This semester, I joined 11 million other people and began IMing at work. Now, I’m not exactly new to the IM thing. Heck, I remember spending hours text-chatting two decades ago, and my ICQ number has an enviable number of digits. (Now if I could just remember the password.) But most people didn’t have my account number and I liked it that way.
This was the first semester I put an AIM address on my web site and my syllabi. Note that AIM is the preferred IM system on campus; it is distributed on the freshman CD-ROM, and the reference librarians are available on it. And so while students always *could* reach me on IM, now it’s much easier.
As a result, I get the pop-up window at all hours of the day. But I really don’t mind. Sometimes they get the answer they are looking for, and if I just don’t have the time, it’s much more flexible. I haven’t had an undergrad come in to office hours yet this year, but I’ve chatted on IM with several.
Lots of people talk about how new communication systems lead to more frantic lives. It seems to me that this is a perfect example of how that is not always the case. Frankly, students seem to drop by my office at the worst of times. As soon as I begin working to a deadline, I get students (and faculty) dropping by my office to chat. I always feel rude saying that I have to get to work on something, but IM does not require the same level of, well, politeness.
For me, at least so far, it has been a completely positive experience. Another faculty member prefers to chat with students on the phone. I don’t like to do this, but I may very well publish my Skype address next semester, just to see if I get any takers.