Rochelle sent me this article which is really interesting: The Chronicle: 10/6/2006: E-Mail is for Old People: “As students ignore their campus accounts, colleges try new ways of communicating….” While I’m very happy that people are thinking this through, they don’t seem to be thinking that wisely or deeply. I did post something recently about this and thin technologies but it also is an issue of appropriate technologies. When I’m the prof. and I want to communicate with students about formal matters, sending an IM is, well, stupid. And with Facebook and Myspace, the cognitive equivalent of social communication as dressing up to go to a disco in a stripmall, you’ve got to wonder how far out of touch the admin might be. I’ve used IM for communicating with students for years. The problem wtih that is that they don’t use any of the ‘good’ ones and I have to use MSN (I guess I’m old school prefering IRC (yes, I know I trash IRC but that’s for a diff reason), ICQ, AIM/iChat, MOOs or the like).
I use AIM/iChat mostly to communcate with colleagues. While I was working with my RA on the songchild project (http://songchild.org) I was IMing with Danny, who teaches part time at ECE, showing him how to use media wiki, and editing the CSS for his wiki. We were in text, but when he was trying things out we switched to audio (which is a function of iChat) so we could type while we talked. And of course I could have 2-3 other chats going on with other faculty. Facebook isn’t quite up to that level of communication, though it is good for the rather thin communication that perhaps is all students want to engage in.
I’d prefer a jabber server for our school though, then we could be sure that we had a record that messages were at least sent. That’s what I like about institutional email… we have proof that it got to a student’s account, and the reverse. You can lead a student to email, but you can’t ensure they read it… Hmmm… I’d even think that setting up a monastic learning environment in World of Warcraft would be better than just getting a school facebook account. Now that’s a thought.
Our job is to improve student’s ability to communicate, not bring the level down to what has been marketted at young people. I’ve yet to find anyone who can justify FB or MS as a more rich or sophisticated form of tech over whatever else is available… and there are so many other ways of keeping in touch… of course blogs and livejournal, or even MOOs.
As well, if students were ACTUALLY more sophisticated they could do what I do. My university email is forwarded to my gmail account, and the email I send out from Mail.app is configured such that anything I send out appears to come from my university. And they wouldn’t need to go to the unversity account at all, nor embarass their friends with a stupid email account name.
This is also funny. UofT and Ryerson both allow for firstname/lastname@ email accounts. My students who try (they stop after the first try) to email me from elsewhere as email@example.com are directed to try again from something slightly more appropriate.
The final interesting point is that I strongly suggest that students experiment with a more professional language register than they are used to.
I am sorry that I will not be in class today, as my new puppy ate my bus pass, and my student loans will not be in until next week, and there’s a meteor shower at the moment.
Ed the Horse
Most of my students want a job when they graduate, and they see the point of knowing how to communicate effectively and professionally with their future employers, and later on with their employees. If they just want to communicate with their friends, they’re more than welcome to, since education is all about the choices we make based on the opportunities available to us.