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To Email, or Not



Should current students learn how to use email? 


As someone who celebrates a clean email inbox about once every five years, I found it interesting that the topic of student email usage was on the agenda of our recent high school leadership meeting. The focus of this brief conversation concentrated on these questions.



  • How can we get students to utilize their school email account better? 
  • Should we be teaching students how to communicate with email?
  • When and where should email usage skills be taught? 
  • Who's responsibility is this?
Why do we want kids to check their email? Those around the conference room table agreed with the importance of students checking their email to stay informed about upcoming events and opportunities. Others mentioned it as being an important part of "digital executive functioning." Time was running short when someone said, "Kids don't use email."

This brief statement sent my mind scurrying in several simultaneous directions. 

  • First, thinking about my children, he was right. The purpose of an email address, based on my observations at home, is to create online accounts for gaming, entertainment, and socializing.
  • Second, I was thinking about the ongoing debate about cursive writing that my wife, a second-grade teacher, and I have every two weeks. Natalie sees cursive writing as a critical skill for communication and fine motor development. Since I have not personally written in cursive in four decades, I view it as an old-world skill that offers no future return on time invested.
  • Third, I thought of Dave White and V/R Mapping. If kids aren't using email, where are they interacting with others on the web? As educators, are we trying to fit a square peg into a round hole by trying to force a communication tool that has apparently become irrelevant to young people?

Would our efforts be better spent learning where kids "reside" on the web? Maybe Snapchat, Instagram, or Whatsapp are better places to engage our learners and interact with them. The difference, and likely the reason kids don't buy into email communication, is email is used primarily as a one-way information push, while more engaging apps like Facebook offer opportunities for interaction.

It's time for me to get back to cleaning out my inbox. I'm interested in your perspective on this topic. Should we be communicating with students via email? Should students be taught how to use email in school?



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photo credit: Christoph Scholz @-Symbol in Glass Orange via photopin (license)

Comments

Aaron Davis said…
Interesting question Bob. I think that it comes back to the same question as to whether everyone should have a blog or be on Twitter (something I wrote about recently http://readwriterespond.com/?p=2596). To me it is the wrong question. Should students learn to curate a space on the web, share openly or communicate effectively? Maybe they are better questions? So yes students should learn about email, but more importantly they should understand communication and context.
Thanks Aaron,
I know I can always count on you to share a focusing perspective.
I agree that the focus should be on the skill and tool or "place" for interaction should be the users choice. In schools, I think it's helpful to have a digital hub, or virtual meeting space, where users can count on information. Foder for an upcoming post, I suppose.
Thanks again for reading, commenting, and sharing - have a good day,
Bob

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