The Transformation of Class Conferences
by Hannah Hoffman on Friday, April 26th, 2013
Mindlessly clicking through class conference e-mails has become a daily routine for most students. These conferences are perpetually chock-full of announcements for club meetings, schedules for weekend activities, and inquiries about lost items. Though these uses seem completely normal to current students, the Milton community has not always utilized class conferences as it does today.
About a decade ago, students used their class conferences as a social media outlet where they could interact with classmates outside the classroom and talk in a group setup. Mr. Archer, a Class III dean, recalls, “I arrived almost six years ago [and] I was told when I got [to Milton]… that conferences were for students to have access to each other to work more collaboratively.” Deans and teachers generally did not post in them.
Over the years, however, this social aspect of the class conferences has changed considerably, and the conferences have slowly become what we now know them to be: bulletins for events and announcements.
There are several possible explanations for this drastic transformation, including new forms of social media. Mr. Archer comments, “I think definitely Facebook was responsible for the change, because [in the past] adults monitored, if sporadically, the conferences; with Facebook, the connection is purely student to student. When students want to organize, they usually resort to Facebook. And… there are more current means of communication beyond Facebook.”
With their social applications lost to Facebook and other current social media, the conferences are left as an announcement haven. The e-mails range from “Found Cracked iPod” to “GRL meeting tomorrow.”
Many students find what is posted to their class conferences so meaningless and ineffective that they have chosen to ignore them or to mindlessly click the “Next Unread” arrow over and over until all new e-mails are marked as read. An anonymous student says, “I don’t really see the point in [class conferences]… Clubs just send out weekly e-mails that they have already announced at assemblies…The constant e-mails get sort of annoying…I don’t really read them anymore.”
Steven Char (III) comments that, when he logs onto FirstClass and goes to his class conference, “[he] read[s] through all of [the e-mails]… to get rid of the red flags, because sometimes there’s something important hidden in there, but most of the time it’s just pointless.” He adds, “I think there should be a conference for teachers and administrators to post on, because we know those [e-mails] will be important, and one for like lost and found, club meetings, and sports scores, because that one would be less important to read,” adds Char.
It’s not just students: teachers are also conflicted when it comes to the value of class conferences. Mr. Archer says, “as for the effectiveness of the conferences, I can’t tell you. When I read the history of a given announcement, I’m actually quite pleased and impressed that… many people have opened the message, but, of course, opening the message is no guarantee that someone has read it.” But when asked if he prefers the previous function of the conferences to the current one, Mr. Archer replies, “I don’t compare, because, rightly or wrongly, I haven’t changed the way I use conferences.”
Whether their new form is welcomed or not, Milton’s class conferences on FirstClass have certainly evolved over the years due primarily to the rise of more popular social media sites. What was once a social media outlet for students to chat and mingle has become a space for miscellaneous announcements, some of which students do not even bother to read.
Short URL: http://miltonmeasure.org/?p=4714