My goal to learn something new every day
The concept is actually very simple, you write an email to yourself (or another person if you wish), set a future date on which you wish to receive the email at and wait (although you might want to do other things while you’re waiting). The developers behind the website have this to say about it:
[S]end your future self some words of inspiration. Or maybe a swift kick in the pants. Or just share some thoughts on where you’ll or what you’ll be up to in a year, three years…more? And then we’ll do some time travel magic and deliver the letter to you. FutureYou, that is.
A really quite simple and elegant idea if you ask me. Of course the language teacher in me immediately started thinking about how this might be a useful tool to use in the classroom.
There are essentially two options for how to use the site. One involves signing up, and the other doesn’t. Let’s begin with the easiest one first: no sign-up.
You, or your students, just go to the front page, FutureMe.org, and there, you will see a form to fill in with your email address, subject, message and date to send (there are also options for you to make the letter public or private. More on that later). After sending the email, you will get a short email from the site with a link asking you to verify. You’ll need to click the link in the email to make sure that the email gets sent on the date specified. It also means you can check that you typed your email address correctly.
The site also has an option to sign up (free). From what I was able to gather, sending emails is exactly the same, but all emails sent while you are signed in are saved and available for you to browse. By signing up, you also get the option to send emails to other users.
The first thing I thought was how good this tool might be for use in the classroom. As it turns out, Pearson have beaten me to it, as in their Speak Out Upper Intermediate book (thanks to my old school classmate Daniel Kearney on Twitter for pointing this out) they have a lesson based on the website. Mike Griffin also mentioned that he has done something similar, though not through this site, in his classes. I don’t have access to the Speak Out book to see the activity, but I was able to find the contents page on the Longman (Japan) website which says this about the unit:
6.2 Future me
Future perfect and future continuous
Optimism and Pessimism
Read a letter written by someone to his future self
Talk about your future hopes and plans
Write a letter to your future self
Because in my teaching context I don’t get to see my students consistently, doing writing activities, with feedback is quite challenging. However, this site might go some way to solving that by giving more of a purpose to the activity. Anyone who’s read anything about recent theories of motivation in language learning will no doubt have come across the idea of different selves. Zoltan Dornyei talks about the ideal L2 self and the ought-to self. The ideal L2 self is essentially how a learner sees themself in the future and can be a strong motivator (more about future selves in this pdf from Dornyei). So what better way than to really get students thinking about themselves in the future, for real, knowing that one day they’re going to receive an email.
I guess the email could be a series of questions for the future self. It could also be some advice for the present day self, spoken from the point of view of future self.
The site also gives you the option to make your email private (i.e. only you will see it) or public, but anonymous, which means that the site does not publish your email address, but does publish the content for the whole world to see. This means that the site is a great resource of authentic examples of real texts for you (or the students) to mine for ideas.
It also kind of reminds me of this (hilarious) video from a few years back. A guy decided, when he was 12 years old, to record himself talking to himself in the future. Twenty years later he comes back to answer the questions and stitch together a video of his 12-year-old self talking to his 32-year-old self.
Perhaps it could even be used as a lead-in to a class, although there is some mild swearing so play with caution.
I’ve not used this in class yet, but would like to. If you have done this, or anything similar, I’d be really interested to hear how it went. Suggestions for possible other activities based on the site are also very welcome.
Featured image courtesy of zirconicusso at FreeDigitalPhotos.net