Thursday, March 26, 2009

What's In A Name?

First grade (which in a high school means 10th year students) began a chapter titled 'Cell Phone: Blessing or Curse', about the impact of technology. I whipped up a powerpoint concerning two articles, one on computer game addiction and the other about Doug Engelbart, the inventor of the computer mouse. The mouse turned 40 in December.

He was surprised that the term 'mouse' stuck to his invention when it entered the home, since mice have an overall negative connotation. In their last activity, students are to pair up and think of new names for computer parts: CPU, the mouse, keyboard, memory and flash drive. Theoretically, they will hold their discussions in English. The co-teacher and I go around looking at their work and talking to them about it.

Some were quite good; for instance: thinker, clicker, tapper, saver and walker. Or smart box, arrow box, key box, etc. Or Einstein, genius box, calc-box for the CPU. So far, so good. I was, however, surprised by the number of students who figured that you are improving on 'mouse' by calling it a rat! Today, a couple of them even renamed it the cockroach. True, they both might scurry around on your desktop...

One smart-aleck today renamed the computer as 'sexy girl', the mouse as 'pants' and the flash drive as 'penis'. So I whipped mine out, it's about one and a half inches--my memory stick, pervs--and held it up. "Oh, it's very small," I said.

Now, embarrassment isn't necessarily at the top of my list of pedagogical tools, but here's a kid who is testing me (it's our fourth class session). He knew he was being inappropriate and hoped I might overreact, or at least blush. The ideal response: show them how silly they are being, elicit a laugh, make your point, and move on.

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