Sample of a thoughtful response to what might be seen
as an inappropriate message in some contexts.
Posting on Online Forums
Pedagogy of Writing E-mail Messages
is a tool that teachers and students use to share information with
each other. The writing process is most successful when they write
from the deep knowledge of their own rich cultural, community and
school learning experiences. The writing process includes:
- Conversations taking place among the whole class, in small
groups, or in individual teacher or student peer conferences about
the experiences they wish to share online. Discussing a topic
before putting it in print facilitates clarification of ideas
and the building of rich descriptive words in a collaborative
social dialogue before the actual writing takes place.
- The first draft of the e-mail message focuses on content
ideas and then on organization of ideas, on sentence syntax, and
on spelling. The first draft can be typed on the computer using
a word processing program.
- The initial draft will then be shared with someone else through
writing conferences with student peers and/or teachers. The author
or another person can read the draft aloud with the purpose of
"hearing" how the text reads. The conferencing process
is an important time for clarifying meanings and talking together
about the ways words could make the text more descriptive. When
sending e-mails, it is critically important to understand
that you are sending language across diverse cultural contexts
and without the prior opportunity to know one another face-to-face.
Careful attention needs to be given to define vocabulary indigenous
to a culture or context.
Mailing List Etiquette
The following tips can help you communicate with your IECC (Intercultural
Email Classroom Connections) partner(s) in ways that increase civility,
dignity and the psychological sense of community.
- Always respond to those who send messages to you, even if you
only have time to write a brief "thanks for the e-mail"
- Try to use the name of the person to whom you are writing with
frequency, as a sign so that your partner knows that you are writing
to her/him in particular. It makes comments seem more personal.
- Try to use words and language that are familiar to your partner,
as a sign that both of you are on equal footing. If you use language
that is over their head or that is unfamiliar, it may make your
partner feel "inadequate."
- Try to listen for and talk about common experiences you may
share with your partner. This will help establish a common ground
to connect you.
- Try to paraphrase the comments of your partners and to refer
to things they said earlier. This helps your partner know that
you are really listening to them.
- Try to ask your partner for their help, advice, opinion, or
thoughts. These are signs that you respect something about your
partner. It can signal to your partner that you took the time
to think about them in particular as being able to contribute
something valuable to you.
- Acknowledge the things that your partner said that were especially
good, helpful or valuable in some way, as a signal that he or
she is appreciated.
- Try occasionally to use the particular words or ideas that
your partner used first (giving them credit for saying them of
course) as a sign that they are truly making a difference. When
you tell them that something they said made you think, then they
know that you listened carefully enough to what they had to say
to relate it to your own life.
- Try to name the emotions you are feeling as you read what your
partner wrote. This can help them understand the immediate impact
of what they had to say.
- Try to be open about your feelings with your e-mail partner.
When you are open it lets them trust you more and feel that you
have a stronger link with each other.
Communicating on Online Forums
- Try to describe the essence of your message in the subject
line. And if you are responding to a message, do not change the
- Try to be as brief as possible in your message and write the
most important things in the first paragraph. You may be writing
in a language that is not the native language of those reading
your message. So it is very helpful for others to be able to
get a sense of your message in the first few sentences if possible.
- Some subscribers to the forums use dial-up access
and pay for telephone time (and sometimes for kilobytes too).
For them, huge files mean huge telephone bills. Sometimes they
can't even get messages if they are too big. In addition, don't
quote the whole message that you are responding to, quote only
pieces that you comment on. Otherwise, if several people respond
to a message, and include it and previous messages in a quote,
messages become huge.
- Limit the number of attachments you post on the forums. They
can be too big for those who pay for dial-up access. In addition,
they most often do not translate over the many systems across
iEARN and many arrive as garbage.
- Try to configure your
mailing software so that it sends out only plain text and no attachments
of encoded word documents and html files. (e.g. Microsoft Outlook
Express by default is set so that it sends out not only plain
text, but also an encoded word version of the same text or an
html version, that doubles the size of messages.) If you want
to share with all subscribers something that is big but valuable
(a Word document, a jpeg picture etc.) just send a note to the
forum and ask people if they want to get it by e-mail, then email
it to them individually. Or, place your document on the web for
everybody to see.
- Do not post chain letters or any commercial advertisements
to the forums.
There are many people who have trouble getting responses
on the forum. These are a few suggestions that I can make:
- Always have a subject line or title to your message
that explains what your message is about, like water pollution,
endangered species, recycling, etc.
- Ask your readers one or two specific, easy questions
that they can answer.
- Read other postings in the forum and respond to them. Answer their questions and then ask them a question or suggest
that they read your messages in the forum. Give them
the exact subject line of your message so they can find
it in the forum. Remember, dialog goes both ways, to get
answers you have to give answers and you have to lead people
into a dialog with questions and responses.