Thursday, January 12, 2017

Student Email: 5 Suggestions for Successfully Integrating Email Into Instruction


I think I can safely say that one of the most important skills for students to have in the real world is the ability to communicate. Communication is not only a great life skill, but it is vital to success in the career world, especially with regard to email communication. Our district has recently provided students with an email address. By providing an email address for students, our educators are now tasked with the challenge of teaching responsible and efficient use of this tool to our students.

But what does that look like in an era of social media and texting? How do we convince students of the benefits of understanding this platform? I admit, that it's a hard sell. Email has been around for a long time, and it is probably seen as an archaic or "old person" way of communicating.

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That being said, I don't think email is going anywhere for a while. I don't see Snapchat, Twitter, Facebook, or Instagram taking over for email service, mainly because that is not what those services are designed to do. While email is not as personal as these other communication platforms, it certainly is the most effective way for large groups of people to organize and communicate daily within a business or organization (if used properly). While students already understand that email isn't the entertainment and communication tool of choice among their social circles, they need to have understanding of what it can do for their career future.

The only way for that understanding to take place is to see it in action, which is why I suggest implementing the use of email in the classroom for the purpose of familiarizing students with the importance and place of email in institutions, such as school and business.

So I have a few suggestions on ways email can be implemented in your classroom. Any one of these would be beneficial for student understanding and may inform them of the writing style necessary to communicate in this way.

1. Create Opportunities for Student Use

Think about ways of incorporating the use of email in a real life scenario. That can be done in several ways. Students could contact an expert found in their research for information about them or to request a meeting. Or perhaps progress reports can be emailed from a project leader to the teacher, carbon copying others in the group. Students could also send resources or cloud based shared documents to each other to get a project started. Most importantly, if you have a question for a specific student or group of students, just email them. Getting students to write in fully developed complete sentences is important to a student's development.

2. Share Best Practice Concepts

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It's important for students to realize how professionals use email, so share your own email practices, including pitfalls to avoid or ways to increase efficiency with the many emails that come in daily. Explain how you expect email to be used in your class and be consistent with it. Services such as Boomerang for Gmail can help students organize their own best practice and even help them determine if an email is written in such a way as to prompt a response, which is an important skill in the email realm.

3. Identify Student Apps/Websites That Require Email Authentication

Many different web services require an email. As a former music teacher, I used the web app Noteflight with my students to teach them how to read and write music notes. I discovered that students needed to confirm that they have a valid email address in order to have the full features of the app. Since not everyone had an email at that time, it become a hassle.

 If your student email system is completely open (can send and receive from any address), students will be able to confirm registration through their email. Even if it is filtered (emails only from teachers/peers at your school), you may be able to talk to your school IT department in order to allow students to receive emails from a specific address. Either way, it is worth checking into with any web app that you plan to use.

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4. Create Groups by Class

Teach your students how to successfully organize their email to fit their needs. Whether that is through creating labels in their email for classes or creating groups from their contacts for group work, teaching these digital organization strategies can save them time every day of their life.




5. Send Weekly Class Updates

You may use some other service such as Remind for this type of information, but sending it through email instead may help your students learn to create habits of checking email, especially if there is exclusive information in the email that is not shared elsewhere. You could talk to your students about downloading an app on their phone for email or connecting their email to their phone and allowing notifications. I know that accommodations would need to be made for some students in this area, but creating an environment where email must be checked at least weekly (perhaps daily) will set up successful habits for their working life.