory, however, lives on. Stay posted; you may see something like it soon.

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