Friday, May 25, 2007

Email for Students?

Last night my husband and I were talking about our Senior Project and how we're all struggling to stay in touch with our advisees. Zach, now a college student, finally spoke up and asked why we don't give our students school email accounts. He said all correspondence at college is done through email, and professors use that medium to remind students of due dates and to distribute other class information. He pointed out that we could touch base with our advisees whenever we needed, and students could email us their artifact reflections, ask questions, and just keep in touch. He also said that email could also be used to distribute and turn in class assignments.

Coincidentally, I just finished reading Planning Good Change with Technology and Literacy by Jamie McKenzie, Ed.D. McKenzie addresses the use of student email accounts as an instructional tool. He wrote, "If schools are meant to prepare students for citizenship and employment in an Age of Information, they must not withhold this basic communication tool."

McKenzie polled five Washington school districts that were early adopters of student email accounts, and some of the educational benefits they listed are that students: contacted experts for information; exchanged information with students in other countries, other states, or other schools in the same state or worked on joint projects; shared findings or information with other students in the same class or organized the work flow of a collaborative project; communicated with teachers about assignments or project work flow; and explored or debated class topics.

McKenzie stresses that we must teach students Internet safety and how to use email responsibly. He wrote, "If schools leave e-mail education to non-educators, we miss an opportunity to teach ethical and responsible behavior. Even worse, we deepen the already severe gap between those with home computers and those without."

He also states that although schools have spent thousands to install robust networks capable of supporting global projects, network professionals use a variety of excuses for not giving students access to email. "Imagine buying a Rolls Royce and keeping it in the garage!"

Our Keystone email service is currently in transition as our contract with USAChoice expires this summer. We are considering purchasing our own email server or possibly contracting with IU 6 for email service. Should our new email solution include student accounts?

4 comments:

  1. I already have asked my students for their e-mails from home and we communicate that way. Only concern would be in school usage - how would we handle that?

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  2. Couldn't Edline be used for this? Under the Command Center there is email which allows us to enter students email addresses.

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  3. I believe Edline allows you to email only the students in your class and their parents--and only if they provided their email addresses when they set up their Edline accounts. To my knowledge, teachers can't add email addresses of students.

    Asking students for home email addresses may solve the problem of keeping in touch with advisees--if they have an email account. However, that doesn't allow for using email as an instructional tool since students usually do not have access to Hotmail, Yahoo, and other commercial accounts due to our filtering. (Yes, we could choose to unblock those sites.)

    If we provide student email accounts, we can ensure that each student has an account, that they are all set up the same way and look the same, and that all email addresses follow the same format (school username@keyknox.com). We would probably use a Web mail service so accounts wouldn't need installed on specific computers.

    Our technology acceptable use policy already addresses email use for school purposes only. We will have to educate, educate, educate on proper use during school hours. Will it be a hassle? Probably yes. But we will have to weigh the educational benefits with the headaches. We already monitor computer and Internet use to be certain there is an educational purpose.

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  4. I think Zach's comment is right on! After reading that, I had a "daaaaaaaaaaaaaaa" moment - it was there and staring me right in the face, but until Zach voiced it, I never thought about Keystone using email with students!
    As a primary teacher wouldn't have much reason to email my kiddos, but I have used a group email to contact classroom parents about projects or upcoming events and this has been very successful.
    I ask parents (those who actively use and check their email), to give me email addresses at the Kindergarten Open House Nite. You do have to be careful about what you say or put in a parent email as it could come back to bite you.
    After putting 2 kids thru undergrad and now in the process of the 2nd one thru grad school, I can't tell you how many times my own kids have talked about emailing profs or receiving emails from profs. Sometimes those emails are the only way they can "talk" to a teacher privately as many times their class schedules do not mesh with prof office hours.
    The email idea is kind of exciting - I can see it working at Keystone, but it will be an undertaking........... especially for the "tech chicks"!!

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