Students’ Discourse

Discourse genres, cultures social-communicative situations can interrelate in several different ways. Students may have different degrees of mastery of a given genre (and thus one may dominate over another), and they may see genres as more or less appropriate to the situation. One possibility would thus be that the stu- dents had poor skills in standardized French and in argu- mentation, and so wrote in their everyday genres. There are reasons that weigh against such an explanation. First, recent research on mobiles and literacy shows that, despite cultural differences, there is presently no compelling evidence that SMSese fluency is necessarily associated with poor standardized literacy. Second, during meetings with the teacher, we examined with the students’ (hand)written essays from regular teaching; she stated that their level in standard French was average for students of their age. Third, with respect to the argumentative genre, we saw that students, in moderated debates, did possess the communicative–argumentative skills of people their ag.

We therefore argue that a more plausible explanation for the students’ discourse, as produced during our study, would be in terms of a strong coupling between communication technology, adolescent culture, and the SMSese genre. In other words, because the students use SMSese via chat and mobile devices in their everyday lives, and they were asked to use chat in the classroom, they therefore saw it as appropriate in that situation and even nec- essary to preserve their group identities and interper- sonal relations.

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This explanation is also plausible with respect to wesh-wesh culture. Clearly, collaborative learning, carried out without teacher intervention, requires the students to interact with and relate to each other: for the students, relating to each other is done (more or less) in the wesh-wesh mode. When students debated with teacher moderation, they were not primarily relating to each other (this was mediated by the teacher), and so there was some degree of change in their discourse. This suggests that for these students, the educational genre is for interacting with the teacher, and not for interacting between themselves, even when their interactions occur in school.