E-mail Outside of Class to Enhance Discussions
of Virginia Teaching Resource Center
participate, students normally need to read and think about
the text before coming to class.
Students' comments demonstrate some misunderstandings: e.g.,
in A Simple Heart by Flaubert, when Felicity's parrot
dies, she has him stuffed. On her deathbed, she imagines she
sees him flying over her head. One group of students wrote,
in response to a question about the meaning of the title, that
the parrot, implicitly alive, returns to his mistress.
can better see and reward the depth of interpretation of some
students who are quiet in class, or whose written language is
better than their spoken language.
can be a good way get students to admit comprehension questions
and to create analytical questions: e.g., Is there any significance
in the fact that Felicity is the one who saves her employer's
family from the angry bull? (a key interpretative question)
begun early, e-mail can help students create a rapport among themselvesand
sidelong advantage: with e-mail, students seem to feel more comfortable
asking questions about texts or assignments, or making comments
about how class is going, or explaining what's going on in their
lives that's affecting their work in class.
some college and universities, some students have to make an effort
to get to a terminal at which they can use e-mail.
takes time for you to read and respond to their e-mail. (I find
that engaging individually with my students is one of the most
open forms of communication I've seen in more than twenty years
of teaching; I know more about what more about my students are
thinking than I ever have before, and that helps me teach them
better. So, for me, this is an advantage.)
on the size of your class and the frequency with which you ask
students to write on e-mail, students may find that reading (and
responding to) e-mail takes too much time.
teachers simply add e-mail discussion to their course without
otherwise reducing the workload. As more and more teachers do
this, some students are overwhelmed.
sure that your e-mail assignments are not overloading the students.
having only some of the students write to the rest of the class
for each assignment, just as we sometimes read only some students'
journals each week.
can be difficult-so far because not all students have modems or
access to e-mail where they live. There's not really enough time
for many of them between Monday and Wednesday to read the assigned
text and send their comment or question via e-mail to the rest
of the class. You need to make these assignments early and remind
students to work ahead of schedule.
you want discussion to happen on e-mail, you need to grade e-mail
participation and make this explicit on your syllabus.