According to hothardware.com, researchers at Ohio State and UC Irvine have discovered that instant messaging can actually increase productivity in the workplace.
The study theorizes that using IM enables individuals to "flag their availability." Doing so can limit when IM interruptions occur. Even if an IM interruption comes when it is not necessarily convenient to the recipient, it is "often socially acceptable" to ignore an incoming message or respond with a terse reply stating that the recipient is too busy at the moment to properly respond. Also, new "patterns of communication" develop around IM:
"IM provides a means of obtaining task relevant information rapidly and with minimal disruption, allowing a worker to ask clarifying questions without the expectation of engaging in a longer conversation. Alternatively, it can be used to participate in a sustained form of low-intensity collaboration... Setting up a line of communication via IM is as easy as making a phone call, and the line can be kept open indefinitely, allowing participants to query one another infrequently on an as-needed basis and with the expectation that a response will be forthcoming at the next convenient opportunity."
So this bit of communication that invades kids' term papers and eats huge chunks of students' time after school (and during school if the kids can get past our content filters) can actually be useful? Perhaps this is just a natural progression of computer skills as students move from school to the "real world". I do have to wonder, though, if, just as many teachers have found it useful to incorporate blogs and wikis as collaboration tools for their students, others might not benefit from encouragement to use IM as a productivity tool.
What do you think? Should IM stay in the social realm and make its way to students' professional lives naturally, or is it worth modeling as a useful tool in and out of class? The new "patterns of communication" and business etiquette as applied to IM just might be worth some thought. This is one of those "21st Century Skills", right?