Friday, November 18, 2005

New Study Aids OR New Cheating Aids?

In what may the latest in test studying cheating technology, a British firm is marketing a service that condenses classic works of literature into text messages:
Dot mobile, a British mobile phone service aimed at students, says it plans to condense classic works of literature into SMS text messages. The company claims the service will be a valuable resource for studying for exams.

Academic purists will be horrified. Hamlet's famous query, "To be or not to be, that is the question," becomes "2b? Nt2b? ???"

John Milton's epic poem "Paradise Lost" begins "devl kikd outa hevn coz jelus of jesus&strts war." ("The devil is kicked out of heaven because he is jealous of Jesus and starts a war.")

Books planned for the service include Charles Dickens' "Bleak House," whose tale of the interminable legal suit of Jarndyce and Jarndyce is reduced to a few snappy lines, and Jane Austen's "Pride and Prejudice," which describes hunky Mr. Darcy as "fit&loadd" (handsome and wealthy).

Dot mobile said it planned to launch the service in January, with Shakespeare's complete works available by April. The texts will be free to subscribers to the company's phone service.

Some may dismiss the summaries as cheat notes for the attention-deficit generation, but John Sutherland, a University College London English professor who consulted on the project, said they could act as a useful memory aid.

"The educational opportunities it offers are immense," said Sutherland, who chaired the judging panel for this year's Booker Prize for fiction.
Once, while I was teaching a Spanish class, I caught a GATE (gifted and talented) student red-handed with cribnotes during an examination. When I spoke to his mother about it at a conference, her exact words to me were: "I can't believe that my son was cheating. You must be mistaken, Mr. Wonk." She said this despite my showing her the evidence.

As a new teacher, it was a object lesson about the realities of The Teaching Life.
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