How can you make email work for you?

Friday, February 24th, 2012 | communication | Comments Off

Are you swamped by emails?  Wonderful as this means of communication is, it can become a burden to wade through stacks of them.  Here are a few tips to help you thrive and survive in the cyber world:

Unsubscribe to those newsletters you don’t read.

Don’t even open junk-mail  items – make a habit of simply deleting them.

Handle a piece of email only once: read it, treat it and trash it; don’t leave it for another time.

If you are the target (victim) of recycled jokes and other emails sent to you by friends and relatives with long mailing lists, ask them kindly to remove your name from their lists – tell them to send those items they feel would be of particular interest to you in a private email.

If you’re inundated with emails, try standing while attending to them; it prevents you from being too leisurely about the task.

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Why should teachers and principals bother about ICT?

Wednesday, February 1st, 2012 | ICT in Africa, technology | Comments Off

So, what is this thing called ICT that principals and teachers are encouraged to use?

In the field of technology many abbreviations and acronyms are used and they can be confusing particularly if you don’t know their origin.

ICT is the abbreviation of Information and Communication Technology.

In the past, information was available almost exclusively in printed form.  Teachers used books to teach and learners used books to learn.  Modern technology makes it possible for information to be stored and accessed in other ways.

All these tools are available to teachers

Information technologies refer to electronic tools on which information can be made available.  A computer or laptop used to be the most common form of information technology but tablets and other mobile devices are now used widely.

Communication technologies refer to electronic tools used for communication.  The telephone and cell phone are examples of such technologies.

A few decades ago different information and communication technologies were represented by separate tools.  For example, a computer and a telephone were distinctly different tools and they were used separately.  Today, many information and communication tools have converged on single devices: you can make Skype calls from your computer; you can also use your cell phone to perform operations that you would normally associate with a computer, such as sending an e-mail. It should therefore be clear why the term ICT is used to include all information and communication technologies that are available for communicating information in the modern world.

ICT includes any tool that can receive, retrieve, store, manipulate and transmit information electronically.  It enables you to use tools such as Skype, Facebook, Twitter, Mxit, Whatsapp, the internet and email to share and communicate information around the globe.

The potential of ICT in education is great – it is up to you, the educator (teacher or principal), to explore the many ways in which it can help you in your school.

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Communication trends

Saturday, February 5th, 2011 | communication | 13 Comments

Technology accelerated the pace of globalization – the result is a much smaller world, they say.  The advance of technology made travel easier and communication faster, so that the illusion of a smaller globe is created.

It seems as if technology, while making communication easier and faster, also has other effects on the way we communicate.

“Can I send you an e-mail,” one person asked.

“No, rather text me – I will get to it quicker than to my e-mail,” another replied.

The e-mail – long hailed as a technological wonder – is fast becoming yesterday, while the SMS is the flavour of today.  Doesn’t matter if the SMS (short message service) restricts you to only a few words – who needs a long message if a short one will do?

Blogging is also changing.  During the time of troubles in Iraq the world was alerted to what was happening there through blogs.  This has changed – eye-witness reports of events in Egypt are brought to us through Twitter.  We have now moved to micro-blogging as a way of receiving the news of the world.

Why use 140 words to report on something if you can do it in 140 characters?

What’s next?  We moved from long reports to a few words to a few characters.  How short can we get?  How low can we go?  The bit?

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How can technology improve a teacher’s communication flow?

Monday, December 20th, 2010 | communication, technology | Comments Off

The communication part of ICT – information and communication technology – must never be under-estimated.  Technology has radically changed the way people communicate across the globe.  You can send an e-mail to someone living on another continent or another hemisphere and receive a reply within seconds.  Cell phones put communication in the hands of the poorest and most remote citizens.  Even the way news is communicated to us has changed. 

Technology places a number of communication tools in your hands, such as: 

  • e-mail
  • cell phones (voice and text messages)
  • social networks
  • blogs, forums and chat rooms on the internet
  • and we don’t know what else may become available in the future. 

But how do these tools help you in your classroom to improve communication?  Let’s look at a few examples:

E-mail can replace paper-based memos in a school.  It allows you to send information and documents to colleagues and receive the same from them without having to walk to the photo-copy machine or your pigeon hole in the staffroom.  With the press of a button you can communicate with teachers in others schools – even in other parts of the world – and exchange ideas and learning materials with them.

Through social networks and blogs it is possible for you to consult with subject and education experts around the world.  These communication tools help you to build a personal learning network (PLN).

You can contact parents by e-mail.  Some parents may not have e-mail facilities, but an increasing number of them are getting on-line, particularly since many cell phones are e-mail enabled.  Alternatively, you can communicate with parents via a text message.

It is even possible to communicate with your learners through e-mail and blogs.  If your school has computers but does not have internet facilities, you can still use internal e-mail to send homework assignments, class notes and other notifications.  This will empower learners to use technology as a communication tool.  And it will eliminate the excuse that the homework assignment slip was lost!

Technology allows you to communicate with others with greater speed and ease – and at lower cost – than ever before.  It can help you to improve your communication flow.

For more technology tips for teachers click here.

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My e-mail in-box – a Pandora’s box?

Saturday, May 15th, 2010 | communication | 3 Comments

In Greek mythology, Pandora was the first woman on earth. The gods endowed her with many talents, amongst others beauty, musical skills and the art of persuasion.

One of her gifts was a box, which she was not allowed to open under any circumstances but curiosity got the better of her and she opened it. The result? All imaginable evils escaped and spread over the earth. She tried to close the box, but everything escaped, except one thing which was left at the bottom of the box …

I have a box which I simply have to open each day – curiosity impels me to open my e-mail in-box the moment the computer is switched on. And then out flies everything that has been boxed in overnight – all 187 of them. Circulars; newsletters; invitations to get rich very quickly (I have been specially selected to help a poor widow from Gabon to bring her millions out of her country and into my bank account); remedies to beautify and enlarge all aspects of my physique and improve my psyche; jokes – most of these have been circling the globe a couple of times over the past day. My colleagues insist on copying me in on all their correspondence – perhaps they feel I will be offended if they leave me in the dark, or otherwise they try to impress me with their diligence.

I am overwhelmed by emails; it takes an awful lot of time just to sift through them to find the ones that are of real importance.

At the bottom of the box there remains the one thing that did not fly out of Pandora’s box: hope.

I hope that we will eventually find a way to use this tool as a time-saver rather than a time-waster.

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SMSing while you walk may land you in the dwang

Sunday, July 19th, 2009 | communication | 4 Comments

Be careful where you click is sound advice for people who surf the web.

Be careful where you step is likewise good advice for people who are writing an SMS while walking in the street.  A teenager in New York was so engrossed in sending a text message that she did not see an open manhole – and fell into it.

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By word of mouse

Friday, July 10th, 2009 | communication | 5 Comments

You heard it at the water cooler.  Or was it during passage gossip?  You can’t remember – but it doesn’t matter, you heard it through the grapevine.  Information came to you by word of mouth.

Things have changed.  These days you hear it by word of mouse.  Yes, news is only a mouse click away.  You hear it via Twitter, or Plurk, or Facebook, or a blog, or a wiki, or an email.

Is there a difference?  Not really, except that the world has shrunk incredibly.  And as the world gets smaller, your sources of information get more and bigger. 

No longer do you have to depend for information on a few people who happen to be working in your office, or live in your house, or in your neighborhood – folks who are probably as uninformed as you are.  With the click of a button you have access to world experts – the world’s information is on tap for you.  Accurate information – relevant information.

Are we not privileged to live in this wonderful information age?


How much will internet connectivity cost me?

Thursday, May 14th, 2009 | communication, laptops | 2 Comments

Internet connectivity requires a line and an internet service provider (ISP).  Your internet cost is determined by how much you pay for these two items.  The hole in your pocket is further determined by the volume of data you download from the internet.

The rental of a slow dial-up line is lower than that of a broadband connection, but you pay for the time you are online.  Since you pay for the amount of data you use with a faster broadband connection, you may very well find that the higher line rental is offset by what you save on the data download cost.

A great variety of package deals are available from ISPs and you must shop around to find the option that suits your needs and your pocket.  In some cases the ISP may include the cost of the data line, which means that you only have to focus on one cost item.

The ISP options differ in terms of the level of service offered to you.  A package may have a cap – this means you are allowed to download data to a maximum level, say 3 gigabytes.  For this you pay a fixed monthly amount.  If you exceed this allowance, you pay an additional fee, based on the amount of data you download.

It may be best for you to start off with a package with a low cap – this would be the cheapest option.  Once you’ve used the internet for a while you will be able to determine your pattern of usage.  If you need more than your cap, carefully calculate what the additional cost is, how often you are likely to exceed the cap, and if it would be cheaper to upgrade to a package with a higher cap.

Keep in mind that some packages lock you into a contract for a fixed period, typically twenty-four months.

After this long explanation, back to the question: What will internet connectivity cost you?  There is no simple answer to this question.  The cost to you as an individual is determined by the package you negotiate with an ISP and the volume of data you wish to download from the internet.

If you can’t afford internet connectivity right now, you may be able to plug in at school to access the worldwide web.

Click here to find answers to more laptop related questions.

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How can I achieve internet connectivity?

Thursday, May 14th, 2009 | communication, laptops | Comments Off

Internet connectivity means that you are connected – through your laptop – to the vast worldwide web of information, known as the internet.

The internet is a collection of computers all over the world, interconnected to form a massive network.  These computers are from different manufacturers, use different operating software and are run by people in different countries.  Communication between these disparate systems can only happen if the machines speak the same “language” – this is made possible through a set of common software standards known as protocols.  These protocols allow you to view web pages, send and receive emails and transfer files between computers.

In order for such communication to take place you need two things:

  • a line which connects the computers and over which data can be transmitted
  • an internet service provider (ISP) who manages the protocols and makes it possible for you to send and receive data.

Think of an analogy. If you want fresh water in your home, you need a pipe.  A plumber can be employed to lay the pipe and install a tap in your home.  But you also need someone to source the water, clean it and pipe it to your home – in most cases it will be the local authority

Like the water pipe, you need a data transmission line.  The options available are:

  • dial-up line (telephone line) – this is the slowest option
  • broadband landline – a faster option, but still dependent on physical connections, such as ADSL
  • mobile connectivity such as 3G or HSDPA.

You also need an ISP.  This is a company who will collect a fee from you for managing the protocols, making sure you are routed to the correct destination on the internet.  The ISP may also provide you with one or more email addresses and space on the web, depending on the package you purchase.  In the same way as some local authorities may also offer a plumbing service to lay water pipes to your home, some ISPs may act as one-stop shops by offering you internet connectivity, including both protocol management and the use of a line.

You have achieved internet connectivity when you’ve negotiated the rental of a line and obtained the services of an ISP.  Once you are able to access the internet, you will know for sure that you are connected.

Click here to find answers to more laptop related questions.

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How could a laptop be used as a communication tool?

Sunday, March 29th, 2009 | communication, laptops | 4 Comments

One of the greatest gifts of computer technology to the world is the way in which it brings people together.  You can send an email across the globe, have it reach its destination a few seconds later and get a reply as fast as the person on the other side can type.  Compare that to the time it would have taken if a letter was sent by snailmail – with a possibility of getting lost in the post.

The email facility that your laptop makes available to you allows you as a teacher to engage in more effective communication with all the people with whom you need to interact.

An exchange of ideas with colleagues becomes easier – it can strengthen collegial relationships and allows for collaboration when time and distance prevent you from meeting in person.  You can ask for advice from teachers in other schools and receive replies almost instantly – lesson plans, worked examples and other teaching resources.

Email makes it possible to consults with subject and education experts.

You can contact parents through email.  Many parents may not have email facilities, but an increasing number of them are getting on-line.

It is even possible to communicate with your learners by sending emails to them.  If your school has computers but does not have internet facilities, you could still use internal email to send homework assignments, class notes and other notifications.  This will empower learners to use email and will eliminate the excuse that the homework assignment slip was lost.

Of course, you will also be able to use email for business and personal conversations with friends and relatives.

Email provides a permanent record of communication  – you have a verification of what you’ve said to each other and can go back and refer to the conversation.

Email is not the only way of communication made possible by your laptop.  Many other avenues are opened to you:

  • social networks
  • forums
  • blogs
  • Skype
  • and we don’t know what else may become available in the future.

Your laptop allows you to communicate with others with greater speed and ease – and at lower cost – than ever before.

Click here to find answers to more laptop related questions.

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