What are e-Communications?

eCommunications or electronic communications are ways of addressing and exchanging information with others using an electronic device. eCommunications cexternal image email_only.jpgan be email, instant messaging, e-newsletters, discussion forums, e-conferences or websites on the internet and they can be accessed on the computer, PDAs, cellphones, and wifi certified devices. Here's some more information about these technological tools:

  • Email
    • If students have their own Internet accounts, schools may encourage them to use email to ask questions, express opinions, submit homework, etc. Teachers may send emails to remind students the deadline for assignments, any materials that may need to be brought to the lesson, let them know about any upcoming events, etc.
  • Instant Messaging
    • Many students work on the computers using instant messaging. If there are inter-school activities, instant messaging can surely encourage and facilitate the communications between students from different schools.
  • Discussion Forum
    • Schools may encourage students to raise questions and/or express their findings on a particular topic through discussion forum. Teachers can also consider participating in the discussions. Discussion forum is good for knowledge sharing and it may also serve as a bulletin board for message posting and public announcement.
  • Calendaring and Scheduling
o Remind teachers and students about any upcoming events, can inform parents about the examination schedule of their children, and help promote extra-curricular activities.

  • Video ConferencingSchools can use video-conferencing for both intra-school and inter-school activities such as discussion, experience sharing on scientific experiments, debate, etc.

    external image video-conference.jpg

What Learning Theories are Most Applicable to the Use of e-Communication?

In general, the Cognitive Learning Theory is most applicable to the use of e-communication. Often students and teachers who use this technology deliver information in a straightfoward manner, but just using a more advanced medium to transmit the information. The students really aren't engaged in any constructivism type activities, depending on what type of e-communication is being used. The information sent through e-communications is meant to be taken in by the students or teachers, then stored, and then finally recalled at a later time.

Also, the use of e-communcations applies to the Learning Styles Theory of learning. This type of technology has the potential to appeal to students who have different types of learning styles. For example, by participating in an online video chat, students would be presented information through either visual or audio material. The ability for a type of educational technology to appeal to students with different learning styles is extremely important because it allows students to absorb the material in ways that meet their learning style needs.

external image instant-messaging.jpgWhat are the Benefits of Using e-Communication?

  • Email
    • Instantly sent, fast, and reliable
    • File transfer
  • Instant Messaging
    • Doesn’t require 100% attention, but instant response.
  • Discussion Forum
    • Students can teach fellow students
  • Calendaring and Scheduling
    • Keep a common school activities calander
  • Video Conferencing
    • Allow for remote teaching/learning
    • Special guest speakers
    • Allow for group meetings without physically getting together

What are the Challenges of Using e-Communication?

  • E-Communcation requires technological knowledge of both a computer and the internet. For some, this knowledge may seem failry basic, however, for others, it may be overwhelmingly complicated.
  • Technology is not reliable 100% of the time. Servers often crash, computers freeze, and many other similar problems occur almost daily. Similarily, more advanced technology, such as spam blockers, can lead to creating more problems than preventing, such as by blocking an important email.
  • Not everyone has constant access to the internet
  • Important aspects of language are lost in e-communications, such as inclination, which can lead to misinterpreations of meaning and a great deal of confusion.

What Special Guidance Might Help Users of e-Communication?

As with any technology, a knowledgable support staff should be readily available to help users encounter any problems. If during an online discussion forum the site suddenly fails, then there ought to be people ready to fix the problem to ensure that the technology is facilitating the communication between the users, not hindering it. Teachers who decide to use certain elements of e-communication in their lesson plans should also be knowledgable of the program and also aware of any problems that could arise and how to deal with them should they come up.

What is the Current State of the Research on e-Communication?

To date, there really is very little research pertaining to the use of specific e-communications. However, there are various articles that discuss certain aspects of e-communcations, such as the alteration of language that people use when sending emails or text messages. This change of language is very interesting and common today, and there are many examples of this altered language becoming part of oral speech, for example, "I'm gonna call them later."

It may be interesting to investigate the effects of growing up in the "digital age" in the future, and how children's actions and attitudes have changed as a result. Today's youth generation is growing up in a time when email has become more common than "regular mail," when people often spend more time communicating through email, instant messaging, or text messagin than through face to face interactions. It will be interesting to see whether or not things like the United States Postal Service will exisit 25 years from now, and also how the new e-communications technologies will advance.

Despite the lack of much academic research regarding e-communications, it is generally accepted that it is an extremely important method that people use to communicate with each other, and also that it's importance is only going to become greater in the future.

What Lesson Ideas Might Instructors Consider in Using e-Communication?

E-communications are all basic tools that can be used in most lessons or arrangements. All of these tools are used in the corporate world and the sooner students become comfortable using them, the better.
  • Email
    • Send files that were not available at class time.
  • Instant Messaging
    • Can respond to homework questions while at home.
  • Discussion Forum
    • Students will retain more information if they are required to critically think about a discussion topic, form an opinion and have to defend it against other peer’s views.
  • Calendaring and Scheduling
    • Helps with larger project planning.
  • Video Conferencing
    • Enables guest speakers that would otherwise not be available. Explorers in Antarctica (as shown recently on Castle), Astronauts, Foreign language classes with “pen pals”

What Resources Might Instructors Consult When Using e-Communication?

Below are some website that can be useful for both student and instructors: