My emailing experiment is coming to a close. We’re having our last face to face class tomorrow (Wednesday). I have collected almost 300 emails in the last three months (well,288 to be precise). Emails from me to the class, from individual students to me, from students to the whole group, from students to students. We’ve moved on to blogging and the emails have changed. They’ve become comments on the blog, requests for help with the technicalities. There’s been a transition period, almost everyone’s posted on the blog, but almost everyone is still using the group email, each for different reasons. It’s all fascinating and satisfying and rewarding. In three months there has been visible, tangible progress. And now it’s time to go back over it all.
I guess those 280 plus emails are a rich source of data. I guess that if I ask the right questions, they could reveal a lot about the role of emails in a face to face class. The task facing me now is to choose the questions. And that’s where I need your help. Here are a few to start with:
- is it possible to see and measure progress in fluency, confidence and accuracy over the period of three months? if yes, how?
- how many emails were sent by which students? is this consistent across the course? if not, is there a pattern? did some lesson prompt more emails responses than others? and if yes, why? did some students email more than others? why?
- what was the nature of the emails? (summarising, feedback, explaining tasks, requesting information, purely social) and what was the proportion dedicated to each type?
That’s just a start. I don’t know if I want or need to ask them all. I’m sure there are so many more questions to ask. I’ll be asking quite a few in our last class (as well as asking them to fill out a questionnaire later on to email to me!). I’d really love to hear your ideas, what questions would you ask of my data? What questions do you think I should ask? What answers would you be interested to know?
All and any comments very, very gratefully received! Thank you 🙂
Did they notice any change in the email usage and/or internet behaviour outside of the class or ‘English learning’ environment of the group email and blog?
I meant ‘in their email usage…’ of course =)
Thanks, Mike! I got it 🙂
Nice question. I’ll need to ask the students for their personal feedback on that. A great focus for feedback in our last class.
Did the language in the e-mails follow the same register/appropriacy as that a proficient user of English might use?
Thanks, Sean, an interesting question, going to be a difficult one to measure, I reckon! Maybe the best I can do is compare my register with theirs I suppose. I think they did a lot of lifting and echoing, but it’ll be interesting to look closer and see. The emails were basically simple asynchonous conversations, using email as a medium rather than looking at how to write specific messages by email.
Fairly subjective, I know, but another question just come to mind is…
How did they feel during the email exchanges? Different to face to face interactions (inside or outside the classroom)? If so, in what way?
Thank you, Mike. Another great question for tomorrow’s class. And I think I’ll ask them about whether those feelings changed over the course of the three months as well. It’ll be interesting to see whether they thought it was a “safer” environment. One of the students has told me she takes a lot of time and care to write her replies (and more recently her blog posts) – but I think she’s been loosening up recently. It’ll be good to be able to gauge that somehow. Wow, so much to do in so little time 😉 I’ll definitely need to use a follow up questionnaire (to be completed by email of course!)
Some questions I would ask the students themselves:
Do they think the emails helped them to remember some of the new language they came across in class? How?
Related to your questions above, do they feel that those who sent more emails have benfitted more than those who didn’t? How?
Do they think email is the best way to communicate with each other and you outside of class? Can they think of any other ways? (Thinking here along the lines of social networks, Twitter, as well as the class blog).
What are the advantages of using email in English with your classmates and teacher?
These are basic questions that will get the students thinking about what has been happening during the term. I don’t know if they will help you with your action research, but their answers may be useful for future classes you work with and want to encourage to do the same. Hope this helps a bit!
Great questions, Michelle! Thanks 🙂
I think they’ll really help the students see what they’ve done and make plans to continue learning by themselves after the course. And they’ll add beautifully to my stack of data! Then I’ll need to brush off my MA research skills and see what I can do about analysing them – not sure I remember how, it’s been a long, long time 😉
This might require a fair amount of work, but is something the students could do themselves:
Can they follow the thread of conversation through the emails? i.e. How does one email lead to another? Could they improve the coherence of the conversation by removing repetition (or adding it!)?
That’s a really interesting task. It’s certainly something we could look at in class together. I don’t know if they’ve kept a record of all the emails, I guess not considering the sheer volume! (I know they’ve kept the ones which summarise the work we’ve done in class – we’ve also stored these on our class blog). I was going to give them a “gift” pack of all the texts they’d submitted by email (we used the email mainly for extensions tasks) so they have a record of their contributions to the course. And ask them if they want to choose their favourites to add to our class blog. It’s very much a student-directed course, so I can throw out these suggestions and see what they want to make of them 🙂