E-mail and its Usefulness in Education
|This duck is sure|
to make everything better!
We are all somewhere along the learning curve as it relates to electronic mail, computer networking, computer-aided instruction, and the Internet, but recently I’ve been encouraged to put some of these concepts to test as they relate to the teaching of writing and literature.
I became interested in the idea last semester when Barbara Bookshelves at the library took me for a quick spin on the university's Internet hook up. (Our Uni has access to the vast information computer network - known as the Internet - via a connection through Other Nearby Uni.)
Barbara showed me how I could send instant electronic mail (or e-mail)
to colleagues and students on campus, at other campuses, or indeed
anyone in the world with a computer and a modem. I was convinced there
was a way to use the technology to help me teach. Then when Dean Diddley
began the Internet Utilization Committee, I thought it was time to become actively
involved. I began talking to students about e-mail and was surprised
at how many (roughly 30% of my classes) knew substantial amounts about
I made a joke one day in class early this semester to a student who
was going to miss a class. ‘‘You can still turn in your assignment
by electronic mail, though, right?’’ And she did.
So many of our writers and students are working on computer already,
the idea of me seeing their document on my own screen just makes my
job of helping them revise their work easier and faster. They type
it on a computer. They send it over phone lines to my computer. I
edit it and make suggestions and send it back. It doesn’t take a week
or a day. It takes five minutes.
This concept is a perfect fit for education, especially in the humanities.
I’m giving out my address to all my students now. I hope to be able
to deal with essays in this way, take-home tests, assignments, and
even final exams, eventually. There are flaws in any new development,
and we will find them and deal with them. It’s impossible, however,
to ignore the benefits that will come by embracing what e-mail can
do for teachers and students.
In addition to my experiments with e-mail, I’m considering doing some
tests with the real-time chat function on the Internet (known as IRC)
or with any of the chat channels on the commercial servers (America
Online, CompuServe, Prodigy and Delphi, for example). This chat capability
enables you to conference and/or workshop with students and writers
in virtually the same way as in class. By letting students know when
I’m online, I can make myself available to them over a much wider
space of time. Oftentimes we can’t all be in the same place, but if
I’m at home or on my computer at school, and they are with their own
hookup (either campus, work or home), we can connect and deal with
whatever concerns need addressing. It’s a vast and convenient extension
of office hours, making me far more accessible to my students than
I’ve ever been in ten years of teaching.
All of this is just an experiment for me right now, because I can’t
assure that each of my students can have his/her own access. But once
the school gets completely wired (like many colleges and universities
nationwide), our students are going to have the most immediate access
to professors possible. We have to be prepared for the exciting onslaught
of new challenges and new discoveries. I’m very excited about being
a part of this new cyber-education. It can’t do anything but help.