Wednesday, June 04, 2008

chat sharks

Yes, I'm admitting it to everyone- I'm really into chat. What students do, and what others do. I have several basic reasons.

1. I believe it will be very important in the future, and the future is now. Yes, it's basically moved into business, diplomacy, you name it. In short, our students will be expected to know it and use it. And that means: uploading, copy/pasting, linking, reading & responding, knowing formal from infrml, etc. That's why, I'm chatting with my writing students

2. I actually learn a lot, have interesting conversations with, my students. Every time. I don't know why, cool stuff just comes out. I'm not really saving it up for chat. It's just that, I fill my teaching time with all teaching, 100% teaching. Either I'm teaching, or they're writing, or both. Do we ever talk? Much less than I'd hope. Much more when we chat.

3. Chat is changing the relationship between oral and written versions of the same language- changing the way we use the media as people in our ordinary lives, changing the ways in which we are more likely to use one with strangers, the other for formal occasions; changing the way one does business and relates with strangers. Changing this stuff, beneath our feet, as we speak.

4. My students bring an interesting mix of expectations every time, to the first chat class session. Everyone has chatted before, though not always in semi-formal English. Everyone knows LOL. Some know brb, wb, ty, etc. Here my own expertise begins to fade. I see others: ^.^, etc. Some I know or guess. It happens quickly. Kind of like picking up subtle conversational clues, in a table full of international travelers, at Kennedy airport, in a 2-hour layover.

5. Reading converts to writing, turns over, so to speak. Some of them are not reading...what's up with that? Some are reading other languages, chat slang, all kinds of stuff, reading it fast, like sharks, yet not reading
anything with a vowel in it. Or anything that looks like a legitimate sentence. What's up with that? I guess I'm fairly safe in asking this question, way down here, after a number of full, legitimate and semi-legitimate sentences.

6. I still would like to set up Saluki World Chat, an international alumni-gathering, recruiting phenomenon, at a regular hour, in chat, accessible to all, worldwide. I believe I can get help, at the alumni office, in IT, etc. I need time. I need a logo. I need a listserv for organizers. etc. etc.

7. Facebook has chat now; haven't seen it, haven't tried it, but since everyone has Facebook & a cellphone to access it, it's kind of like an SIU sweater. Ubiquitous is a word that comes to mind. To a linguist in the office I said, yes, of course linguists should be interested (they are, she assured me)...but with the world stampeding onto Facebook, and FB stampeding onto chat, we have, what you might call, running of the bulls.

Life is quick, life is fun, let me tell a story. I use Tapped In, am forever grateful for the opportunity, provided free of cost, by government grant I assume, with intention of getting educational groups involved in technology. But I wondered if SIUC would provide the same kind of "chat client"- the mechanism to set up a chat with my students. Went to the IT webpage- there was a chat window! Asked the guy (presuming gender here)...he answered! I was shocked. When finished, I copied the transcript, if you're interested. Turns out they use Meebo, which I could use too- so could you. Goes on any webpage. Weblogs? Saves transcripts? Puts names into the ID handle without membership? Haven't done my research, I'll admit. I have stacks of 28 papers to grade, and midterms coming. But I'll say this: it was a momentous occasion. They answered my question, right away. Answered it! In chat! Things are happening in chat, that used to happen in other ways. Same English, different venue. Faster, sometimes 2 or 3 conversations at once; usually polite, won't kill you. wht r u wtng 4?

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