Friday, 15 February 2008

E-mail is for Old People

That was a headline in the Higher Education Chronicle in October 2006. Heavens that was 18 months ago! And I'm still trying to get colleagues to post documents and material on-line instead of those flaming Word attachments and get their use of e-mail smartened up. Must admit that I missed that headline at the time but as an old person who does use e-mail it has got me thinking.

Like many organisations, my College has the All Staff e-mail and whilst that's a huge improvement on the massive list of people's names that occupies more screen space than the message itself that used (and, oh dear, still is, occasionally) to be the way people did it, it occurred to me that I had never, ever sent one myself. I have also noticed a big reduction in the number of e-mails that I send or originate. Part of the reason is that I have managed to get out of the habit of checking College e-mail before doing anything in the morning. Initially I did feel a bit guilty and even left it for a whole day and a half once or twice and felt quite naughty!

This has come about as I have been teaching at 9am on several mornings and the classroom is on the very top floor. Even though I get in to work pretty early it is so much simpler to go straight up to the room with all my papers and the heavy laptop. I dump them there and then go off in search of caffeine and nicotine. On my travels I meet people and actually talk to them. Amazing that, talking. Much quicker than e-mail and you get instant responses too. I was initially a bit embarrassed when they'd say I sent you an e-mail but now quite openly admit that I don't check College mail every morning. Slowly the word is getting round and it's great!

Now, if I could get the College mail on my Blackberry it might be a different tale. You'll notice that I said College e-mail above. All my other e-mail arrives on my phone. I just take the phone out of my pocket and there's a list of senders and headings. Simple. If something's urgent then I see it. I'm now starting to reply to College mail from my Gmail account and hope that, eventually, colleagues'll get the hint!

So I guess I'm still an old person using e-mail but no I don't do attachments and I am doing my best to figure out and keep up with what students are using these days. Marc Prensky has another of his excellent articles on this which you can see here (a pdf unfortunately but blame Becta not me for that!) and I'm pleased to see that an idea I had a while ago of getting a student team helping out tutors with technology isn't as silly as some people said!

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