Slack yes, slack tips
Updated: Oct 6, 2020
Yes, I use Slack (and love it). No, I haven't done it very well. And I absolutely have tips!
When the world went haywire in the spring, we were all relying on email to stay in touch with our students, especially as we were figuring out to migrate from f2f to online. Well, my email went just as haywire. Students sent stuff, it disappeared, they sent me screenshots of when they sent it, I believed them (I always do). So what to do?
My co-teacher in this interdisciplinary class about video game story development that we've been teaching for four years -- she's in Computer Systems Technology -- reminded me that the gamers all use Discord. But that she thought Slack would be good for me because it's more "professional."
So I gave it a shot for the summer. And it worked great! Quick problem-solving, quick turnaround, DM's all over the place. I was sold. But this fall I've realized I wasn't using it quite right or well enough. So here's what I've learned -- tips!
1. Set up a workspace for each class. In Discord, they're called Servers, but in Slack, they're Workspaces. My mistake was a single workspace for everybody and different channels for different classes. Bad move. I've suddenly got 100+ students in a single workspace, half of whom are long gone. It's made class management a nightmare. So... workspace for each class, set up channels within each workspace. However...
2. Don't go crazy with the #channels. I've read some articles about how Slack was a nightmare, but those authors all admit they created a whole bunch of channels within the workspace. Which, not surprisingly led to chaos. So my advice: one channel for homework questions, one for announcements, one for the students to chit chat about nothing at all, and ones for each group (if I'm using group projects, which I do). Simple, clean.
3. Use the student emails to send them all invitations at the beginning of the term. Again, my fault. I asked them to send me preferred emails, then I sent them an invitation, then they had to join. Next term, I'm sending a blast intro email before the term starts (our school has a way to do that and most of us used it this term to great success) which gives them first-day information and tells them they're going to get an invitation to Slack. All they have to do is join.
4. Create a mini-video on how and why to use Slack. Again, my fault. They mostly figured it out, being the digital people that they are, but it would have helped to post that on the class website, too.
5. Set response time boundaries. I actually did this but need to really clarify. No responses from me between 10 pm and 6 am! Seriously. I'm old. They can send, but I turn off my notifications. They figured it out and it was cool.