Last week, I finished reading The Innovator’s Mindset by George Couros and started on Cultivating Communication in the Classroom by Lisa Johnson. Her first chapter discusses email etiquette. As I was reading, I started making connections to Couros’s book and remembered this tweet with the subsequent response from Matthew Haley (read his blog post here):
IMO email is a tool. Being able to effectively communicate in a variety of arenas are the basics now.
— Matthew Haley (@MattHaley13) July 2, 2017
Because of the ability to search the Internet for almost any answer to most test questions, I tend to agree that the new basics are more about the 4 Cs (communication, critical thinking, creativity and collaboration.) All of these skills should be spiraled within the core subject areas. The problem I find, especially for elementary, is coming up with ways to teach email as a form of writing. In our district, students don’t have email accounts in grades K-5. If teachers expect to use this form of communication as a part of the student/teacher workflow process, then students need authentic exposure at a much earlier age.
This is why Lisa’s first chapter grabbed my attention. Even though her book focuses on future-ready skills for secondary students, her observations completely apply at the elementary level. So, the question I’m now asking myself is what tools do we have at our disposal if email is not an option? Lisa gives several examples in her book that provide curricular connections such as emailing an expert or having students maintain the classroom newsletter. Another option would be to build this communication piece through consistent feedback loops via Google Classroom. Alice Keeler describes here how she uses private comments as actual assignments. This allows students to replicate a digital conversation in a meaningful way that is centered around their own learning. Modeling this type of digital interaction will definitely prepare our students for what lies ahead in the secondary classroom as well as the workplace.