Responding to a Tweet from Bud Hunt on the question of whether students should have email or not
I think of email as being similar to the issue surrounding QWERTY. A communications dinosaur who served its purpose and is no longer relevant based on the tools that classrooms and school districts have at their disposal.
I first used email in the late 80’s at a law firm. At first I remember no one knew of a use for it other than to send quick messages to other people that we needed to meet face to face.
Perhaps I should list the parts of email I hate.
Part of my dislike starts with the “carbon copy” model of how information used to be moved.
BCC – is an easy one – so communication happens but it is not known by everyone involved who saw what was written. To me this is the equivalent of speaking to someone as happens in an interrogation and know that there is the possibility that someone else is listening in on the discussion behind a mirrored glass wall.
CC – the secondary recipient of a message can communicate but again is not the primary person the communication was intended for. It is used to gain support or to move difficult communication to a more monitored situation, can be just an FYI, or simply a habit someone has to respond to all and not pay attention to the hierarchy of the original message.
The decision making chain – this is a set of email messages that go back and forth between a group of people and there seems to be no consensus but a communication of why a time shouldn’t be used, why the idea is not acceptable to a person responding, and then another set of times or ideas which must then go around the group, ad infinitum. Usually the best approach is to look at the last email with the same subject and hope that the person hasn’t edited any of the previous messages.
Email chains – periodically my district gets an email that is sent to the entire district, the responses of “please don’t respond to all” leads to more instances of “please don’t respond to all” this usually goes on for 20 or 30 messages at least.
Timeliness – email gives instant communication and yet people are allowed to either respond immediately, let a sufficient time pass as to, what let someone know the message is not important or was it accidentally missed? Did the person ignore the message or was it was caught up in the “junk” filter and deleted in which case it will need to be resent. This usually isn’t discovered or clarified until a second message or face to face conversation occurs. I’ve missed numerous emails because the spelling of my name is unusual and a typo causes me to miss a message. Although I wonder sometimes if there is always the lingering doubt on the part of some people that I may be purposefully ignoring something. When an email is sent there is no indicator when a response is expected or most of the time even received.
You can google,yahoo,flickr,twitter,plurk,ning me and my name will most likely pop up as well as how to contact me!
Email is where I get spam, the type of chain mail that says if you don’t pass this on, or fraudulent communication offering me money.
I cope with it by mostly being pulled back so as not to have any misinterpretation occur. At the least it allows for both personal and professional communication, but I think it also mixes them up as well.
I suppose I now look at email with all the quarks and irrationalities as like someone looking back from email to snail mail or letters handled by various people and passing through odd machines to reach a recipient and typing machines with black carbon paper sandwiched between two other sheets of paper.
Solutions? Take a range of the other communication tools besides email and see which works best for an organization’s needs.