My son, currently in senior high school, has been complaining how his classmates and teachers have become ridiculously dependent on the group chat (GC), especially after they came back from the two-year online de facto classroom system that was unceremoniously thrust upon them by the COVID-19 pandemic.
After getting used to all the online tools available to them when classes were online, it is no surprise to see that the GC would become the preferred mode of communication in their class, even if they already see each other face-to-face. You can’t blame them for choosing to communicating via GC as it is easiest way to get a message or set instructions clearly to a group of people.
My son’s problem with the GC is that its continuous availability makes it easy for teachers and classmates to change plans anytime they like, because any changes in any plans can be easily broadcast to the entire group. Because of this, they have lost the art of giving clear instructions. Just last week, I see him in a bad mood and its already past 10pm. He grumbles that their teacher has just informed their GC that they will have an activity the next day that will need them to bring certain things to school.
The ability to communicate with students at any time of day is a GC feature that teachers shouldn’t use and abuse. Telling the GC at past 10pm of a sudden change of plans negates all the advantages of the GC and turns it into a massive disadvantage for those who either already made plans or those who haven’t prepared what needs to be prepared without prior notice. From the assignment notebook of the olden days, where teachers had to list down what students had to prepare for their succeeding classes, we now have the GC where teachers can change plans or make new ones past 10pm. Is there a time limit set by the school administration for teachers to use their classroom GC or, if 10pm is ok, will past 12 midnight be acceptable too? Or has the school administration forgotten to discuss GC etiquette and set ground rules with its teachers that are based on common sense and common decency?
In an ideal world, a classroom GC should only be used for two things. If the teacher is not included, then it is for useless stuff, gossip, gimmicks (do they still use that term these days?) and class hijinks. If the teacher is part of it, then it’s probably for important emergencies. It shouldn’t be a way for forgetful and unprepared teachers to post schedules and/or class requirements in the middle of the night.
Maybe my son’s problem with his classroom GC is not with the GC itself, but with the way it is being used and abused. Schools have to realize there is a lot of work left to be done as we transition back into whatever mode of learning and/or interaction they are going to use. Whether its full face-to-face or some kind of hybrid mode, ground rules have to be discussed and applied because as we have all experienced, even before the pandemic, common sense and common decency are one of the world’s biggest misnomers because it just isn’t common at all. Assuming that most people know it would be making a grave mistake.
Maybe I’m just antisocial, but personally, I don’t like being part of GC’s. They’re a pain to scroll through and require too much attention. As a rule of thumb, I automatically mute most GC’s with more than 8 members and will open the thread of those muted chats only if something especially juicy has happened or broken out. Otherwise, I really don’t care not knowing what so many people are talking about on a regular basis.
Another reason why I don’t like being in a GC would be all the back reading it makes us do, especially if the chat is filled with inside jokes and other irrelevant information that I’m not interested in. It is truly a pain to scroll through lines and lines of useless conversation just to find out where and what time a certain meeting or event will be.
But to be fair to the GC, it can also be heaven sent. Those who remembered what it was like when all we had was text messaging will appreciate the convenience of broadcasting information to a targeted group. If used properly, it is one of the most useful abilities of our smart phones and that would probably explain why we use it so much these days. The only problem with something so good is that humans always find a way to make it just as terrible.*