A couple days ago I instant-messaged a teacher while at school through his gmail account because I needed to ask him a work-related question. I saw that he was online at the same time and I sent a quick, “Hi, are you there?” I didn’t get a response. When I saw him later he smiled and said that he saw the message. He then half jokingly remarked something like, “Shouldn’t you be working?”
I find this sort of thinking interesting. If I had found him in person and asked the question, or even shoot the proverbial excrementum about a sports game on a prep period, I’m not sure it would have garnered the same response. If instant messaging is used to contact a teacher within a school, it’s understood as wasting time and thus some would avoid it altogether or just feel guilty about it.
I don’t feel guilty about it.
I don’t agree with the assumption that online messaging is time wasting. Though I suppose it can be, but just as much as talking can be.
I message people at work everyday. I’m an eLearning Contact (eLC) for a group of small school boards. Typically, there’s one eLC per board, so rather than working in my own little silo, I work alongside other elcs across Northern Ontario. We connect in an ad hoc basis daily through a Skype group text-chat. It’s awesome. It’s genuine grassroots-level collaboration. We ping ideas off of each other, discuss new developments, problem solve together, and naturally engage in synergistic activities that increase the effectiveness of us all.
It reminds me TV shows like, House, CSI, or Star Trek TNG where the cast is a team that regularly meets, works out problems together and becomes greater than the individual parts, though I don’t work with any grumpy doctors, and my group is scattered across northern Ontario.
I wish there were more messaging-groups of teachers that help each other out throughout the day. Imagine small groups of teachers teaching the same subjects throughout the province, pinging ideas off each other throughout the semester as they teach, even in real time. Now that’s a Professional Learning Community.
The irony is that sometimes people come in to my office/printer-ink storage room, and see a Skype chat on my computer screen. Some people look at me as if they just caught me playing Farmville. I think what all teachers need to understand (and many already do) is that instant messaging is a communication medium, that’s all. But more than that, it can be more efficient communication.
Sometimes I need a quick answer to a question from other staff in the building and a message is just much faster and is more fluid than emailing back and forth on a topic. Of course whenever it’s an issue that’s more nuanced, sure, I head over to talk to them.
It’s human communication. Just like oral communication, you can waste time with it; you can work with it. Nothing to be ashamed of, and often can make you better at your job.