Monday, August 03, 2009

Email 'tips' are Too distracting?

I recently heard from a person who works in a public school and who is sorta like a tech integrator person. (Trying hard not to identify even the gender to protect the innocent.) As such, this person had been sending out emails to the other faculty members in which were tips, or websites to check out, etc. I don't know how often those emails went out, but I can't imagine they were more than one a day - but I don't know that, for sure. The intent of those emails was to help keep the faculty aware of new sites and ideas, and to try to generate a discussion. It was meant as a passive way to provide professional development in a time when PD hours are so limited and so precious.

But, the person was recently told that those emails were "too distracting" and that they were to stop.

*pause for that to sink in a bit*

Too distracting, eh? Did you hear me screaming? Now this person is starting a blog in which to post all those items that normally would have gone out in the emails. That's perfect, of course, because now nobody has to see them. Nobody has to be bothered anymore with those pesky emails about the great debate site,, now moving to Or, about a wonderful site for social studies teachers, Mapping Worlds, that does a fantastic job showing relationships between countries based upon either their relative data. (Hard to describe, but a great site) Or, maybe it was a site that allows collaborative mind mapping, or a tip about how to manage resources, or a tip about how to do something in Moodle. "Don't bother us with that stuff!"

So, instead of thanking this person for the work that went into finding and writing those email tips, this person was told to stop bothering the staff. Yes, maybe a "thank you" was offered, but only in the "Thanks, but no thanks" sense. "Take it somewhere else!" That's the message.

What a shame that the decision was made to give in to the whiners who probably complained that they can't keep their inbox empty as it is, let alone with all THAT stuff. Instead of showing them how to set up folders and filtering rules so that they could have kept those tips for later, they stopped the tips. Instead of saying, "I hope you will let us show you how to manage those tips, because we feel that they're very important to the professional development of our faculty", the message became, "Sorry to have bothered you."

What a shame. Now back to "Business as usual."


Lori said...

Yep, I can hear you screaming, I can completely understand! I feel badly for that poor tech integration person! I am also in that role and, every time I read my blogs, I sent the email out to my teachers as well. I have now changed tactics and have created diigo groups and place my links in there. I went this route because the newsletters with tips and tricks..... well, mostly went unread. Even though this has been a roadblock for this person, I am proud of him/her for finding an alternate route. How sad:(

Kathy said...

Well, I often worry that the tips that I send out could be too overwhelming. You have to be aware of your audience. You also need to be aware of your "tone." Are you coming across as someone who is preachy or just as someone who is saying "hey, here's some info you might find useful"

It is really, really tough to find the balance. I mean wikispaces is really cool and being able to use LaTeX is wikispace is awesome, but I'm not going to send that info to the social studies teacher and certainly not to the geometry teacher that has trouble navigating the web.

Kurt Paccio said...

There's a silver lining here, Jim. The blog is a MUCH better location for the tips as your blog evolved from a email list, right?

Now the technology integration specialist can post to the blog and send out one weekly digest email with links to the posts. They can tag the posts with subject areas and topic/content. The digest email may contain links to the subject tags to further pinpoint areas of interest.

Additionally, the blog is searchable and archived. When questions arise that were answered in a previous tip, a quick link is all that it takes to answer.

Finally, a blog is a great way to introduce teachers to RSS to bring the wonders of the web to them.

So while I hear the frustrations, good will come from this temporary hurdle.

My new saying... keep your fork, the best is yet to come.

Jim Gates said...

You're right, of course, Kurt. This is an opportunity. And maybe if this opportunity had been conceived by the teacher I could have felt like it was a clever way to get them to learn RSS. But, this message was different, I think. Yes, it could well end up that some folks learn to use RSS, as a result, and that would be great, indeed. Still, this just feels like the wrong message to everyone concerned.