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Month: April 2016

Schools: Dump Email and Start Slack-ing

The Problem: Too Much Mail

Teachers and administrators are familiar with email, which makes it a convenient tool for communicating within and across departments. Maybe a little too convenient.

If your inbox is like that of many teachers, there are hundreds of unread messages in your inbox. Things you don’t need to know. Questions you don’t need to answer. Social messages. Mass-mailed jokes. Single-line reply-all messages intended for one person. And, somewhere in the thick of it all, that one email that is actually relevant and important.

How on earth does anyone have the time to get through the backlog, let alone stay current on information they need?

The Solution: Start Slack-ing

Slack is a communication platform that has taken all manner of working teams by storm, and for good reason. Slack helps you filter through the mass of communication you receive and focus only on conversations that matter most. It also allows you to stop by the virtual water cooler and check the social pulse of the organization.

People who use Slack report some pretty remarkable outcomes:

  • 48.6% reduction in emails.
  • 25.1% reduction in meetings.
  • 79% of users agree their team culture has improved. [source]

Slack automatically filters messages into specific topic streams, allowing you to focus on what’s most important to you at the moment. Your supervisor’s jokes stay in an off-topic area, while their time-sensitive messages get your immediate attention.

email slack Comparison
How email and Slack stack up where it matters

As you can see from the chart to the right, Slack does the things email does, but it does them better. Need to share a document? Check. Need to hold a quick conversation to make a decision? Check. Give a situation update? Check.

How to get started

Talk to your coworkers about Slack. Install the app on your phone and desktop, and start using it within your department. Set up “channels” (like a chatroom) for whatever projects or conversations you have going on.

The channels all start with the “#” symbol, and #general and #random are set up as defaults. An example list of department channels might look like this:

  • #general (for department-related news)
  • #ad_hoc_committee_A
  • #discipline_issues
  • #late_dismissal_tardies
  • #Materials_and_Resources
  • #meeting_agenda
  • #random (for off-topic discussion)
  • #Social_Events
  • #any_topic_you_like

Okay, that’s great. Next, you can set up some preferences for each channel such as:

These settings allow you to filter out the noise and only pay attention to the conversations that matter most to you. You can stay abreast of what’s going on without mentally processing the content of the message, and whether it needs your immediate attention, dozens of times each day.

You can also send direct messages (DMs) between members when there’s something only they need to know.

At this point, Slack doesn’t cost anything, and that’s great. In fact, your school may only need to upgrade if message archiving or some other features are important (for legal reasons, of course).

Summary: Leave Email to Outsiders

Email still has its place, and that’s for communicating outside your teams. When having conversations with parents, school boards, or other outside stakeholders, email can still be a great tool. It’s a great way to create a written record of communication should you ever need it.

When it comes to conversations, sharing information, and getting work done in a team, however, put your conversations on Slack and start making progress.