Stalin was no better than Hitler was he class? Engaging our most able students through Email

March 4, 2009 by · Leave a Comment
Filed under: Twynham School 

It has been an odd week given I have already written one post on a SharePoint blog with Stalin in the title! I return to the name if not topic as we have been having a big debate in our school about how to challenge out most able students. Today I was reading in the paper about a debate surrounding Stalin and the possible attempts by Russian authorities to block the publication of a book which is critical of the man. For whatever reason, even though I am in Southampton Airport waiting for a flight to Amsterdam I wanted to connect with our A-level History students who are all currently studying Stalin. How do I do this?

I could instant message them but we don’t use a service at the school yet. Texting seems the most instant of all options but would be expensive over time and I don’t know their numbers! I could post this on a forum but would all students check that in the next few days? At the risk of sounding old school I decided to email them all. To some extent this medium is passing students by and most evidence suggests teenagers are increasingly moving away from email as a form of regular communication. The good news at Twynham is we have excellent email through exchange and all our students have an account they can access both in school and on the web. So as an experiment in technology as well as pedagogy I fired off the following email.

click to enlarge

The really nice thing is we have all our classes set up as mail groups so in 5 seconds I had the emails of 70 students plugged in and I was ready to go. The real test of course is the impact on student learning. The good news is in less than 40 minutes since I sent the email I have had 3 responses with student’s thoughts. I guess the key to all of this is connecting with students in a meaningful way which provokes and challenges them to think. Whichever medium I use they will adapt to the environment because they are digital natives.