Social Media Campaigns: Strategies for Public Relations and Marketing by Carolyn Mae Kim (Book Review)

As I mentioned in a previous post about my Social Media class, this semester I’ve adopted Carolyn Mae Kim’s new textbook: Social Media Campaigns: Strategies for Public Relations and Marketing.

To put it simply: I’m so glad that I finally found a book like this.

social media campaigns kimKim’s book is among the most thorough and clear book I have read in terms of providing an overview of how to research, plan and execute a strategic social media campaign. For me, it is the end-to-end guide to help my students through understanding the process from start to finish.

If you’re familiar with strategic communication campaign planning, you’ll know key elements discussed in this book – from background research and audience analysis to goals, objectives, key messages, strategies, and tactics. And Kim does a wonderful job of explaining them to students in clear,  to-the-point language. Further, she does a wonderful job tying them directly to social media planning.

Because my social media class is situated after the principles of PR course and before our campaigns class, I believe this book is going to provide a strong transition from exposure to these concepts in PR that will help students build towards mastery and execution of these concepts in the campaigns class (In the social media class, I provide background research as well as the class campaign’s goals and objectives – though the students do complete their own social media audit and audience personas).

While there are many gems in this book, here are a few highlights that jump out to me.

  1. From the beginning, the book talks about how social media strategy needs to align who the organization is and why they exist. This should be a point of emphasis in any social media training.
  2. Social Media Listening – The second chapter on listening provides a comprehensive plan for developing and executing a social media listening plan. A strength is that students can complete much of what Kim discusses using free social listening or analytics tools because the concepts can carry across platform. The instructions for analyzing share of voice, for example, can be easily done in a spreadsheet program.  Here, Kim has inspired me to integrate teaching students to calculate SOV into my research class for next semester.
  3. Brand Persona – Chapter 3 gets students thinking about building the social profile of the brand and key considerations such as brand persona and voice (relating back to point #1 above).  We talk about these concepts in my class – and I think the way Kim explains them really rounds that out.
  4.  Content & Engagement – In discussing how to create engaging content that the audience will love, Kim goes beyond case studies as examples into key concepts of credibility, trustworthiness and more to explain to students tactics for achieving desired brand positioning related to these concepts.
  5. Chapters 5 cover implementation of your social strategy. Many tips and tools are discussed from creating an optimal content calendar to using alerts and harnessing social listening dashboards. But the book also covers important considerations such as crises and the inevitable social media fatigue audiences will feel.
  6. Chapter 6 covers evaluation. This chapter provides a great discussion of the intersection of social metrics and key outcomes related back to your campaign’s objectives.
  7. Lastly, I like that this book is concise while packing essential information. It is digestible, tightly written and everything ties together. An someone who puts a lot of emphasis trying to show my students how everything connects between my classes, I love that. And in an age where we are seeing many students who aren’t reading class texts, it’s all about packing a punch in an approachable package.

I’ve been teaching social media campaigns for 3 years, and I’m excited about the important details I picked up from this book. In several cases I found myself jotting notes of things I ways I plan to use things from the book to enhance my class or wishing I had the time and space in my class to integrate key concepts we simply don’t have time to discuss in the course of a semester. I’m very glad that my students will get a chance to read this book and get exposure to those things we don’t get to during class time.

-Cheers!

Matt

 

The Power of the Micro Screencast: How Educators Can create GIFs to Save Time and Enhance Learning

Everyone loves GIFs. As I’m sure you  know, you can now easily search Twitter for GIPHY.com Gifs to share. They seem to be everywhere.

But how can GIFs enhance your job as a professor and help your students learn more all while saving you time?

By creating micro screencast GIFs using Recordit or a similar desktop app.

These micro screencasts are perfect for demonstrating brief tasks (I’ve found 10 seconds or less is ideal). And they can be pasted just about anywhere an image can. No embed code. No video player required.

Recordit is free and works for Mac and Windows.

Example of a micro screencast (click image to see high res):

recordit-app-slack

Here are 3 quick ways you can create these micro screencast GIFs to enhance your teaching:

  1. Lab Guides with GIFS

I’ve written in the past about how I like to create lab guides in Google Docs for my students. I titled that post: “Are Your Classroom Handouts Stuck In the Last Century?

If  you missed that post, here’s a quick run down:

I began creating Lab Guides which are Instructional Handout with Multimedia (IHMs). I tend to create IHMs when  teaching students how to use a piece of software or complete a task online in instances when the steps are clearly defined and need to be followed in a specific order. They contain instructional material, embedded images, icons, links. Examples include: How to use Moviemaker, Blogger, Netlytic, etc.

In the past, these have contained lots of screen grabs demonstrating a process.  Not anymore.

Enter Recordit.

The newer lab guides I’ve been creating contain lots of GIFS of steps in a process, cutting down on need for lots of explanation and multiple still images.

For example, here’s a lab guide I created to get my students started with the basics of Netlytic.com – the free, web-based social network analysis site. The lab guide combines GIFs created in Recordit and screen captures created with Skitch (I’ll talk more about Netlytic in a post I plan to write next semester).

technology

Using Recordit is easy. You choose the part of the screen you want to record, then record the video. As soon as you’re done, you get a URL to the video or GIF online. Which leads me to…

2. Answer a student question/email with a GIF

Because Recordit automaticaly generates a URL, you can quickly share the video or GIF via email, over social media, you name it.

I often get student emails asking me for clarity on how to do something for a class assignment. Or, there are those emails from students who can’t find where something is on the course webpage.

It is far more time efficient to make a quick video or GIF and email them back the link to it than to type a lengthy description that feels like a technical manual that the receiver may not be able to follow through every step.

Time saved! Yes!

fist pump club breakfast breakfast club

3. Enhance your presentation slides with GIFs

No matter how hard we try to make a presentation that pops, we can find ourselves limited by Powerpoint. And soon, the audience is… well…

today presentation af powerpoint

Want to show how something on screen works to your audience?

In the past, I’ve often relied on screen grabs. But some things are better conveyed through dynamic visuals.

Creating a GIF is great for showing a brief process on screen.

For example, I’m using Recordit to show simple steps one can take in the messaging app Slack in my upcoming presentation on Slack for class teams the PRSA Educator’s Academy Super Saturday in Indianapolis this October.  I’ll be on a panel with two of my favorite social media professors, Karen Freberg and Ai Zhang. Hope to see you there!

The clips are 3-5 second loops showing how certain commands work in Slack (see example of micro screencast above and below).

Example micro-screencast (click image to see high res)

slack-for-teaching-screencast

How do you embed GIFs into Powerpoint?

Well, you can’t cut and paste the image from the web like you can a still image. Instead, create it or download it from the web and save the GIF to your computer. In Powerpoint on Mac, go to Powerpoint, click insert->photo->photo from file. It’s that easy. 🙂

I hope these quick tips help you see how GIFs can do more than create a laugh or a sense of nostalgia. They can be quick and easy teaching tools.

-Cheers!

Matt

 

What’s Changing? A look at my Social Media Class for Fall 2016

And we’re back…

Summer flew by as it always seems to. It was such a pleasure to see all the talented and motivated familiar faces and make new connections at AEJMC. I got to see many innovative educators whom I admire and whose work I follow. I had an amazing time starting my role serving as the Director of ICBO One Global Digital Strategy for the partner organizations of the International Congress of Behavioral Optometry and traveling to Australia as part of that project.

While summer was truly an opportunity for growth and new experiences, the semester has begun here at Shepherd University. That means, back to blogging!

With that said, it is time for my annual post about “What’s changing” in my classes this semester (you can see past posts here). Today we’ll focus on a few tweaks to my Comm 322 Social Media Class (prior posts about this class. Prior syllabi).

This class is one of the most fun but also one of the most challenging as things keep changing. And, I’m always looking for small tweaks to improve how I run my class as well as the content and the assignments themselves. Here are a few highlights on changes I’m making to my Comm 322 Social Media class this semester.

social media campaigns kim

  • New Textbook! I’m a big fan of Carolyn Mae Kim at Biola University and have had the pleasure of working with her on prior projects. So when I found out she was writing a social media textbook (titled Social Media Campaigns: Strategies for Public Relations and Marketing), I knew it was something my students needed to read. Even though it just came out this summer, I made sure our university was able to get it in time for the semester. I had the pleasure of an early look at the book, and it is excellent. I’ve decided to replace Brito’s book. I liked his book quite a bit, but students seemed to struggle with it a bit. I believe Kim’s book will be a better fit into the class and thus more accessible. Our second book in the class will be the updated version of an old favorite, Likeable Social Media. Later this semester, I’ll do a book review of Kim’s Social Media Campaigns: Strategies for Public Relations and Marketing on this blog.
  • Slack For Teams – You’ve probably heard of Slack the app and web tool that’s aiming to replace email for teams. I’ve written a bit on this blog about teamwork and how much I rely on it in my classes. With that said, I began using Slack last semester with a group of students I’ve been working with informally outside of class. I found it a great tool for keeping everyone in the loop, sharing files and links, etc. So this semester, I’m going to continue using it with that team but also bring Slack into my Social Media class for team communication. Because the class is broken into different teams for different social platforms, in group and between group collaboration is important.  I know students may be a little reticent to use a new tool, when often they text or use Facebook Messenger to communicate with one another. I have a few ways in which I’m going to require use of Slack for class assignments. It should be an interesting experiment and testing it in this and another class will make for a great experiment in enhancing classroom teamwork. Look for a full blog post later this semester. I’ll also be presenting on Slack in Indianapolis during Super Saturday later this semester.
  • More with Metrics – I spent a lot of effort last year working on upping my metrics game. While I believe I’ve still got a ways to go, I’m planning to bring in professional social media listening tools into the social media class. We have access to Microsoft Social Listening now here at Shepherd. And may possibly have access to other professional tools.
  • Evolving But Keeping The Core of the Main Project – Due to the repeated success I’ve had with the semester-long project in this class (from student feedback, from my own evaluation and feedback from others), I’m not going to change anything structurally to it. However, with the ongoing evolution of social media I’m hoping for some fresh ideas from students on how to use tools like Instagram stories. With enough push from the students, I might even consider starting a Snapchat for our department. Though I’m not a Snapchat person myself, I was super inspired by Ai Zhang’s presentation on Snapchat at AEJMC (read about Dr. Zhang’s work on Snapchat).  If you’d like to see posts about that project, you can see an overview here and a reflection here.

A copy of the syllabus is below. It can also be found via the menu on this blog.

Altogether, it is going to be an exciting semester here! And I’m excited to be back in the classroom. I’ve got plenty of new things I’m doing to become a better educator and continue to improve my classes. I plan to blog about them throughout the semester. So stay tuned!

Hope that your semester is off to a great start!

-Cheers
Matt

 

Edit Faster: Stop Wasting Time with Unnecessary Scrolling in Microsoft Word

Hope summer is off to a great start! If you’re like me, summer means writing, writing, writing!

As I like to do once in a while, I thought I’d share another productivity tip for professors.

Today’s tip has to do with Microsoft Word. This is a favorite feature of MS Word I use all the time for grading, research writing, or just about anything else.
If you’re like me, you often jump around in a document. For example, when I grade student papers in MS Word I like to leave summary comments at the top of the document. So, as I scroll down the paper reading, I don’t want to have to scroll all the way back up to the top, write a comment, then go back and find where I was in the paper.
The solution? Splitting an open document so I can work on two separate parts of the same document at once. By splitting a document, I can have a section at the top open where I am writing comments to the student, and another section that I am reading. This is also very helpful when working on research. Commonly, I’ll have my document split so that I can work on a section while reading other parts of the paper. For example, when writing a discussion section it is helpful to have the lit review accessible to ensure I’m addressing topics/issues discussed in the lit review.
There are 2 key ways of doing this:
“Split” (horizontal split of same document in 1 window)
Split splits your document horizontally so that the same window has a line that can be dragged up or down to create two sections in the window. In each section, is a different part of your document that you can scroll to. Thus, the document is split into two sections on top of one another.
To use this, in Word click “Window” in the menu, and select “split”.
(Note: You can remove the split by simply dragging it up or down to the edge of the window and letting go)
SPLIT-1
“New Window” (Same Document – Two Separate Windows)
While I love split, sometimes I want to work on the same document side by side, as opposed to stacked on top of each other. Using new window, you can have the same document in two different windows. You can work on the document in one window, and the changes occur instantaneously in the other window. New Window lets you do anything you can normally do with two separate windows – one on top of the other, side by side, one small one large, one minimized, etc., etc.
To use this feature, in Word click “Window” in the menu, and select “new window”.
SPLIT-2
In both cases, you are saving one file. So closing a split or closing 1 of the windows in new window doesn’t impact anything.
Hope you enjoy this great saving trick!
– Cheers!
Matt
 – split or
– Edit side by side in Windows

Summer Break Update

Summer is in full swing. And I’ve got a busy summer ahead. As always, during the summer months I will be toning back my frequency of posting on this blog. I do have a few things I’ll post here and there. Not to worry, I’ll be picking up full steam with my regular publication schedule of posting every 2 weeks during the academic year.

palmtreeoverlagoon_cookislands

This blog tends to get a lot of traffic in summer in relation assignments and syllabi  that I have shared over the years.

Assignments:

If you are looking for assignments and syllabi, you’ll see that I’ve written about many of my assignments and included the assignment documents themselves.

To access those select the green menu bar at the top titled “Blog topics” -> “Teaching Social Media” -> “Classes” and then select the class.

Syllabi:

Syllabi can be accessed either via the “Syllabi” menu at the top of this blog and selecting the course, or by selecting the “Teaching Materials” menu and navigating to an external document repository to access all my uploaded syllabi.

If you have questions about any of the assignments or syllabi, please do not hesitate to send me a Tweet. I’d be happy to chat.

A few Quick Updates

I am super excited to announce that I earned tenure and will be an Associate Professor in the Department of Communication this upcoming fall.  The adventure to earning tenure was a lot of work, but I had a ton of fun and made sure not to stress too much about it. I am excited now for the projects and opportunities before me.

What do I have planned for the summer?

Lots of things. As always, I’ll be tweaking classes and assignments here and there. In fact, I’ve already developed a new project for my Communication Research class in the hopes of enhancing the tie in of social media data and software into that class (I’ll blog about this in the spring when I teach the class again). A few highlights include:

  • Preparing my Persuasion and Message Design Course which I will be teaching for the first time next semester.
  • Traveling to Australia – I’ll be spending a few weeks “down under.”
  • Social Network Analysis class – I’m planning to work through this free online social network analysis MOOC by Leonid Zhukov and Dr. Ilya Makarov to enhance my knowledge of social network analysis.
  • Service projects – I’m working with a non-profit to assist them with a global digital communication project.
  • Research – Working on a small grant I got with research colleagues to prepare for our upcoming study of the upcoming presidential election. I’m also working on a few other projects.
  • Studying Spanish – I’ve always wanted to learn a second language and I plan to spend some free time learning a little.
  • Reading several books – mostly books of personal interest. But there are a few social media books have been recommended to me I’m hoping to get time to get around to.
  • Other creative projects? I’ve been bouncing around the idea of starting a podcast (I have a few ideas) or starting a separate blog for some area of personal growth (e.g., organization, productivity, or similar vein of self improvement), writing a book, or some other type of creative project. Feel free to Tweet your thoughts, feedback, or suggestions on these to me!

I hope you have a wonderful summer! I hope you get to both relax and work on the projects that fuel and inspire you!  Stay in touch! I’ll see you soon!

-Matt

What Happens When Students Write For BuzzFeed For A Class Project?

Earlier this semester, I wrote about a new opportunity and assignment for students in my Writing Across Platforms class: writing BuzzFeed community articles.

That post got a ton of shares and feedback. So I want to offer a follow up and reflection of how the project went. If you haven’t yet, I encourage you to first get some background about the assignment via my post “What’s Changing? My Writing Across Platforms students will write for BuzzFeed and More in Spring 2016. Oh, And here’s the syllabus!

I was super impressed by the variety and creativity of the posts.  The topic was ‘spring break’ and the students came up with everything from “17 Outdoor Adventures You Need To Try This Spring Break” to “10 Things To Do When You’re A Broke College Student On Spring Break: As Told By Animals” to “Ten Locations You Dream Of Exploring Over Spring Break.”

The biggest success story, in terms of views and shares, came from Abby Buchanan’s “14 Things You Do When You’re Stuck In A Small Town For Spring Break.”  The post was featured on the Buzzfeed.com/Community page within 24 hours of being posted.

Click any image below to enlarge.

Screen Shot 2016-03-22 at 5.02.35 PM

Due to its success, it then was put on BuzzFeed’s main site.

buzzfeed-frontpage

By the end of 1 week, the student earned 29,000 views!

BuzzFeed_community-dashboard1

buzzfeed-community-dashboard3

For a little while, the post was also the first result in Google search when searching “spring break small town.” Congrats to Abby!

Overall Review

In review, the biggest challenge students faced was reaching their goal of 1,000 views in 1 week. Many students were stressing big time about this project, because reaching 1,000 views was part of their grade (20% of their grade came from views earned).

I spent some time considering why the majority of students struggled to reach 1,000 views.  Here are some thoughts:

  1. The topic had some drawbacks: The students posted their spring break articles after our university’s spring break, but some universities (and high schools) around the country were observing spring break the week their posts was posted. With that said, the spring break thing may have been a bit old by the time our students’ posts were up. Further, BuzzFeed didn’t seem as interested in spring break articles as it is in Valentine’s Day articles, which has a wider appeal. We had 1 student who had their Spring Break post on the main page of BuzzFeed community and of BuzzFeed.com – the home page – but I didn’t see too many other articles on either page during that week related to spring break.In addition, from analyzing all of the assignments against performance, there are a variety of reasons why students didn’t reach the mark:
  2. Lack of a thorough promotion plan. Students who rushed this part ended up paying the price in the end.
  3. Poor targeting: On a related note, students who didn’t have a robust picture of who their hyper targeted audience was.
  4. Focus: If the article subject lacked a clear focus or specificity to it, then it struggled. For example, if a student was trying to create an article that would appeal to ‘everyone’ or didn’t really hone in on what made their post unique.
  5. Poor or lack of iteration throughout the week: Some students did a great job of iterating in terms of their headline as well as some of their content. Students that took a ‘one and done’ approach and failed to improve their post as the week wore on, didn’t have success if their initial post didn’t catch fire.
  6. The student’s social media network: Some students do not use certain social networks for personal reasons. Students who suffered the most were those who do not have a presence on Facebook – which served as the primary driver for many of their peers.

buzzfeed-community-dashboard-2

Students who had success:

  1. Had beautiful or funny visuals
  2. Linked to other articles in their post – like national or regional parks. Then, they shared the post with the social media accounts of that location. That goes back to the promotion plan. Successful students had robust promotion plans targeted at influential thought leaders that would benefit from their content. For example,  the student who wrote “17 Outdoor Adventures You Need To Try This Spring Break” talked about the great adventures at nearby national parks. Then, she reached out to those parks on social media.  Smart!
  3. Tended to share across a variety of platforms. They thought of sites like Pinterest, Reddit, Tumblr, etc.
  4. Shared with different types of potential audiences – i.e., they did a good job of thinking of more than 1 audience that may enjoy their content and got the post into their hands.
    Made adjustments and changes to their headline or content, or shifting their focus on who would serve as a good opinion leader to share their content and thus who they reached out to.

In reflection, there are some pitfalls in how I executed this assignment and things I plan to improve for next year.

Pitfalls:

The biggest pitfall was the way views were incentivized.  Once students reached the 1,000 mark, they tended to give up – even if it was in just a few short days. For example, one student reached 1,000 in 24 hours and gave up (see below). After that, she stopped promoting it and only gained another 100+ views. The assignment doesn’t reward students past 1,000 unless they get to 10,000 views – which many likely see as impossible and thus they aren’t motivated to do so. Furthermore, I only gave 1 bonus point her 10,000 views, further reducing the benefit to cost.

buzzfeed-reach100viewsandgiveup

So what adjustments will I make?

Adjustments:

  1. Require students to draft the social media posts they plan to use to share their BuzzFeed article:
    Some students weren’t creative in coming up with different types of social media posts to attract their audience. Next year, students wil draft 3 different Tweets and/or posts to other platforms they plan to use to promote their post via your own social media accounts below. Students will be given some commonly used formats for writing social posts and will be told to use a variety of types from this excel spreadsheet of headline formulas or this list of headline formulas. The idea is to help students to learn to try different strategies for crafting the message.
  2. Headline writing: Though I spent a good amount of time talking about how to write effective headlines, this is something students still struggle with. I added the below info about the power of writing emotional headlines to the assignment for next time. Students will be told to read this article. Then, students will be required to use this tool to test the emotionality of their headline in order to iterate and improve it.

In sum, even though students were as successful on the whole as I’d have liked in terms of views, the assignment was a great success. The students had to think outside of simply turning in an assignment to me. They had to measure themselves against their own ability to plan a piece of hypertargeted content with the audience and promotion in mind, like they will do outside of the university. They learned from their successes and failures. I had a lot of conversations with a lot of students worried about not succeeding. I informed them that the purpose was to learn by doing – to adjust, adapt, and improve. And to me, that’s a big win.  I think much more was learned in this assignment than in the assignment I replaced it with.

As noted, we did have a breakout success beyond my expectations with a student landing her post on the main Buzzfeed.com site!

I plan to continue with this assignment next year when It each this class with the above modifications.

If you run this assignment in your class, I’d love to hear how it goes!

What I’ve learned in 10 Years of Teaching College (And Why I Give My Students High Fives)

It is hard to believe. But, I’ve just completed teaching at the university level for 10 academic years.

At the age of 24, I  began teaching as a graduate student in 2006 at Washington State University where I independently taught 2 classes a semester for 4 years. I had no idea what I was doing. I was barely older than the seniors. With a textbook in hand and the summer to prepare, I jumped right in.

As of this past Friday, I have completed 6 years of teaching as an assistant professor. All of that has been working with undergraduates.

Here’s what I’ve learned in the 10 years since I began. I can boil it down into one concept:

The quality and effectiveness of the education you provide as an educator is a function of the culture you build.

teaching-college-10-years

So, if you want to succeed as an educator, you begin by building a pro-learning culture. And a pro-learning culture is a pro-student culture.

Yes, it is the student’s job to learn in a classroom. Just as it is your job to work at your job. But where would you rather work, in a positive, welcoming, enthusiastic environment, or a in drab office that has the inspiration and personality of a filing cabinet?

Believe in the students – My Ph.D. advisor taught me that, as educators, we all must decide whether we believe students are inherently good or bad. That sounds dramatic. Let me explain. You can believe that your students want to learn, are talented and capable person and are honest with good intentions. Or, you can assume that they are lazy, cynical, unmotivated, etc. Your attitude on this will affect how you perceive them and how you treat them. Believing in your students is the foundation that enables everything else I talk about below to work. Which brings me to…

Set the tone – Students are extremely bright and perceptive. If the culture of the classroom is disengaged or the professor seems disinterested or “going through the motions” then students quickly pick up on this. The tone of the classroom starts with the professor. I’ve had classes where I didn’t succeed in setting the right tone and while the tendency is to start thinking “it’s the students,” I always remind myself to look at the energy and performance that I’m bringing into the classroom. While some groups of students are more difficult than others to energize, we can all make efforts to set the tone and remember that we’re seen as the person who is in charge. Students mirror. If we’re mentally somewhere else, are students will be too. Which brings me to…

You’re The Role Model – All the talent in the world doesn’t necessarily produce results. Many talented, under-performing sports teams prove this rule.  Just as a great coach extracts great performance from talented players, a great educator extracts great performance from talented students.  Students are looking for a leader. They are looking for inspiration. They are looking for someone they can believe in and trust. I see it as my job to inspire my team – the students – to go out and win the game (that is, do great work).  That’s not something you do in 1 day. It is a semester-long push, just the way a coach must push a team not for 1 game but for a season. Being a role model is a marathon effort and it is communicated to students through your actions, words, and attitude in all facets of the class. Which brings me to…

Infect your students with enthusiasm – How? For me, I bring the enthusiasm for what I do each day. I love what I teach. I love teaching. Mood is infectious. Energy, excitement, passion, and inquisitiveness are infectious. I learned this the hard way. When I was first teaching as a graduate student, I pushed for and got the opportunity to teach a 400-level new media course. There were 40 students in the class. I designed the entire class myself and this was my first time doing so. I began teaching social media to these students at a time when I’d never heard of another class teaching social media. There was no textbook, there were no resources, nothing.  It took a ton of work to build the class. I was overwhelmed and I didn’t feel like the class was going well. Some students began to show up late or leave early. They’d just get up and walk out. My confidence was shattered and this was a vicious cycle. As I performed worse, the students seemed more disengaged, which caused me to perform worse. After that semester, I read through my evaluations. A few students commented that I “complained about the weather.” I didn’t realize that I’d even done that – I’d left Miami Florida for the long, bleak winters of Pullman, WA and hadn’t quite acclimated. 🙂  I reflected on this and realized it wasn’t necessarily the material that the students didn’t appreciate. It was my attitude. It was my style of delivery. I quickly realized these were things I was in complete control over.  I’d spent so much time worrying whether I was providing the best possible education, material-wise, that I hadn’t focused on how I delivered it. I was passionate about the topic – after all, I’d sought out this opportunity and built an entire class. What little that meant to the students. They had no idea how I felt inside. For me, that was an epiphany that changed my entire approach to education. Which leads me to…

It’s not what you say, it’s how you say it -Delivery is important. Find creative ways to relay information. Beyond the passion of your delivery, is the manner of making content compelling. We’re all familiar with hands-on learning, flipped classrooms, and other ways to bring our classrooms to life with activities and not just lecture. But, moving beyond this, when we do lecture we can relay that information in memorable ways. I think each of us has our own talents and ways of telling the story of what we’re teaching. But, there are some great common tips we all can use from books like Made to Stick (I discussed how this book could be used in an earlier post). I’ve found that my favorite tactics are 1) to create mystery or suspense at the start of a lecture by withholding some piece of information or alluding to a funny anecdote or joke that I’ll reveal later in the class, 2) to make a big deal out of little things because, really, the little things are what matters. For example, I like to talk up activities we are going to in class, why they matter and how fun  they are going to be. I emphasize how valuable activities and lecture materials are going to be in helping students not only complete an assignment but succeed in other realms of their life or career. Which leads me to…

Make education an experience – I’ve never taken an acting class. But I look at education ‘as performance.’ Every time you’re in the classroom you’re putting on a performance. But the difference is that the audience can be actively engaged and participate in the story – they have roles. And that’s a pretty cool play. I try to do this in a lot of ways. Let me focus on one. I celebrate my students’ victories. I reward them for their success. I create awards and accolades. I show appreciation for them. I help them feel important. Here’s an example. For the last 6 academic years, I have given out “High-5 awards.” The idea is simple. As the syllabus in all of my classes reads, “High-fives will be given to students who miss no more than 2 classes at the end of the semester; two-handed high fives for students who miss no classes.” It is important to note that there is absolutely no grade associated with this high-5. You don’t get a better grade for having stellar attendance. On the last day of class, I play Rocky music and give out the high-5s. Double high-fives come with a little certificate that I sign.  I nervously tried this the first semester that I taught at Utah Valley University. I expected the students to laugh it off and not want to participate. How wrong I was. They loved it. It quickly caught on and the word spread. I’ve had students tell me they came back to take a class from me simply because they wanted to get another high-5.  I’ve had students tell me they came to class when they were sick, tired, or otherwise didn’t’ feel like, just so they wouldn’t miss out on getting the high-5 at the end of the semester.  How powerful is that?

This year, I gave out a very special high-5. I had a student who took 6 different classes from me and never missed a single day. Not once. To reward this student, I created a new award in his name. I made a special certificate that I framed and gave to him. I also created a sort of  plaque with his picture and name and hung it in my office. The idea is that if another student repeats this difficult task, he or she would be the recipient of this special award have their name added to the plaque that hangs in my office.

I’ve thought a lot about why the students like the high-5 awards so much.  Yes, it’s corny. Yes, they get a laugh out if it.  But I think the answer is simple. It shows I appreciate and recognize them. That I’m not just there to ‘download’ information to them. But, that I’m there to root for them.

Conclusion

All people respond to their environment. That environment can be motivating or demotivating. Educators have the power to be leaders. It seems that sometimes that is forgotten in our society.

But I know so many passionate and dedicated educators. I’ve seen the great things they’ve accomplished and the impact they have on lives. These people have inspired me in my 10 years of teaching. And it’s because of the educators I know and the wonderful students I’ve had the opportunity to teach that I’m excited about the future.

I love what I do. And this is what’s worked for me: putting my energy into creating a welcoming, rigorous, tolerant, and energetic culture in the classroom.

– Cheers,

Matt

photo CC NEC Corporation of America

 

A Social Media Education Blog by Matthew J. Kushin, Ph.D.