Abstract: The electronic mail (E-mail) system was first introduced as early as 1965 when email was simply used to duplicate a file to another user’s file directory. As years have passed, the email system has developed and continued to evolve, including the introduction of more advanced programming codes, use of web-based services through the world wide web (www), use of the familiar “at symbol” to signify every individual’s email address, and the changing role of email with different users particularly among students, teachers, corporate employees, and government personnel. This paper will conduct a discourse analysis on the path of obsolescence of email in today’s widely used social networks to communicate, collaborate, and produce innovative ideas and information, especially in the environment of teaching and learning.
The Electronic Mail (E-mail)
Effective communication is key between and among individuals in order to establish favorable influences, particularly in instilling meaningful and purposeful learning, enthusiasm, active participation, collaboration, and fulfillment (Bolkan & Holmgren, 2012). The development and implementation of the email system has created different avenues and opportunities for individuals to communicate within a more desired time frame, including, but not limited to: establishing positive and nurturing working relationships (i.e. teacher-student working relationship built on trust, transparency, and dependability), providing flexibility in supporting individual needs (i.e. online learning environment, after-school or out-of-class inquiries), supporting alternative ways for individuals to communicate important matters and information with confidentiality, and avoiding awkward or uncomfortable face-to-face interactions, to name a few (Bolkan & Holmgren, 2012).
The electronic mail (email) system began in 1965 when the main objective was to send email messages to duplicate files to another individual’s file directory (Fleishman, 2012). The email system continued to develop and evolve when more advanced programming codes were introduced in 1981, which provided the possibility for computers to understand the English alphabet (Fleishman, 2012). This may have provided more opportunities for specific users to send more complex and multiple messages (Fleishman, 2012). Another important development in the age of the email system was the introduction of Hotmail in 1996 that included the availability of web-based email services (Fleishman, 2012). The existence of the World Wide Web (www) has initiated an era of possibilities, where these have resulted to further expansion and improvement in the partnership between the email system and the Internet (Fleishman, 2012). This was followed with the creation of the “at symbol” (@) that signified every user’s email address, which continues to be used even in today’s email account standards (Fleishman, 2012).
Changes in the role of the email system continued to occur as years passed, particularly among different groups of users such as students, teachers, corporate employees, government workers, businessmen, to name a few (Fleishman, 2012). Presently, email is still being used to facilitate communication among groups of users (Ramsay, 2012). Likewise, current email systems are built with more robust and complex features that provide users with the abilities to attach and send files, translate email text into different languages, incorporate email reminders in web-based calendar systems, communicate time-sensitive information with a quick click of a button, forward email messages in one account with another email account, and categorize or label email messages according to specified folder classifications, to name a few (Ramsay, 2012).
The continuous changes in the development and implementation of email (i.e. Google Mail, Yahoo Mail, Lotus Notes Mail, Outlook Mail) have influenced many school districts to utilize the different functionalities of an email system to supplement and support teaching and student learning (Miyata & Kobayashi, 2008). This includes the introduction of more secured email systems (i.e. Gaggle) for teacher and student use in order to communicate and share important information or reminders, submit assignments online and provide feedback, offer clarifications or questions, and provide more opportunities to collaborate among fellow students (Miyata & Kobayashi, 2008). Unfortunately, the current users of the email system seem to rest mostly with the older generation (i.e. Generation X, Younger Boomers).
Despite the constant changes that have been developed to maintain the use of the email system in today’s modernization of technology, many technology savvy users (i.e. Generation Y) have either migrated or adopted the use of more complex communication and networking systems, such as social networks in the form of Facebook, Twitter, Google Plus, Edmodo, Wikispaces, MySpace, Friendster, and the like (Miyata & Kobayashi, 2008). This includes the incorporation of email within these social networking sites, which provided users to go beyond the use of merely sending messages (Click, 2012). Users are able to participate actively using just-in-time communication methods, such as online chats, instant messaging, and web-based hangouts (Click, 2012). Many of these social networking sites have also developed built-in email systems in order to facilitate asynchronous communication among its users, which has become an important element in online learning environments (Click, 2012). Furthermore, the popularity of different social networking sites influenced many schools to include social networking as part of student engagement and teaching strategies, including its recognition as a form of supporting the different needs of individual learners (Click, 2012). Likewise, the vast features of the Internet has opened many doors for social networking sites to develop multiple ways for individuals to communicate, collaborate, and grow their connections globally (Flat Classroom Project, 2012).
The email system may seem to present its continuous significance in the digital communication world. However, many can anticipate that the longevity of email may be nearing its final destiny as more current users, particularly Generation Y, gravitate towards favorable use of social networks. Could email messages be considered an obsolete technology tool? Possibly, depending on who may be presented with this question. As long as email continues to be part of everyday work routines, many of its current users, no matter what generation they may belong to, may continue to use email systems to fulfill and complete their respective tasks. With regard to classroom instruction, many teachers and students may continue to experience challenges in being allowed to have full access in using different types of technology tools, including email. Policies may be changed in education, when it comes to technology implementation. However, its relevance in providing more freedom to choose what technology will be implemented in the classroom may depend on the decision among stakeholders of the educational community.
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