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Robyn Young: You don’t know how to write an email?

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September 24, 2012 04:07 pm


The following blog post comes from Robyn Young, the school librarian at Avon High School and the Avon Advanced Learning Center in Avon, Indiana. She is a former Media Specialist of the Year in the State of Indiana.

I was teaching a group of high school freshmen and sophomores in a health class yesterday. We were working on video editing, citing sources and using online databases. Working with the classroom teacher, we had created a great handout that gave them the information and resources that the students needed to get started, and the students were working hard.

By creating an interesting assignment that utilized technology, 100% of the students were on-task during the entire class (seriously, they were – the teacher and I both took note of this over 5 different class periods). The teacher and I felt great about the assignment, and we had a substantial amount of learning taking place in the library.

At the end of the assignment, the students were supposed to email their final product to the teacher for grading. Here is where it became interesting to me…the students had no idea how to send an email!

Isn’t email one of the most basic forms of technology that teachers use every day? I know that I get over 100 emails every day, and it is my primary form of communication, so I found it shocking that the students didn’t know how to use it.
Don’t get me wrong, the students all HAD email addresses. They had to so that they could set up their Facebook, Twitter and Instagram accounts. They just had no idea how to use what they considered an archaic form of communication. Email isn’t instant, so our group of students didn’t see the need for it or understand why they would use it.

I seized the opportunity for some individualized instruction (and then some class instruction when I realized that the students didn’t know what to do), and we got the emails sent. Some of the students were really proud and told me it was the first email that they had ever written. I assured them that it wouldn’t be their last, but then I started wondering about it.

Is emailing on its last leg? Will texting, Facebooking or Twittering be the next form of communication for schools? Will something else take their place?

I’ve already seen it happening in my own household. My college-aged daughter never calls to talk with me, she just texts or tweets when she needs something. I was so excited when she did call recently, but it was just to tell me to check one of her tweets. My high-school aged daughter announced her relationship status by changing her bio on Twitter. I had to find out by reading tweets from her sister about it, and she assumed that I knew because she had posted it on Twitter.

As a teacher and librarian, the implications for the different types of communication are profound. Asking students for their email address at the beginning of the semester might not have the meaning that I thought it did, since most of my current students don’t even bother to check it.

Is asking for students’ cell phone numbers acceptable, or does that cross the boundaries in a student/teacher relationship? Do I get their Twitter handles or Facebook pages to communicate with them? Does this violate school policy as many schools now prohibit teachers from becoming friends with students in any social networking platform? Is this best practice?

I don’t have answers to this right now, and I’m not sure that anyone does. I do have questions though: How are you communicating with your students? What different methods are you using to do this? What are the concerns? What are the benefits?

The use of technology and communication in schools has changed so much in the past 5 years. As a classroom teacher or a school librarian, are you keeping up with the changes that your students need?

Robyn Young is the school librarian at Avon High School and the Avon Advanced Learning Center in Avon, Indiana. She is a former Media Specialist of the Year in the State of Indiana. Contact Robyn at or on Twitter @ahsbooks. Learn more about Digital Learning Day at and read her previous posts on High School Soup at


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