Slack: helping Teachers ‘be less busy’?

A few years ago, Julian Coultas recommended we tried using Slack at school. It’s basically a chat service for work, allowing users to easily and quickly communicate across the whole school team. You can pay for it, but the free option gives most of the functionality you would need. At that time, I knew it wouldn’t work because not everyone in the school had easy access to a computer. However, as we were making sure every member of staff had a computer from the beginning of this term (desktops for office staff, iPod Touch for Early Years and iPads for everyone else – teachers and TAs), I thought it was time to give it a try.

We’ve only been using it for a couple of months, but here’s some benefits I’ve seen:

  • I’m receiving and sending much less email internally. Much of that email was just letting people know things or having a conversation about a topic, all of which is easier in a ‘chat’ interface.
  • Slack’s organisational structure of open channels, private channels, individual direct messages and group direct messages means all communication comes ‘pre-filed’. For every email received, you have to decide whether to delete it, leave it in an inbox or file it away in a folder. With Slack, this decision has already been made by the sender.
  • Email, because it’s a bit like sending a letter, tends towards the more formal, insisting on a salutation and closing greeting. Short and to-the-point messages can come across rude. With Slack, short and concise messages are just informal and fun.
  • Sending emoji via email can be hit-and-miss whether the receiver can display it, whereas Slack loves emoji! This makes the communication that little bit more fun and light, something that the teaching profession could always benefit from.
  • With push notifications enabled, Slack can cut through the communication ‘noise’ of email. Because you choose what channels you want to be part of, and all communication is from within your team, every Slack message is potentially relevant and important and so worth a notification.
  • Email can have quite small attachment file size limits, whereas Slack allows for the sharing and resharing of all manner of files and media. It supports all the ‘Open In’ hooks in iOS too, which is nice.
  • The people at Slack seem like a really friendly bunch and have always been super helpful with any support issues.
  • Push notifications also make communication really instant. Our IT technician doesn’t have a walkie-talkie because sending a DM or posting to #ictfaults has just as quick a response!

There is a strong network effect with Slack – it only really works if everyone in your organisation is part of the team and has easy access to a computer device. But it seems to be working for us!

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