eMail, not another email!!

emailWe all love to use email as it allows for such easy communication.   I can communicate information to everyone in the school, or to a specific department or to an individual staff member at the touch of the Send button.   I can have a discussion with another member of staff without having to seek them out across campus and allowing for their timetable.   I can get a thought or question which arises in my mind down and fire it off for comment and the thoughts of others independent of time and the availability of the people I invite to comment.

Isnt email wonderful?

Email is convenient but with convenience comes a problem.   It is easy to send an email and consider the information communicated however it would be fairer to consider the information as just “sent”.    I tracked a recent global i sent including a newsletter to see how many people clicked the link within the email.   It turned out that only around 10% of people to which the email was sent actually went on to follow the link.    On a similar but more important email this number increased to around 20% however that still represents a minority response.

It is also convenient to send emails at all times including weekends and evenings however does this come with the expectation that the person will read and action at midnight on a Friday?    Would we pick up the phone in the absence of email at midnight on a Friday to convey the same information?

Convenience also steps in with regards who we send our emails to.   We wouldn’t stand up and announce some information at school briefing or via the PA system however due to the convenience of distribution groups we feel it is acceptable to send via email to everyone.   We also adopt a just in case mentality so rather than sending to the department and a couple of other users we might send to the whole school as it may be useful to everyone.

Email is also a one way communication system however it is often treated as two way in the same way as a phone call.   The difference is that in a phone call you can stop someone mid way and ask for clarification.   You can question what a person means.   In an email the person reading the email has to interpret the content with no additional guidance from the sender.  Even if they send an email back to ask for clarification the originator of the message has to interpret the clarification request.   As such email chains are so very open to misunderstanding and in some occasions to fiery exchanges.   I have noted a number of instances in email table tennis during my career and am ashamed to admit that I have on a small number of occasions been party to the exchanges.

Email like most technologies has its advantages however we live in a world of balance and therefore there are also some drawbacks.  Users need to be aware of these drawbacks and conscious of their use of the technology and its implications.

My main tips for email would be:

  • Consider is email correct:  Consider what you want to communicate and if there will be any need for discussion.  If discussion is needed then maybe its time to pick up the phone or arrange a meeting.
  • Consider email info as sent but not communicated:   Realize that not every email is actually read and therefore if the info is critical some sort of checking or follow up will be required.
  • Use delayed send:   In outlook you can set when you want an email to be sent at some point in the future so you can write your email now or at midnight however schedule it to send on Monday morning at a more reasonable hour.
  • Consider who you need to send to:  Avoid using the whole school global distribution group unless it is an emergency.   Try to send to the smallest group possible rather than using the scatter gun approach, and create your own groups in Outlook in order to help you manage this.

I don’t see email going anywhere however we need to manage its use better.   To do this it is about every individual thinking more about the cost of their convenience.





Author: garyhenderson2014

Gary Henderson is currently the Director of IT in an Independent school in the UK. Prior to this he worked as the Head of Learning Technologies working with public and private schools across the Middle East. This includes leading the planning and development of IT within a number of new schools opening in the UAE. As a trained teacher with over 15 years working in education his experience includes UK state secondary schools, further education and higher education, as well as experience of various international schools teaching various curricula. This has led him to present at a number of educational conferences in the UK and Middle East.

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