New IM Tool: MeGlobe

A note from Jose Rodriguez about MeGlobe:

We’ve created an Instant Messaging application, called Meglobe, that also performs real time language translation. I thought you might be interested in taking a look since it can be used as a tool for students and educators to collaborate globally across language barriers.  Meglobe is web based and supports 15 different languages. There are no bots to install or downloads necessary to utilize the translation features. Simply type in a message in your own language and Meglobe translates it into the language of whomever you are chatting with.

 

We’ve also implemented a contribution function where users can make improvements to the translations Meglobe performs. This feature helps to improve the accuracy of the translations by applying the contributions to the translation engine and also helps the system develop natural language patterns. Here is a link to a tutorial demonstrating some of Meglobes key features: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=uR-O57jO6yI&fmt=18. I thank you for your time, if you have any questions please do not hesitate to contact me.

Haven’t tried it yet, but it looks quite cool and certainly contributes to students’ multiliteracies. Let me know if anyone gives it a shot.

Notes and Reaction from “Growing Up Online”

Here are some notes and reactions to the “Growing Up Online” special as it goes…

  • Some initial introductions, showing students as deceptive about online activity and generally showing parents as luddites
  • Scenes from schools, teachers claiming that they need to be “entertainers” and that it is difficult for students to focus and can not be engaged in thoughtful discussion
    • Students who haven’t read books because they don’t have time; rule at high school that they aren’t supposed to be using Spark Notes — is this cheating?
    • Students have to submit papers to turnitin.com; searching for instances of plagiarism
    • Do we fight against this, or accept it as reality as how the outside world works — borrowing and stealing as cheating or not
    • “Fighting the good fight” — to keep up educational standards
  • Social networking — the hub of online social life
    • Kids vie forgetting the most friends through MySpace or Facebook — you have to admit that you only know a few of the friends that you meet online
    • These are also the place where kids seem to hash out their conflicts, too
    • Fight recorded and put on YouTube; students reflected on the implications for college and jobs
    • Things that adults take seriously – discretion and privacy – are taken for granted
  • Relationships
    • Sending pictures in provocative settings
    • “You kinda want to look hot, but not too hot”
    • Social networking as a digital representation of identiy; teens are trying on different identities — C.J. Pascoe, Berkely
  • Example of Jessica Hunter
    • Was made fun of in school, led to insercurity
    • Online, she was reborn as “Autumn Edows” and her parents didn’t know
    • Dad – she just disappeared and we would never see here
    • I was fourteen, but looked older and people started noticing – “I was on the computer all day, replying… It was crazy, but I loved it.”
    • “I didn’t feel like myself, but I liked that I didn’t feel like myself.”
    • Dad – call from principal, another parent saw a picture that was “pornographic” as far as she was concerned
    • Jessica’s parents took the computer and looked at every single file – where does the information go and how is it perceived
    • The fame and hundreds of friends were gone as quickly as it had begun – “It seems stupid that I am getting upset over it… but having it taken away is your worst nightmare.”
    • “My fear is that my good kids will make a bad decision… and will pay for it permanently.”
  • Safety and social networking
    • Safe community, but social networking has punctured the safety net
    • What if a stalker gets obsessed with my children?
    • Kids think that nothing bad can happen to them
    • Media coverage of online predators; To Catch a Predator
    • Congressional hearings on predators
    • Son – my mom has always been catious, yet she is overbearing and is having a hard time getting past that
    • One family computer is stationed in the computer
    • Who gets the passwords – should the mom have access to them? Daughter – “It’s my own stuff”
    • “My parents forget that I have been online since second grade.”
    • Only one major study of predators online by Department of Justice that showed most kids know to avoid predatory practices online.
    • Kids engage in a lot more risky behavior offline. Most solicitations were very slight – Danah Boyd
    • Need to begin thinking about what students can do to each other
  • Sara – eating disorders
    • I have a happy-go-lucky life, and then the real life online; thinspiration
    • I will go online and be the anorexic person that I am – some days I am completely ana, other days I am not
    • My parents know nothing is that I like to eat healthy and exercise
  • Sharing on the internet
    • Putting myself out there
    • Power to act on impulse and that is where trouble happens
    • Example of students posting video from concert – some parents were appreciative, and others were mad
    • Students were mad, too, because they were getting in trouble
    • Mom – it is really hard to be on the other side, even though I remember keeping secrets
    • What is next – where else will they hang out that we can’t find them, control them?
  • Cyberbullying
    • Boy who committed suicide after being bullied
    • Others who didn’t realize what was happening, including parents who thought bullying was at school
    • When a popular girl flirted with him on IM, she humiliated him at school
    • the computer amplified the pain that he was feeling in the real world
    • The internet has become a new weapon in the adolescent arsenal
    • We need to teach them good cybercitizenship
  • Fundamental change in the way of life today — Danah Boyd
    • Jessica back online as Autumn Edows
      • Dad — looking for a way to create and reach out
      • My parents do support me
    • Sarah — told parents about eating disorder

Join the conversation online: http://www.pbs.org/wgbh/pages/frontline/kidsonline/talk/

The program provided a thoughtful analysis of adolescents and their online lives, including some of the positive possibilities that kids can engage in as they compose alternative identities. Of course, the dangers were explored, yet they were contextualized in a smart way and in contrast to what we see in traditional news media (for instance, who are the predators and how are kids approached). One thing that I was disappointed about (in the general trends of teens online, not the program itself) was how many of the teens presented are really only using the internet for social networking and feeding their narrow interests, whereas only one teen was shown seriously reconsidering her identity and the positive implications that brought. Where are the kids who are — in thoughtful and productive ways — creating their own content and distributing it to a worldwide audience? What are we doing to push them to use the potential of the internet beyond simply being on Facebook? All in all, a very useful report, one that I might use to show students in my classes.

IMing Back in the News

It’s been about a year since I’ve seen an article like this pop up — perhaps it has to do with going back to school and all the negative ideas that technology can bring in relation to the state of our language and culture:

The walls between the school and the cellphone or computer screen are permeable, and the key is to get students thinking about language so it’s used intentionally and effectively in context, says Florida State’s Yancey. “Language users will take a practice from one setting and take it to another. That’s the nature of language. What I really hope is that people will translate appropriately.

“It’s like flip-flops, she says. “There’s nothing wrong with flip-flops, worn at the appropriate time in an appropriate way. But soccer players don’t wear flip-flops in a game.”

15 years after birth, book’s not closed on textingUSATODAY.com

I find this particularly interesting right now as I am reading Postman’s Technopoly with my ENG 201 class. His basic argument is that technology becomes culture and thus an all-consuming march towards progress that we don’t question. So, I do sometimes appreciate those who question why and how new literacies like IMing are changing our language (even if I disagree with the principle behind the question).

Also, it reminds me that I need to be very conscious of what technologies I choose to use in my teaching and research, how I explain those choices and technologies to others, and to reevaluate them in light of how well they worked for the task at hand. IMing, for instance, is not useful as a genre for the types of writing that we are doing in the ENG 201 class, but is interesting as a subject of research.

You can see more of what my students are writing about related to Technopoly in their blogs, which you can link to from here.

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The Read/Write Web for Academic Advising

Of the four presentations that I have to do today, tomorrow, and Friday, there is one that I am really developing from the ground up and need to think through quite a bit. In thinking about how Mobile Social Software and other read/write web tools are impacting youth, this question will become increasingly important as time goes on.

So, I will be meeting on Friday with some academic advisers to help them think through how newer technologies can help them do their work. I have been asked to think about how messenging, blogging, podcasting, and social networking could contribute to better relationships between advisers and students. I think that I will start with Educause’s 7 Things article about Facebook, and then move in to a broader discussion about how and why we, as adults, use technology to communicate. Then, we can start thinking about what students might want/expect of us.

In preparation for this meeting, the advisers generated a “top ten” list of questions that students typically ask them in order to help frame the discussion during our meeting:

  1. What do I still need to graduate? When can I graduate?
  2. Are my University requirements done?
  3. What’s a cognate and what should I do for a cognate?
  4. What Study Abroad programs can I go on? How will the credits work in my degree?
  5. What kind of careers/jobs can I get with this major?
  6. How can I find and sign up for an internship?
  7. How long will it take me to graduate if I change my major to ___________?
  8. I want to take classes near home this summer. How can I do that?
  9. A class I want/need is full. How can I get an override?
  10. Do I have to do the foreign language? How can I get it waived?

So, I am trying to think about how all the technologies listed above — and others that aren’t like RSS, Google Calendar, and wikis — could help contribute to helping these students. I am also wondering if these are very Web 1.0 questions. That is, most of these seem like they could be posted as a FAQ on a static web page or, if they wanted to add some interactivity, on a wiki. Thus, I am interested in the deeper questions that these questions are getting at and I am curious to think about how some read/write web tools might help develop better relationships between advisers and students.

As I end this rambling post, here are some things that I am thinking about:

  • Getting everyone signed up for Facebook and learning the basic functions of it
  • Getting everyone signed up for Bloglines or Google Reader
  • Creating a Google Calendar that they can subscribe to
  • Using Skype to carry on a conversation with voice and/or chat

What else makes sense here? What other things might an adviser, or a teacher, need to be fluent with in order to stay connected with their students, answer questions in a timely manner, and develop stronger relationships? Thanks in advance for your ideas.

IM Shorthand Slips Off Computer Screens And Into Schoolwork – washingtonpost.com

Well, guess what is back in the news:

IM Shorthand Slips Off Computer Screens And Into Schoolwork – washingtonpost.com

“They are using it absolutely everywhere,” said Sara Goodman, an English teacher at Clarksburg High School in Montgomery County who has worn out many purple and red markers circling the offending phrases in papers and tests.

Wendy Borelli, a seasoned English teacher at Springbrook High in Silver Spring, finds photo captions for the school yearbook sprinkled with shorthand such as “B4” and “nite.” A student who left on a brief errand to the office announced he would “BRB.”

In 2004, 16 million teenagers used instant messages to communicate, up from 13 million in 2000, according to the Pew Internet and American Life Project. Students say IM language has become so ubiquitous they often do not realize they have lapsed into it.

The good news with this article is that the journalist goes on to talk about IM as a “teachable moment” and quote Leila Christenbury. She might also have checked out the U of T study that came out last summer about the ways in which IM does, and does not, influence writing.

What I am concerned about with this type of article in a major newspaper is that it continues the whole fear of our language degenerating at the hand of technology. Perhaps I can use this in some way as it relates to the state of English education?

IM and Code Switching

A study from the University of Toronto’s Linguistics Department has now verified what many writing teachers have been trying to argue all along — instead of ruining kids’ grammar, IM is actually a different discursive register and that kids end up code switching between IM and other forms of communication quite clearly. Here is an excerpt from an article about the study from technewsworld.com:

“What we found is that kids are using the colloquial vernacular language but they’re also using this formal language that isn’t used in speech,” says Denis, 21.

“So it’s really a combination, a fusion of both these styles. It wasn’t surprising to me because I’m a user of instant messaging and … I knew that it wasn’t as bad as people say it is.”
Tagliamonte says participants would use different levels of diction, both informal and formal, in their speech. For instance, they’d use “shall” alongside words such as “gonna.”

“It shows that this generation of kids is fluidly moving through media of communication that just didn’t exist before and they’re doing it extremely well,” she says.

Katherine Barber, editor-in-chief of Canadian Oxford Dictionaries, says she views instant messaging as a sub-dialect of English that likely won’t have an effect on spelling.

“The analogy I always like to make is, you know, we used to have things called telegrams and people had to tinker with their syntax, their normal syntax, to write,” she says.

“Telegrams as well, they created this telegraphese and that hasn’t had an effect on the language as a whole. It was used for that particular circumstance and that’s where it stayed.”

Technology News: Wireless: IM No Syntax Spoiler, Says Study

I have been asked many times if I think that technology is enabling kids (with spell check in Word) or ruining their spelling (with IM) and my answer has always been that kids will switch discourse based on the rhetorical situation. If we teach them that way. This study appears to confirm that pedagogical belief.

What do the rest of you think? Is IMing really just a chance for kids to code switch and practice different language? Or, is English doomed? I would be curious to hear what you think.