22 posts categorized "Marketing"

May 13, 2010

[Book Review]: Yes We Did, Rahaf Harfoush

Yes-We-Did-Rahaf-Harfoush Rahaf Harfoush's "front row seat" on the Obama campaign's social media tactics and strategy, along with skills honed in the researching of Tapscott's Wikinomics, make her timeline of digital prowess and must-read for anyone in the marketing, comms, community-building or campaigning line of work. For the rest, it's a fascinating look into the actual role of technology in the famous election campaign, and how "tech toys" were really about inspiring offline community-building and fundraising.

Some would say the book is too simplistic, but I think it's just simple: describing social media tactics for what they are, as simple, reflective and responsive actions rather than a grand strategy only gurus can prepare. If the book reads itself quickly, it's thanks to a clear, consistent design (from Scott Thomas, Obama's design lead, talking here about that experience at Behance's 99%) and a writing style that breaks everything down to its simplest components. This makes it great for those not running large marketing, comms or media budgets, but for those of us who seek to make small iterative steps in the longer term.

She takes us through

  • how simple thoughts on branding, and providing branding elements for fans to use, was a solid grounding from which to build online services;
  • how social networking elements went to existing groups and networks rather than trying to recreate everything from scratch;
  • the power of email, potentially the central tool in the campaign;
  • the emerging potential of text messaging to influence and cajole;
  • how blogs were used to give a voice to many people in the campaign, not just to broadcast about me, me, me...
  • some of the techniques to make the most of video (i.e. produce lots of it, regularly);
  • how analytics proved a vital element in understanding how to communicate with the audience.

Harfoush spoke last week at Lift in Geneva on the power of social networking in the campaign (I spoke there two years ago on the power of social networking for learning communities) but, as Kevin Anderson points out in the first comment on Stephanie Booth's liveblog of the talk, it wasn't the newer, more social technologies that wielded the greatest impact on the political journey - it was email. Once again, it is the lowest common denominator technology that makes the biggest impact, something both Clay Shirky in Here Comes Everybody and Esther Dyson have picked up on, the latter putting it as:

sometimes we call intuitive what is really just familiar.

You can follow Rahaf on Twitter, see her speak at Alan November's BLC2010 conference this summer, or buy her book at the Store.

March 08, 2010

Finding a shareable vision II: "Get Our Kids Into College"

Charter School Chicago
Continuing on from the stimulus of an English chef who knows his vision - to eradicate obesity - and wants us to "pass it on", I saw this piece on a US school making a huge difference to its learners' potential futures:

"I never had a doubt that we would achieve this goal," King said. "Every single person we hired knew from the day one that this is what we do: We get our kids into college."

While I don't think anyone in his school would argue that they are not also about producing "rounded individuals", "a caring environment" and all the other edu-fluff that we see in mission statements from schools and curricula, this school CEO in Chicago, working with an all-male, all-black school population in a deprived area, knows exactly what vision he wants achieved.

The next action for every member of that school community - teachers, parents, students even - is clear: get our kids into college.

You might not agree with it being the core aim, and we don't know what the next step of each individual might be (exam-bashing? constant revision? inquiry-led learning? who knows...), but at least the vision is clear and tangible. At least people know what to do, in concert with each other. What's your vision going to be?

January 19, 2010

Personal projects are often worth more than professional ones. What's stopping you?

It's all too easy to relegate our personal projects to the bottom of the pile until "the day job" is complete. The result? We nearly always end up having to leave creative, fun, new projects behind in the interest of ticking someone else's boxes, when those same personal projects could be the very innovation that make the difference.

Ji Lee was fed up with his life as an ad exec when he decided to engage the public in parodying that very same world, printing out 50,000 speech bubble stickers and placing them over ads around New York City. Over time, the public took the lead in inventing political or comical speech to make the parody. The ultimate parody in this project is, of course, that ad agencies used them to further promote their products. He spins a good yarn in his 99% video.

A personal project that took Ji Lee's name to the world and helped him find a seat as Director of Google's Creative Labs.

What's your personal project, and what's stopping you just getting on with it?

October 04, 2008

edu.blogs.com in Wall Street Journal. So what?

Wsj_blog_watch A fascinating and personal insight into the Long Tail in action. Earlier this week I appeared alongside illustrious company in the Wall Street Journal. However, I can't even find the referrals from there in the first few pages of my stats, with links from Google search, other educators and, lo-and-behold, Twitter, knocking the American giant of the printing press off into stat result obscurity.

There are, as usual, a lot of people typing the address into their browsers directly, but no discernible difference from normal numbers. Indeed, there's even been a 400 person decline in my subscription numbers since starting work at Channel 4 (evidently there's a great mistrust of thoughts coming from those who turn to the dark side of the media), a figure that's not buoyed by the one-hit clickers of the WSJ readership.

Conclusion? It's more worthwhile cultivating online and offline relationships with people than relying on large institutions' pull of strangers with no tangible digital breadcrumbs of their own. Here endeth the lesson.
Pic from Superamit

April 27, 2008

Bill Boyd's 'Literacy Adviser' on Mixed Metaphor

  Bill Boyd 
  Originally uploaded by Edublogger

Scotland might not win the World Cup of Football but we must come somewhere up the top for getting our football metaphors into every conversational opportunity.

Bill Boyd is a colleague at Learning and Teaching Scotland who's been working on our Literacy guidelines, some of the first in the world to mention the importance of understanding texts in all their digital forms. He's just started blogging and his latest post encapsulates his sense of humour, and slight affection methinks for the lesser-known Scottish mixed metaphor.

His blog's great fun, and after taking some advice in getting started his Google Juice is running high: Literacy Adviser.

July 26, 2007

More thoughts on using social media in business

I'm spending a day with some folk from Scottish Enterprise, Scotland's highly successful economic development agency. We're taking a look at how some of the older ideas I've been developing on social media for small, medium and large companies might work north of the Border. I'll be keen to see if we can maybe develop some new innovative ideas on making these tools work harder for Scottish enterprises.

April 03, 2007

National education agency on YouTube, Blip and GoogleVids

Ltsyoutube My employer, "the main organisation for the development and support of the Scottish curriculum", has this week launched its own YouTube channel.

OK, it only took a few minutes to do, but the will to do this in the first place, coming from Scotland's national education agency, should be a powerful message to all education authorities around the world: you can and you should be looking at how all technologies might provide an opportunity for learning and teacher development.

We've had GoogleVideo clips since last September, although most of the material is for proof of concept and is from the East Lothian area. We've also just opened a Blip.TV channel which should be more accessible in schools and which, I think, has a nicer interface than anything else - just need to fill that one up a bit. Once again, we're avoiding that big project, big launch thing. We just hope that we can get some even more interesting video out there over the next year - it's not like events such as the Learning Festival don't provide enough ;-) When we've got that we might make a little bit of a song and dance about it (we'll video the song and dance, of course).

The advent of TeacherTube should mean that we get in there, too, and we probably will. But part of me also thinks we should be engaging with 'real' tools first and foremost, not slightly phony 'safe' schooly curricular ones, where the quality of content is just as debatable as on non-schooly versions and doesn't seem to be kid-friendly. Judy's got a resounding silence to people who use it successfully in lessons, and I don't think it's really helping answer the real question: do teachers know how to exploit video online in a safe way? The answer, as Leon Cych hints, is probably not: how many of those kids in the videos have written sign-off from their parents, as East Lothian teachers have now been empowered to do? In the 21st century informal learning, not the formal stuff, will become the way the vast majority of lifelong learners will get their fix. Is creating a new silo of information which is deemed more valuable because of its 'safeness' worthwhile?

Clearly I don't think so, and, for once, we've got a public organisation making a very public statement on its intentions and desires with new technology: use what the kids use, use what engages them, and educate them about it in school.

In the time it takes Local Authorities to get this you can still capture YouTube videos from home to 'takeaway' into school. And innovative teachers like Neil Winton are realising that if you can't beat 'em with cool (and still highly useful and entertaining) school trip blogs, then join 'em in their Bebo pages as they discuss what happened on the trip. The discussion is on the same thing, just in a different place.

Meanwhile, what kind of videos would you find of interest from your (inter)national education provider? More of the same? I'd hope that we might also have some new ideas to bring to you through the box, but maybe the next big idea is from you. And, yes, we will see you on Bebo soon ;-)

February 16, 2007

CESI: Why should we innovate?

This is a follow-on run-through from the start of the talk I delivered today to the Computer Education Society of Ireland. You can read the beginning, perhaps, before reading the middle.

PrivategardenStephen Heppell speaks about the innovation cycle: change will always be happening, just a question of jumping on, and jumping off (no-one tells you that part). The successful innovator knows when to jump off and when to keep on just in case. Teachers don’t need to be the ones innovating: students can do that, too. Take a look at this innovative kid, left, talking through her "Private Garden", where the stems move with each incoming and outgoing email, chat, text message, phone call... It's a 21 Century kid doing the innovation, not the teacher, not the school.

Innovation is not something the teacher makes the decision to do, it just happens around us. All the time. Continuously. Not all innovation will lead to better attainment, more fun, more motivation, better learning - some of it is the equivalent of the Pepsi sweetener. Other innovation needs to be drunk by the can - it's not until you've gone through, learnt the hard way and failed a good bit along the way that you and the kids get the benefit.

I use five arguments to justify why there needs to be some evolutionary change in the way we use ICT. We've forgotten the 'C' part (Communication) for too long. The communication doesn't always need to take place through the technology, but can take place Face-to-Face thanks to the technology in a collaborative film-making activity in class, for example, where the communication comes not just from the message in the video but also the collaborative activity (negotiation, role-allocation, instructional language...) taking place in the making of the film. It's difficult to have that level of collaboration between 30 people if one person, the teacher, wants to maintain constant, uncompromising control on each decision, outcome, next step or tangent. The tech is going to change the teach.

Slide023 1. Audience
I always harp on about this, but if my kids produce some work I'd like to think it was interesting enough to share with at least one other person. Parents, peers, other teachers, other countries, the local community - how are you going to let them know about the work your kids are doing, the processes they've gone through to get there, the failures they've overcome...?

In the 19th Century classroom...
...the average audience for student work is one (two for a conscientious student who bothers to read their own work). Even in whole school display I'm not convinced the whole school becomes avid viewers of their peers' artwork or essays. When I was at Musselburgh I stood in the corridor for weeks at breaks and lunchtimes, looking to see who stopped to observe student work on the walls. I was surprised quite so many did, but they were all from the class to whom the display 'belonged'.

Slide019 In the 20th Century classroom...
...there have maybe been some missed opportunities for kids to communicate with their local communities. With more abundant projectors than ever before why are two or three of these not pointed window-wards to project that day's best artwork and sculpture from the school? Passers-by in the community could observe the work taking shape and then, at the end of term, see the final products in their full glory. You could even take things to extremes at certain points in the year, doing what they did at Rouen Cathedral with a couple of Monet prints.

In the 21st Century classroom...
...we invite children to redraft work in its entirety in jotters, workbooks and foolscap paper (it's called foolscap for a reason ;-) In three clicks I can publish whatever I want - this text, links and photos, for example - to whoever wants to read it. Because it's a blog people can subscribe to the content so that every time I write something new they get it in their inbox (find out how to do that). That means that I have an instant audience of around 1200 people for everything (and anything) I pop up.

We don't need to rely on a staff to run our print presses anymore, we can do it with one finger and an internet connection. And we don't need permission - kids are already encyclopedia editors and self-publishers on the net. How many English teachers are there who have published work? Hmmm...

Writing on a blog means that your content is frequently updated which means you have great Googlejuice. The location of today's talk was Coláiste de h-Íde, whose traditional school website has been knocked into second place by RateMyTeacher - RateMyTeacher doesn't even have a 'feed' (wee orange button that replicates the content elsewhere on the web for you, helping others find you) in the same way as a blog does, so the school would find it really easy to create a better web presence just be handing over the school blog to the kids to update daily.

2. Creativity Unleashed
Taking a digital photo is quite creative. Preparing it for publication more so. Publishing the photo and commenting on other photographers' work is highly creative. Publishing the already highly creative work undertaken in schools means that creativity is truly unleashed.

358355868_c4e58d41c2 Take the Five Frame Story or Six Word Story based on one photograph. Besides being a creative enterprise, with thought of storylines, aesthetics and meaning, publishing the photos on Flickr adds an additional creative element: students can leave comments on pictures, so each member of the class can write alternative elements to stories under each photo. Not being able to publish pics of kids may not be such an issue if you let them work around that rule: Play Mobil and Lego can take on a life of their own in a photo story.

What about adding some notes to a photo to explain the history of art concepts from that trip to the museum? You can't do that with one printed photo or a textbook.

Comments from these kids as they made a podcast on their city show that simply publishing their work made them work harder and better.

3. Differentiate by raising the bar
Differentiation doesn't mean that you have to produce a million multi-coloured worksheets. Differentiation might involve a new skill (creating a radio show or podcast) which is in itself quite challenging, but which allows the weaker pupil to stretched in that area while practicing, drilling their basics. Meanwhile, more able pupils get the motivation to produce something for a real reason (why not add your city guide podcasts to a real city guide site?).

300pxbluetooth Making the work of kids digital, even if it is just taking a picture of display work, means that you can also make it portable. Audio, video and visuals can be transferred via Bluetooth to mobile phones - just transferring one example of a 'good talk' or your teacher-made podcast on the life of the Potato Famine to one mobile, you can have a class of thirty spread this video amongst themselves within a 40 minute class. Take the stuff of viral marketing that works so well for Mentos and CocaCola and make it work for learning.

That means, like the PiE Language Project has done, that the teacher acts as guide, encouraging kids to create their products and publish them in a variety of large, medium and small file sizes that can be read on PSPs, DSs, iPods and mobile phones.

What if you're an English language teacher or the project you are working on just involves more words than it does pictures. You could take a leaf out of Adam Sutcliffe's RateMyMates, a weblog where student work is displayed (PowerPoints, text, MP3 audio recordings) and then commented upon by students in the same class and those from other schools, even. Formative assessment in a manageable and fun format, designed with the kids and not the curriculum-makers at heart.

More lengthy text can be seen developing from scratch in the creative writing process blog, Progress Report. From a short first paragraph full of comma splice and cliché, to a finely tuned finished version, built up over six weeks, the student eventually got a huge jump of grades in a seemingly impossibly short period of time. The difference between her and the rest? She blogged her writing bit by bit, and made the process of creative writing more efficient than was being done in the classroom.

It's also just more efficient and, well, greener. Take a look at the amount of paper wasted on producing folios for English language and you see what I mean.

4. Authentic Purpose
I feel that publishing for an audience is already an authentic purpose for a task - the need to interest, inform or entertain the public with what you are learning brings with it inherent authenticity. The next time a kid asks "Why do we have to do this?" will you secretly answer "Why do we have to do this?"? If you do, what could you do to make that task more authentic, where you could publish the kids' work to make it worthwhile? Why write a 'pretend' newspaper article when they can make the news for real by publishing it on a blog for real people?

5. It's not about the Tech, it's about the Teach. Yes, but...
...the tech will change the Teach. This leads to its own batch of concerns and desires to learn. That's for the next post... In the meantime, do you see a change in the role of the teacher in all this?

January 21, 2007

You don't need a website, you need a blog

Don Ledingham publishes an email tonight from one of our Exc-el readers in Portugal who had trouble finding a resource that had been posted on the old Exc-el website. This one-dimensional site served its purpose at the beginning of the Exc-el project but would have been straining had it to cope with the burgeoning community that's taken up blogs, Flickr, wikis and podcasts in the past four months or so. The old site is something I have been advising to be replaced and I wanted to share a few reasons why.

Oldexcel Making simplicity out of complexity
When the old Exc-el site was at its peak it was grumbling under the strain of around 20 authors, with 14 initial levels of entry and another dozen or so levels thereafter, before you got into your content. That meant a minimum of around three or four clicks before you got to what you wanted, and those clicks were infuriatingly slow on a fast connection, unusable in schools.

With the new eduBuzz site we are working at reducing that to two clicks with our two button, two-level hierarchy, and a more complex (for us) way of making the East Lothian blogosphere easier (for you) to understand. Initially we were going to use Pageflakes for this, but this will be introduced later in the year once some refinements and user tests have taken place.

Newedubuzz Making a truly bottom-up project
The old Exc-el site was built on technology that revolved around a webmaster granting permissions for people to publish, building in their links manually to the homepage so that people could find things, publishing things for those people who had a wad of material that came from a Word file on their desktop. The result might be that fewer people chose to share. Now that a 'free-for-all' Word Press Multi User server, which we own, is there waiting to dole out blogs we have seen the number of blogs soar from around 20 to nearly 300, all within the space of around three months.

Getting East Lothian some Googlejuice
Static HTML type sites, with no orange RSS button in the menubar, just attract less attention on the web than blogs, Flickr pages or wikis. It's not because these three technologies are more hyped than the humble web page, it's because blogs, wikis, Flickr pages et al have more Googlejuice. They appear higher up search rankings on nearly every topic. There are a couple of reasons for this.

  1. Every time a post is written the whole website registers with Google that it has been updated. Google gives preference to websites which are updated often.
  2. Every time you write a post you also create a new page in the site, therefore giving more for Google to search and match up between posts. All of your posts become intertwined with each other, giving more relevance to people searching for information. Blogs connect your information for you and your readers.
  3. Every time someone links to one of your posts, your Googlejuice is enhanced. Blogs have a tendency to attract more links than static sites, simply because they, or rather their authors, tend to engage in conversations which attracts linking back and forth. Static sites do get links, but they aren't as sticky for people because the personal connection is less to the fore than in a blog.
  4. The feed coming off your blog is replicated many times across the web, as RSS aggregators and link blogs pick up on your keywords, excerpts or even entire posts. This increases coverage of your work, and increases your ranking in Google, as these aggregators link back.

The number of hits doesn't matter
This last point is also one reason why traditional organisations don't like blogs or anything with an RSS feed, since it can remove visitors from your site - they needn't click through to read the story. It's really important that organisations get over this, and take the attention (and it's equally important that aggregation services around the web encourage their users to visit the blogs themselves, with either excerpts or juicy editorial to drag people in).

Jeff Jarvis was writing an must-read just last week at how the number of hits a site receives nowadays means very little indeed. For example, I get anything between 500 and 1000 visitors a day to this blog. Most of them won't come back, having Googled and found the information they were looking for. Many will choose to add me to their aggregation for a wee while, and then knock me off (oddly enough, this seems to happen at the weekend, when people are cleaning up). But the most important readers for me are those who choose to add me to their aggregation long term. There's about 1000 of them in addition to those passers-by, who get each post as and when it is written. They're also the ones who enter into conversations and who I never (rarely ;-) say 'no' to when they ask for some help. This readership, whose 'hits' or 'visits' don't register as a great stat are more important to the profile of this blog and the enjoyment I get from the conversations than the impressive-or-not hits I might get.

So, my advice on some of the great material sitting in website silos around the country is to wikify or blog everything, enter into conversation, make stuff that was once a Word document into some engaging, chunked prose which you spin out throughout the course of the year. Tag it, categorise it, find other people talking about the same thing and converse with them. It's not just that information sitting on websites is becoming more difficult to find as the blogosphere takes search results over. It's that wikifying or blogging your material will make it more useful to us all as we can become part of it.

"Our material is so good that people will know where to find it - blogging it will just make it seem less important or coherent" - no-one's said that to me personally yet, but if you are thinking of it, I refer you to Dr Hugh.

December 04, 2006

Quintura - visual tag cloud connective search

Yakov Sadchikov wanted to catch up with me at MediaTech2.006 (edublogscom reportage here) and, having seen his product, it was mutual! Quintura allows you to browse related topics to the topic you are searching for - great when you're not too sure what you want to get into. I did a quick search for some East Lothian-related issues and got a great overview of the projects, bloggers, Flickr-ers, courses and websites we run. I tried an ego search and David Warlick came up - what does that say?

The powerful thing? You can save the search cloud you have sought and then refined. This means that we could probably will set up a really powerful cluster-based model of search within the new East Lothian social media portal and let individuals drill down further from there.

I'm sure there are uses for it coming into your heads, too. Take a peek at Quintura or look at the East Lothian/Exc-el results and let Yakov and I know what you think.

About Ewan

Ewan McIntosh is the founder of NoTosh, the no-nonsense company that makes accessible the creative process required to innovate: to find meaningful problems and solve them.

Ewan wrote How To Come Up With Great Ideas and Actually Make Them Happen, a manual that does what is says for education leaders, innovators and people who want to be both.

What does Ewan do?

Module Masterclass

School leaders and innovators struggle to make the most of educators' and students' potential. My team at NoTosh cut the time and cost of making significant change in physical spaces, digital and curricular innovation programmes. We work long term to help make that change last, even as educators come and go.

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