This post "Is E-Mail On The Way Out?" from the Adaptive Path blog (you should add it's feed to your RSS aggregator ASAP), got me thinking again about the use and lifespan of e-mail. Is e-mail dead? Not yet, but I think it is starting to not feel so well. I still run my life with e-mail, it's my main form of business communication certainly, but there are other tools and technologies creeping in and my e-mail clients should be worried.
If I take a moment and look at all of the tools that I am using to communicate and share with people in my personal life, e-mail is probably now the least used tool - I use Twitter to update my comings and goings (but I need to get better at it), Facebook for just about everything that is me, Skype to stay in touch and communicate visually and by voice, Blogger to express and share my thoughts, Google Docs and Spreadsheets and Google Groups to collaborate, and many other tools and technologies as the mood strikes.There isn't any room for e-mail in my personal life anymore.
And to top it all off I get most of this information pushed to me, not to my computer, but to my cell phone - I am truly mobile.
Now I am not actually saying that e-mail is dead - it is still the tool I use and most people use for business communication, and I don't see that changing anytime soon, but as an educator I have come to see learners who don't use e-mail regularly if at all anymore (just ask them if they read that important announcement sent to their College e-mail account if you don't believe me). Learners are telling me that e-mail is dull and slow, that it's not immediate enough - they prefer IM or Facebook, or some other more immediate form of communication.
I asked a first year IT class to make a choice - do without e-mail, or do without Internet access - it was unanimous - 100% offered to give up their e-mail on the spot. Today's learners see e-mail as an old, tired technology; one that is not agile or immediate enough for their needs. As educators we need to be where are learners are, and to get there we need to embrace the changing technologies and engage with them - and you know I have - and they are right - e-mail is old and slow! I actually can go for days not checking my personal e-mail account, but I am on Facebook every day - it's one of my home page tabs...
So if e-mail is dead - what will replace it? Well whatever it is, I think it will be more open and social than the closed system of sending a message to a finite number of addressees. It may be Facebook or its successor, or twitter, or a combination of more than one tool. Whatever it will be it will be accessed more on mobile devices than computers, that I know for sure. The only thing that I haven't quite got my head around is how confidential matters will be handled, so maybe there will always be a small corner in the room for e-mail or its closed successor. Hmmm...
(Photo - "Tools of the Trade" by tim_d)