Emails with Great Unintended Benefits 電子郵件意外得到的好處

For the past two weeks, students have been using the Autosum function in Microsoft Excel to add numbers. We first did this in class to calculate the total number of bronze, silver, gold medals some of the countries won at the Sochi Winter Olympics. Then, the students went “shopping” and created a chart that showed the total cost of items they selected from the Toys R Us website. For the final task, students visited www.target.com and designed a chart that showed items that they chose for their parents and came up with the grand total. Here is what their final product looks like:

Screen Shot 2014-03-29 at 2.05.40 PM

So how could this lesson be used to promote writing skills?

Although I’m no longer a homeroom teacher, I try to seek ways to incorporate literacy into my IT lessons.  I thought our unit on Excel would be a great opportunity for students to email their parents to share what they have been learning. Although blogs, screencasts and videos are fancier tools for students to share snapshots of their school life via technology, I still find a simple email to be an intimate and personal way for students to communicate with their parents.

For this particular Excel task, I instructed students to write a descriptive yet concise email to their Dads on what they’ve been learning in IT class.  They were reminded of the rules around email conventions. They were then asked to recount their experiences of using Excel whereby they had to explain their task and give a brief set of instructions of how they created their work.  Finally, they described what they thought was tricky about Excel and gave suggestions on how Excel could be used at home.

Here is an example of a student’s email:

b

 

The end result showed emails of affection and intimacy in nature, reflective and thoughtful in the way the Excel task was described.  In comparison to students simply updating tell their parents about their IT class at home, this email exercise brought on greater complexity and critical thinking because it led to “more time for reflection and permanence of the written words”

After going through my students’ emails and their dad’s respective responses (being cc’d on the emails),  I realised the benefit of this task was much more than just a mere writing exercise.  Interestingly, students were excited to write emails to their Dads whom they don’t get to spend a lot of time with.  Research has shown that email communications foster psychological comfort, expression of personal ideas, opinions and emotions (as cited in ChanMin 2008). Although there was a clear objective to this emailing task, students were encouraged to begin with warm greetings, and add any personal messages to their dads.  Students took this to heart, and came up with nice openings such as “Hi Dad, how is your morning so far” or “Hi Dad, I didn’t get to eat breakfast with you this morning.”   The end result showed emails of affection and intimacy in nature, reflective and thoughtful in the way the Excel task was described.  In comparison to students simply updating tell their parents about their IT class at home, this email exercise brought on greater complexity and critical thinking because it led to “more time for reflection and permanence of the written words”

Therefore, teachers could make use of emails to assess students on their learning progress and depth of reflection.  I found the students’ writing is better when it grips them personally. More than that though, I am surprised how students are willing to write to someone other than their teacher.  I found their writing to be filled with voice, emotion and authenticity – naturally because they know the recipient is someone that truly cares about them.

Reply from student’s dad:

 a

 

 

Work Cited:

ChanMin, K. (2008). Using email to enable e3 (effective, efficient, and engaging) learning. Distance Education29(2), 187-198. doi:10.1080/01587910802154988

 

 

電子郵件的好處

 

過去的兩個星期,學生在學習使用Microsoft Excel中的“自動求和”公式把數字加起來。我們第一次練習用Excel,是在課堂上計算各個國家在索契冬季奧運會拿到的銅牌,銀牌,金牌總數。

。第二練習是學生們在網上購物,並創建一個圖表。來顯示他們從玩具反斗城網站選購商品的總花費。在最後的任務中,同學們遊覽www.target.com,並設計一個Excel圖表顯示他們為父母選擇的物品,並算出了總計項目。

以下是他們的作品:

Screen Shot 2014-03-29 at 2.05.40 PM

 

如何利用本課來促進寫作技能?

在IT課上,我會盡量想辦法利用IT提高學生的讀寫能力。我覺得我們這個單元的Excel學習是一個讓學生通過電子郵件與父母分享學習的好機會。雖然博客和錄像對學生來說是更妙的工具,可以使他們通過技術用影像來分享他們的學校生活。但是我仍然覺得一個簡單的電子郵件是一種親密和個人化的方法讓學生與他們的家長溝通。

對於這個特定的Excel任務,我要求學生必須寫一個電子郵件給爸爸,講述他們使用Excel的經驗及解釋學習任務,並描述他們認為Excel最困難的地方。最後他們還有提出如何在家中使用Excel的建議。

b

 

翻看學生與父親之間的電子郵件來往,我意識到這項任務的好處不僅是一個寫作練習。有趣的是,學生都為寫電子郵件給平常沒太多時間見面的爸爸感到興奮。有研究表明,電子郵件通訊人感到安慰,及促進個人的想法,意見和情緒的表達(2008年ChanMin )。

在學生編寫電子郵件時,除了報告他們用Excel的經歷,必須用一段親切的問候開頭,並可添加私人的信息到在郵件裡面。有些學生並寫了:“嗨,爸,你早上過的很好嗎?”或 “爸爸你好,我吃早餐的時候沒看到你。 ”

最終的電子郵件都是充滿感情的,並反映了學生的思維過程。相較於學生回家告訴父母今天學習到什麼,這個電子郵件練習开发出了学生更多的深度和批判性思維,因為它讓學生有更充分的時間作出反思。

因此,教師可以利用電子郵件,以評估他們的學習進度和思考深度。我發現students writing is better when it grips them personally。更重要的是,原來他們寫給他們關心的人的時候,他們的寫作會充滿情感和真實性的。

父親回复:

a

 

 

 

 

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