17 Jan 2012

Email & laser tag: edtech baby steps to team-building

When Jax* told me her students didn't have her email address, I think my mouth dropped open a little. I might have spluttered something about maintaining boundaries and then went back to my marking. In the back of my mind, though, I was musing about dinosaurs and rotary phones.

Jax is an engaged, smart, witty, and hard working teacher. She's well-read, well-travelled, well-spoken and totally dedicated to her students. So why isn't she in email contact with them?

I have to confess I only started communicating with my students electronically about 2 and half years ago but I could never go back to the way it was before. For one, my students find it helpful - they can ask a quick question, send in their homework, or share something personal that they might not be able to say in class. For another, I find it helpful - it helps me stay organized, is easier for marking written assignments, and most of all, helps me get and keep my finger on the pulse of my class.

In an adult multicultural ESL classroom, one of the most difficult challenges is team-building, getting the students to work together in a way that benefits them all. By starting a term off with a collective, connective email, you set the stage for communication and collaboration. Mid-term? Laser tag. Trust me. You'll never use a rotary phone again.

No excuses - debunking email/DM myths:

I'm worried about protecting my privacy and my students' privacy!
There are many platforms and programs that conceal email addresses and other sensitive information.   You never have to use your personal email and your students sure won't use theirs.

It's not very professional to send emails to my students.
Almost every single communication is now acceptable via email. If you conduct yourself in writing as you would in the classroom, then it's up to you how professional you are.

It's so time-consuming. 
Limit the tasks and correspondence to what you can handle. Alert: students have lives too and don't spend every waking moment wanting to email or DM their teacher.

If email is your edtech-baby step, then it's time to take it.

*might be her real name, might not

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