Learning Spaces: Email & Text Messaging
Whether sending traditional email on your computer or text messaging on a cell phone, there are many tools for sending electronic communications. You may think of email as an older technology, but it continues to be the most popular form of communication on the Web.
"Fully 74% of internet users age 64 and older send and receive email, making email the most popular online activity for this age group. At the same time, email has lost some ground among teens; whereas 89% of teens claimed to use email in 2004, just 73% currently say they use email." (Generations Online in 2009, Pew Internet, 2009).
Email is a wonderful learning tool because it's possible to connect with practically anyone, anywhere. Don't worry if you don't know people personally. Give email a try. Remember that there are thousands of government workers who are public servants. From National Park superintendents to NASA officials, it's their job to respond to citizen needs. Look at the contact information of a government website, and find an email address.
Use email for your own professional development. For instance, all librarians should be subscribed to American Libraries Direct. This weekly electronic newsletter keeps you up-to-date on important library news.
Personal Note: My name and email address is on all of the pages of our eduscapes website. Over the years I've interacted with thousands of my website users. Here are a few of the interesting connections I've made through simple email communications:
Paul Zindel's son David wrote to etalk about the new website they were designing for his dad's work. I've also connected with relatives of Armstrong Sperry, Marguerite de Angeli, and Roald Dahl. Recently I've been communicating with the author of First Command by Dwight Zimmerman.
Electronic mail or email has actually been around since the 1960s, so it's not a new technology. However it continues to evolve as users are able to send data, graphics, audio, video, and animation along with text messages. Increasing levels of spam and threats from viruses have frustrated email users over the past several years, however email continues to be a popular method of communication for learners.
Read Search and email still top the list of most popular online activities by Kristen Purcell, PewInternet (2011).
Today many software applications and web servers incorporate email links to facilitate information sharing. For example, a SEND option is available in most Microsoft products.
General Email Software
School Email Services
- Epals (limited free service, fee-based subscription) - great for classroom projects; free accounts are internal to epals accounts only
- Gaggle (limited free service, fee-based subscription) - provides archiving, spam and porn filtering, and teacher control.
Popular Web-based Services
Popular Web Server Software
- Squirrel Mail (free, open source) - install on web server
Many schools are using Google Apps for Schools. This approach allows educators to set up accounts for young people.
Email in Learning
Since the late 1980s, email has been used as a learning tool for communication and collaboration.
Many children and young adults participate in email-based projects. Often these projects use a teacher's email account as the vehicle for communication. However increasingly students are using their own accounts or school-based accounts.
Visit the Monster Exchange. This email project was designed to apply reading and writing skills while also involving students in a collaborative email project. Classrooms from around the world are paired together. Students work in groups to design an original picture of a monster and write a description of their monster. The partnered classes then exchange their descriptions via e-mail and the Internet. Students are challenged to use reading comprehension skills to read the descriptions and translate them into a monster picture. The true challenge involves creating a redrawn picture as close to the original picture as possible without looking at the original and using only the written description of the monster. The Monster Galleries are then published and feedback is provided through e-mail. In addition to email, chat and discussion board can also be used.
Over the past several years, Short Message Service (SMS), known as text messaging or texting, has become the preferred method of communication for young people. Available on most digital cell phone and other smart devices, SMS allows users to send short messages between handheld devices. Often used in voting activities such as the television show American Idol, texting is catching on in other areas too. For example, it was used for communication during Hurricane Katrina. Some areas texting is used for sending Amber Alerts. Unfortunately, like email, spam is becoming an increasing problem.
Increasingly, text messaging is bridging platforms. For example, you can send an email to a text messaging phone. You can use your cell phone to post messages to a blog.
Read Teens, Smartphones & Texting by Amanda Lenhart (2012). Also, skim Teens and Mobile Phones (April 20, 2010) by Amanda Lenhart, Rich Ling, Scott Campbell, Kristen Purcell from Pew Internet. This article provides insights into the lives of teens and their phones.
Text Messaging in Learning
A few uses of text messaging are emerging for learners. For example, text messaging can be used to share weather information, send event updates, or share scientific data when working at remote sites. You can even use text messaging with Google using Google Short Message Service (SMS). Although text messaging has potential in learning, it's also used in cheating and illegal activities.
Read Should Schools Teach SMS Text Messaging? by Andy Carvin (2006).
Explore some great examples in learning:
- tinywords - this website provides haiku every day; you're free to submit your haiku
SMS language refers to the slang used in text messaging such as "forgot" becomes "4gt" and "telephone" becomes "fon," so "I forgot my telephone" becomes "i 4gt my fon". These shortcuts are also seen in chat environments. Some educators, particularly English teachers are concerned about the impact of texting on writing.
However Sali Tagliamonte, a professor of linguistics at University of Toronto recently conducted a study of teen messaging. She found that rather than hurting writing and grammar skills, messaging actually helps students master language skills. She considered this new communication channel as "an expansive new linguistic renaissance."
Chen, Chi-Fen Emily (May 2006). The Development of E-Mail Literacy: From Writing to Peers to Writing to Authority Figures. Language Learning & Technology. Volume 10, Number 2.
Links to the materials in this section can be found in the navigation bar on the left side of this page. Continue to the Learning Spaces: Forums page.