In a recent article, quickly making its rounds across the internet, Brad Stone discusses the emergence of mini-generational gaps when it comes to technology.
I agree in many ways. AOL Instant Messenger launched when I was in college. My peers quickly adapted to the new tool. I, however, was a latecomer to Facebook. It just wasn’t around, and once I graduated it was was still a tool for college kids. Nowadays younger and younger kids get involved in social networking.
Stone, summarizing recent reports from the Pew and the Kaiser Family Foundation, highlights the fall of email among the younger iGeneration. I think the major difference between email use of people in their 20’s and those younger boils down to one major factor: employment.
It is too early to tweet email’s eulogy to the world. Yes, younger students may prefer social networking tools, but email skills will still remain crucial for a 21st century workplace.
In fact, I believe that a dichotomy of formality is emerging between email and other social networking tools. When I was in junior high we were taught two forms of letter writing: the formal and informal letter. One used commas in the greeting and the other a colon. One was personal, and the other succinct. This is becoming true for email and social networks. Email has evolved as a place for formal communication and social networks have become the playground where email once swung.
The workplace will not eliminate email. It provides a secure and storable record of communication, allows for documents to be quickly distributed, and is easily supported by inhouse tech support.
I do worry, however, that as kids turn to social networks rather than email they will not be prepared for the workplace. Therefore educators must teach email skills and include these composition lessons in any writing curriculum
We have all been there, trying to decipher an email from a colleague and wishing for our little Orphan Annie decoding ring.
In fact, like me, many of us are guilty of mixing up discourses and ambigous messages in our email responses. We need to teach students how to email. More importantly, students must be provided authentic opportunities to use email.
–Sending, receiving, and adding attachments-Not much more to be said about that.
–Formatting subject lines-What is major purpose or the email?
–Providing one or two sentence(s) summaries in beginning of email-State your organizational strategy upfront.
-Recognizing discourses for appropriate audiences.
–RBU-Reading Bottom Up. A challenging reading comprehension task that involves students looking for an idea across a conversation.
–Formatting-The easiest to read emails use formatting tools. Long messgaes may provide headings or bullets. Responses to questions may use different fonts or colors.
We live in an era where new literacy tools emerge everyday. Unlike the past, however, these tools coexist, they do not simply supplant each other like the book replacing the scroll. This provides a unique challenge educators. We must prepare a knowledgeable populous that has the flexibility to apply thinking to novel situations. One situation I am sure this iGeneration will face in the future is use of email in the workplace. Before we line up for the funeral procession lets make sure our students can attach the death announcement in an email.