Students and Email

This week I had phone calls with two schools that are rolling out the Survey of Student Engagementnext month. We have a variety of ways that we can distribute the Survey to students, including via email. As the advisers with whom we are working reminded me, today's middle- and high-school students rarely check their email accounts, if they even have one. Today's young people are far more likely to use Twitter, Instagram, Pintrest, and other such things to fulfill their communications needs. Email is obsolete to them.

Technology is constantly reinventing itself, and no one should want it any other way. In the future, the ways kids communicate today will shape how the world communicates in more ways than we can possibly know. However, in the short term, when they head off to college or a job, they are going to run into a hard fact: the adult world is addicted to email and cannot imagine functioning without it. 

I worry that by growing up without email, today's kids will have to spend valuable college and career time getting up to speed. It's not like email is rocket science, but there's a difference between using email and understanding it like the back of your hand. There's email etiquette, the set of norms about what should and should not be put into an email. I learned a lot about what not to do in an email through bad experiences with emails to my friends. Today's kids aren't learning those lessons now.

At the end of the day, I suspect my worries will prove unfounded. Twitter may teach lessons of communication etiquette far more effectively than email ever could. People learn really quickly not to let every stray thought make it into 140 characters, lest the world come crashing down on them. And the young who have access to technology have never had a problem beating us old farts in its use.

Maybe I'm just feeling particularly crotchety this morning about those kids trespassin' on my lawn.

Elizabeth Fuqua