Last year, the staff at Baldwin spent the morning being refreshed on the various policies and procedures for the building. Some were old mandates (i.e. turn in lesson plans, sign in on time), others were suggestions for grading, and some were new directives. The issue which caused the most debate this morning was the new "active communication" directive from the top. Rather than simply updating websites, or sending our tweets, teachers are now responsible for contacting all parents of all students at least once a week with class updates. By engaging in "active communication", we'll be able to hopefully avoid any conflicts from confused parents. The good news? We have a software system that will let us easily email parents en masse. The bad news? Some teachers feel that too much communication can actually hurt the process.
The pros of "more communication" are obvious and probably don't even need mentioning. By communicating more...more people are informed and surprises can be avoided. It seems like a no-brainer. The problem arises when there's an information overload. A parent that gets an email from the school once every few week will likely read it immediately. However, if a parents gets eight emails from the school every Friday (one per teacher)...how long will it take before they start deleting, skimming, or ignoring the messages? How will the parents know which emails contain actual important information and which are simply updates their children already know about? It could be argued that, once the parents have adapted to all the emails, they'll be less inclined to read information from the school...and therefore less informed than before. Obviously, this will vary person to person, and it's not guaranteed...but it's a possible unintended consequence.
Even more so, this issue of mandated communication raises the question of student responsibility. While a third grader might need weekly emails to keep parents informed, shouldn't it a high school junior be able to find information and seek out answers themselves? If a teacher updates a website daily, and a student never checks it, will sending email reminders help them...or enable their forgetfulness? At what point in these students' lives do we start putting a little responsibility on them to find answers. Obviously, teachers can and should be accessible and transparent to students and parents...but does it actually devalue responsibility at some point?
Like all issues debated here, there's no clear answer. The new "active communication" policy will help some people, hurt others, and be neutral for a decent percentage in the middle. Likewise, any counter-solution (i.e. make students responsible for checking Twitter or the blog) will result in a different, though equally large, group of people being helped and harmed. Still, in an age when information is so easily accessible, perhaps we need to focus more on teaching search and curation, rather than catering to short attention spans. As for me, I'll continue to update the website, post on the blog, send out tweets...and now I'll be sending reminders to check those three media via Skyward Email Blast, weekly. This class, for better or worse, will be impossible to ignore.