There are many things I’ll detail over the course of the year, but there is one thing sticking out right now, and I must share it with you in case you are considering a similar 1:1 project:
TRAIN STUDENTS TO USE EMAIL APPROPRIATELY.
Each of our students and staff members has a Google Apps for Education account to create documents, collaborate online, and communicate. Since they submit many projects and lessons through email, they have the ability to email teachers. These are 6th, 7th and 8th graders who have limited or no experience with email. They do know how to text, so the logical step for them was to use their Google Apps for Ed email account just like a giant texting feature. They are emailing constantly with not that much to say.
The problem is that they are emailing everyone many times a day, including their teachers, principals and former teachers.
Teachers report up to 120 emails a day with such intoxicating content as “Go Tigers!” and funny cat faces. Their signatures are “PB&J Time!” and “Rangers Fan.” Teachers could just delete them in the inbox, but the students are not using the SUBJECT line, so teachers must open each one to know if it’s class related.
Meanwhile, the principal, assistant principal, and counselors receive email from all the students. You can imagine what their inbox looks like! Sounds like no big deal, but with a little training, it would have been no deal at all. Luckily, each staff member continues to have an Outlook account for school business, so they easily segregate the student email from others.
The teachers like the fact that the students send emails when they are absent or if they forgot the assignment. Another positive outcome is that the frustrated, quiet students are more comfortable emailing to say, “I don’t understand what we’re doing in class right now.”
The counselors and principals are busier than ever because students also email them to say things like, “Maria is being picked on” or “I hate myself” which never would be said out loud. Students also don’t hesitate to forward messages which are inappropriate or mean, and there have been a few of those too.
Each of these needs investigation and discussion. Sometimes the students who emailed in panic were in a typical middle school drama which resolved itself 10 minutes later, but that resolution is rarely emailed to the administrator, so the legwork must be done. Everyone is relieved that it was nothing to worry about, but it took time and effort to find that out. Our poor counselors and principals are worn thin.
We don’t want to stop the email; we want to train the students. During the three weeks between Thanksgiving and Christmas we are taking up the iPads to upgrade them to iOS5 (more on that later). While we have them, the students will participate in email lessons during homeroom. If you have suggestions, please share them with me. These are the topics we plan to cover:
- Professional email vs personal email. What’s the difference?
- We will use teacher email as an example. It is for professional use and is archived.
- We will show students what types of email are appropriate for school.
- Who can see my Google Apps for Ed email?
- We can!
- Their teachers have access and their parents can have access.
- Why use a subject line?
- The reason we need it.
- It’s quick and easy to do.
- What should the subject line say?
- We are going to give them a standard subject line for lesson questions and turning in assignments.
- We will show subject lines in a list of teacher emails so they can see what teachers see.
- Who do I email for this?
- We will detail the types of problems to email to a teacher, counselor, coach, and principal
- We will give them email addresses to ask for help, both with schoolwork and with technical issues.
- What’s an email signature and why do I need one?
- We will show them how to create a signature for emails addressed to teachers and staff.
- We will show them how the signature looks when sent in an email.
- We will walk them through creating a signature for their account.