Why don’t teachers use email like the rest of the free world? I’m still frying down here in Florida and as I tried to escape the 94 degree temperatures at Epcot yesterday, I jumped into the Spaceship Earth Ride. For those of you unfamiliar with the Epcot theme park, this is the ride that travels all the way around and to the top of the big Epcot ball. The whole point of the ride is to showcase communication throughout the history of mankind. A bit sweeping, but pretty cool. As we all wound to the top of the big Epcot ball, the ride’s focus obviously turned to the Internet. Visualizing messages moving back and forth "literally at the speed of light" in typical Disney style, I couldn’t help but think about email.
Back in my days of corporate IT, I lived on email. When I interact with vendors and contractors, I do it via email. All of the kids I teach use IM, of course, but they also interact asynchronously via some type of messaging, whether through MySpace, real email, or some other Internet application. So why is it that teachers, at least in K-12, just don’t use email? I’m sure that there are some school systems where this isn’t the case, but in my experience, it simply isn’t a medium with which teachers are comfortable.
In response to Marc Wagner's recent post, "A Matter of Perspective," one reader responded by noting the frequency with which he pulls crumpled notices out of his kids' backpacks, yet never receives an email from teachers, despite providing email contacts every year. It would be incredibly easy for me to communicate with teachers in my district about technical issues, support problems, etc., via email. Given that we all have different preparation times and different personal schedules, the asynchronous nature of email is a no-brainer for fast, easy communication. It would also facilitate communication with parents, students, and administrators, all of whom can benefit from anytime, anywhere communication.
Email is cheap, too. Chances are, whatever ISP a district is using provides several hundred email addresses, along with some sort of webmail interface. Outlook, Outlook Express, Eudora, and Thunderbird are all incredibly easy to configure, free (except Outlook, but this is included in every version of Office), and make sending an email as easy as typing a document in Word.
If you're really feeling cheap, then countless free email sites are available. Gmail is almost too spiffy for words and many others can be used hassle-free. Teachers can set up their own, or, better yet, administrators can set up as many as needed using some predetermined convention (e.g., email@example.com).
There's no excuse here folks. Get your users at least spun up to the late 20th century and start using email. Your parents do, your students do, your vendors do. There is no reason your teachers shouldn't as well. In no time, you may find that this communication tool has become just as indispensible in your schools as it is in the rest of the world.