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What do we use to communicate?

August 17th, 2008 by Graham Attwell

Last week I undertook two days of interviews with staff from a large educational service company in the UK. The interviews formed part of a series of enthnographic studies being undertaken by the Mature project to look at how information and knowledge are developed within organisations. Obviously communciation is a key part of this and we talked to workers at all levels of the organisation how they communictaed, about what and with who.

I suppose I should not have been surprised by the results but I was. The main means of communication is email. Everone used email on a daily basis for communciating about all kinds of things – including when soemone brought cake into a district office. There appeared to be no policy on what should be communicated – it being left up to individuals to decide what should be emailed to who. And although most epople said they found i quite hard keeping up with the volume of emails all were adamant that it was critical to their work.

I guess it would be possible to move a lot of this traffic to another platform – an intranet or wiki – although there is a temptation not to tinker with soemthing which is not broken. But n or discussions on learning platforms, PLEs and the rest, I think we have fogotten how important email is to peoples’ informal learning and work.

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5 Responses to “What do we use to communicate?”

  1. A. T. Wyatt says:

    I agree that e-mail is a critical communication piece, particularly in the workplace. Why?

    It comes to you

    Because it is such a commonly used tool, it is probably already installed and supported well by
    your workplace (not blocked, not requiring additional logins, already populated by the people you most need to communicate with via address books)

    It is simple/transparent. This is an application everyone understands because they have been using it for a long time. No additional learning curve.

    You have excellent tools for archiving, filtering, searching (well, if you have a good client!)

    It is often integrated with other productivity apps–calendar, etc.

    It can be asynchronous or synchronous

    You can email to individuals, to groups, use BCC and CC and it is not hard to set up contacts/contact lists for groups you use often.

    While I like and use many of the emerging tools, they probably have a long way to go to displace email. Because it is a mature application, it has many many advantages with respect to features, interface, and support.

  2. Graham Attwell says:

    I think your point on maturity is important.

    What other tools are approaching maturity?

  3. A. T. Wyatt says:

    Traditional learning management systems are pretty mature. Witness the common toolset (which is starting to incorporate more interactive tools within a common interface). I think that it is easy for “early adopters” to develop an “expert blind spot” when it comes to moving through, between, and harnessing the power of disparate tools. But if your goal is moving into getting a large percentage of your people to adopt, the barriers are surprisingly high. I get frustrated because my colleagues “don’t get it” and they are frustrated with me because I can’t seem to understand that they “don’t need it!” Email, of course, we all agree that we need! Honestly, a lot of our faculty don’t really use most of the features of the LMS either. They just don’t see the need. And when I make the effort to stand in their shoes, I usually come away with a good deal of sympathy for their position.

    More on change management theory. . . the drivers are really an important thing to understand when you are trying to encourage adoption.

  4. Have to say that this is the conclusion I have just come to after a year of experimenting with any number of forms of communication.

  5. Tobias Nelkner says:

    I don’t think we have forgotten the importance of e-mail communication. But I think it’s a real challenge to introduce e-mails in a PLE framework, because this is the typical program almost no one would change. So I think it implies one of the most hardly resolvable points of a PLME: We have to build a bridge between online services and tools and the ones that are on your desktop. Moreover, I think it’s the same with IM Clients; interviews have shown this, too.

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