Email Communication Exercise


Purpose : To increase student familiarity with email, while at the same time providing a hands-on example of what sorts of communication tasks email is less suited for.  In general, to raise student awareness of the connectedness of form and purpose in writing; to get them to think about the "right tool for the job".

1)     You will need to have some sort of group-work scheduled.  I use this exercise as we approach our second in-class debate, roughly 2/3 of the way through the semester.  The key is that the groups should be fairly large - at least 6-8 people per group.  If the groups are smaller than that, the point of the exercise may well be lost.
2) Require the students of each group to confer with each other about the upcoming debate (or whatever), but make it strictly clear that they are only to use email to consult with one another.
3) Over the next day or two, there will be protest and grumbling.  Stand firm.
4) After the debate (or whatever), either the same day or the next day following, discuss the merits and flaws of preparing a presentation/argument/position using only email.  Ask students what problems they encountered.  After they've had a chance to vent, ask them to think about what sort of communication would have been more effective in this instance, and why.
Note : Yes, this exercise is built around a negative example, and might seem a bit cruel to the students, but I feel they learn more about suiting form to purpose from this exercise than from any number of positive examples of successful communication.  Be sure, of course, to provide them with the opportunity to use the "right" tools after this exercise...