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Why messaging your students via your LMS is so important (and not sending them emails)

Since I was just complaining about internet recipes that give the author’s life story before telling you how to cook the cookies, here is the TL;DR (too long;didn’t read) version:

  • Your students’ and parents’ inboxes are theirs. Your messages are one of hundreds vying for their attention.
  • Your learning management system’s announcements or messaging feature is “the school’s”. All of the messages there are relevant to school and between the school (teachers) and the students (or parents).
  • When your student (or parent) wants to check on school and goes to their inbox – they are distracted by every other email that is there.
  • When your student (or parent) wants to check on school and goes to their LMS – they find only relevant messages.

A more complete, but probably rambling version of my thoughts follows… I’d welcome your comments or feedback. It’s been a while since I’ve been blogging, so I’m probably a bit rusty!

As we make a rapid shift from face-to-face learning to distance learning, one of the things I’ve struggled with is the shift in communications. In a physical school, where a one can expect to have the (mostly) undivided attention of your students for a period of time, the communications can be direct and relevant to the time and space. We can write messages on the board, we can find a student for one-on-one conversation, we can make an announcement in assembly.

Yes, not every student hears those message with perfect clarity, not every student is paying attention and not every student writes down their homework in their planner, but most do! Email volume for students, on the whole, is low. Most of the “messages” they receive happen in person.

Now fast forward to distance learning. Kids are with their teachers in a web conference for maximum, 90 minutes a week. (and our guidance has been don’t spend more than 10 or 15 minutes in each session live, and use that time to connect – not direct instruction) Our first student survey is littered with comments like “It’s hard to pay attention during a web conference.” I’m right there with them. My brain has melted at the end of every day for the past two weeks as I jump from Zoom to Meet to Slack to Chat, Messages, email and back again.

And so we necessarily sending messages. So far, mostly, via email. The problem therefore, is that everyone else is sending emails too. Your student’s inbox is littered with messages. Some from school, some from friends, some from colleges, some from some game they installed, some from their parents, etc etc etc.

Now think about the parents. You, a teacher or administrator, are trying to get an important message home about an important website their student should read. You send an email. What is in that parent’s inbox, besides your message?

Literally a bazillion other emails.

If you’ve been on the internet for the last five years, you’ve probably received a covid-related email from every entity you’ve ever interacted with. Not to mention the parent’s work emails, emails from friends and neighbors, notifications from Facebook, Nextdoor, shipping notifications from Amazon, whatever! And then your message about school, and it’s important, but will the student or parent see it? Will they act on it before tending to all of the other emails? See the problem?

We know from all of the guidance about screen time and phone addiction and the like that a necessary first step is to turn off all of the notifications. When I want to go on facebook, fine, but I don’t need their notifications and pop-ups coming at me to try and get me in there.

We (as teachers and administrators) need to apply the same thing to our school’s messaging:

Create a single place that students and parents can go for all of their school-related messages. When they think school, they can go there and be sure to find school-related messages.

While the school can’t control the time or place or environment in which those are read, the school can set an expectation that you check in to that virtual space every morning. Students can consistently find the information they want about school, when they want to.


Categories: Education.

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