ICT & Computing in Education

The site for all those with a professional interest in teaching, using, managing and leading educational ICT and Computing

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Business emails to inspire confidence (not)

There must be a whole generation of people who know the mechanics of using technology, but have no idea of how to take charge of it. I am thinking in particular of the ridiculous marketing messages I receive, that advertise targeted marketing services. I mention this because, despite all the lambasting of “Office skills”, it is demonstrably clear that people need them. I could even make a case for this being related to digital safety. How? Reputation is important, and marketing messages that have “schoolboy errors” do nothing to enhance one’s credibility. Consider the following examples:

First, bear in mind two facts:

  1. These are all examples from companies who are trying to sell me their services in order that I can lunch advertising and marketing campaigns at people who have been identified as potential customers;
  2. My name is “Terry”, which is pretty obvious from my email address, which contains the word “terry”.

Double check, by Guian Bolisay http://www.flickr.com/photos/instantvantage/

Who is Travis?

One marketing company consistently opens all its messages to me with the words “Dear Travis”.

An unknown quantity

I received an email from one of these companies recently that opened with the heart-warming and highly personalised, “Dear X”.

What are you saying?

I receive regular emails that start with a chirpy “Hi, Margaret!”. I don’t think I look like a “Margaret”; maybe it’s the way I have my hair.

A highly unpersonalised blanket email

Perhaps the worst one of these was the message that didn’t even attempt to personalise the message. It began with “Greetings!” and then went on to list all the industry sectors it could provide lists for. And I mean all: every single sector is listed. At least the others made a stab, however incompetently, at addressing the fact that I work in education.

What lessons can be learnt?

I don’t agree with teaching Office skills per se, and in any case I think the problem of schools doing so has been highly exaggerated. But it is clearly important to ensure that pupils understand not just the mechanics of mail-merging, but the importance of checking the data that is generated.

In the old ICT Programme of Study, one of the key characteristics of Level 4 was to be able to check data for plausibility. It seems to me that that is a key skill, and in its own way just as important as being able to check data for accuracy. And the key fact about checking for plausibility, as opposed to accuracy, is that it cannot be automated. Well, I suppose it may be possible to develop a program that can check for the presence or absence of a whole range of characteristics and then come to a conclusion about how feasible it is, but someone would still need to check that!

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(c) Terry Freedman