As referred to in Teaching Naked: How Moving Technology Out of Your College Classroom Will Improve Student Learning, Bowen (2012) suggests that “students, especially those from less privileged backgrounds, are afraid of teachers. Even the youngest, hippest film teacher is a little intimidating for a student fresh out of high school.” (p.31). As far back as the beginning of educational settings the instructor has always been looked at as the expert in the classroom, one who was to impart their knowledge upon their students. Even though times have changed and the instructor is no longer thought of as the ‘sage on the stage’, there are still students who have some level of fear when it comes to communicating with their instructors. So what can we, as instructors, do to dissipate this fear and effectively be able to communicate with their students? Bowen (2012) speculates that “e-communication can help to bridge the power differential inherent in education.” (p.31)
So what is e-communication? According to Ask.com (2015) “e-communication, or electronic communication, refers to the transfer of writing, signals, data, sounds, images, signs or intelligence sent via an electronic device. Some examples of e-communication are email, text messages, social media messaging and image sharing.” In the 21st century we are continually surrounded by people engaging in one form of e-communication or another. The question remains, how can we effectively bring e-communication into our classrooms in order to better connect with our students?
E-communication can be a very effective way for educators and students to communicate with one another outside of the classroom. According to The Council of the Ontario College of Teachers (2011). Electronic communication and social media create new options for extending and enhancing education. Embracing e-communications is almost a necessity for educators of the 21st century if they want to encourage greater classroom collaboration; student engagement; and effective and timely communication, in both student to student and student and instructor interactions. I used to only allow my students to contact me during office hours; through e-mail or via the telephone, either by calling or sending a text message. I opened myself up to text messaging last semester, as I knew my students were used to communicating in this fashion, and believed it would allow me to answer their inquiries in a timely fashion. I found that receiving text messages from students during times that were inconvenient to me became disruptive to my home life. I would also receive text messages from multiple students whom all had similar inquiries, therefore, it became time consuming to reply to each of them.
E-mail was used by students to submit their assignments, for me to provide feedback, for some student inquiries, and for me to send reminders to the students about assignment due dates. Some of the deficiencies of using e-mail for assignment submission and feedback include receiving submissions that were scanned images of handwritten assignments that were illegible, thus causing a delay in the marking of the assignment until the student was then able to send me a legible document; as well as having to print multiple pages of student assignments. Due to the fact that the college I work at was going through some accreditation last year, I was required to print multiple pages of student assignments, copy and paste all of my e-mailed feedback into a word document and then print that as well so that they had hard copies of everything.
I originally did not think that the methods of e-communication that I was using were that outdated. Through the readings I have done, and upon further reflection, I have come to realize that the forms of e-communication that I have been using are actually fairly archaic. I have come to realize that by choosing different forms of e-communication I can encourage student collaboration, by communicating with each other more prior to contacting me, if it is an inquiry that can be answered by their peers. As Bowen (2012) suggests, it has been noted that peer-to-peer learning is important for students. I believe that the students may be more open to having peers answer questions rather than solely relying on the instructor to provide all of their guidance and answers.
Bowen (2012) states that “social media is normal for today’s students”, therefore if I adopt the use of social media as a form of communicating with students I will be allowing them to use a form of communication they are already comfortable using. I believe the use of certain social media platforms will open the lines of communication as well as serve both the students and my needs more effectively.
Through further investigation and readings I have decided that for the upcoming school year I will be the D2L learning management system. I will be using this platform for assignment submission and feedback, calendar reminders for important dates, providing additional reading resources; classroom announcements, its’ message board capabilities for student enquiries, e-mail for direct contact with an individual students, and providing student grades. I believe this platform has the capability to effectively provide me and my students all of the potential forms of communication we may need throughout my courses. This form of e-communication also has an added benefit of being timely and easy to use, allowing for more effective and timely interactions.
“However, as the number of channels of communication in society increases rapidly, so does the rate of misuse. Professional boundaries can blur. Even the most experienced members may be susceptible to unintentional mistakes.” (The Council of the Ontario College of Teachers, 2011). Therefore, as an instructor I must be conscientious of monitoring the platform for proper and ethical use by all. In conclusion, I believe that by using just one platform for e-communication I will effectively be providing an area that will meet both the students and my communication needs throughout the semester.
Bowen, J. (2012). Teaching naked: How moving technology out of your college classroom will improve student learning. San Francisco, CA: Jossey-Bass.
IAC Search & Media, Inc. (2013). What is E-communication? Retrieved from http://www.ask.com/technology/e-communication-9e8fce72a6a417a3#
The Council of the Ontario College of Teachers (2011). Professional advisory: Use of Electronic Communication and Social Media. Retrieved from https://www.oct.ca/resources/advisories/use-of-electronic-communication-and-social-media