Success Stories: Authentic Style Video

So... ten thousand views on a video that you made in house... that's good right?

Heck yeah that's good, in fact that's awesome!

Two organizations that I work with have had some awesome success recently with authentic style video shot right on a phone.

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Norfolk Academy used the 'Event Highlight' storyboard while the Newfound Lake Region Association took a novel approach to the 'Walkabout' storyboard.

Have you had success with authentic style video? Let us know in the comments! Want to learn how to make these kinds of videos (and download the storyboards)? Check out our free course over here!

New home page video feature!

I was pretty pleased when Squarespace announced its new video background feature. I had done this in the past with a fairly awkward (though very effective) work around hack.

But now that I can easily add any video from YouTube or Vimeo to the homepage... which one should I chose?

Rather than chose just one I've decided to feature a different project from one of my clients every week or so! Let me know which one you like best... and if we've worked together and you'd like your video on my homepage just let me know!

Social Media Benchmark Data for Schools

Here are a few questions I'm asked on a regular basis:

  • How many times should we post to Facebook per week?
  • How many followers should we expect to have on Twitter?
  • Are our social media efforts producing results?

If you've also asked these questions... take heart! You're not alone!

But here's the thing... measuring social media effectiveness is highly subjective. Large urban schools in competitive markets should have different numbers than small rural schools with fewer competitors.

When you set out to answer these key questions a good place to start is a competitive analysis. How do you stack up against your peers and competitors? School enrollment can affect the size of your audience and reach (more students equals more parents equals more possible people to follow your Facebook page). To better compare apples to apples consider your follower numbers as a ratio of your student population.

To help you get started I compiled some benchmark data based on the Business Insider's most expensive schools list. Note that this list only included boarding schools so the data might be off if you are a day school.

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What do you think? Where does your school stack up compared to the benchmark data? Let us know in the comments!

Six collaboration skills every student should learn

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A while back I wrote about the value of Geeking Out in our lives and in education. Geeking out is awesome. Sometimes it's awesome because you can focus on something in isolation. Other times you want to connect with other people and work together. Yet too often in school this takes the form of the dreaded group project.

Group projects seem like they are going to be awesome because they mirror the setting in which most of us work: a team, group, or organization. But often we fail to provide the skills and structure needed for group projects to work effectively.

Here are the six collaboration skills I think every student should learn (and how you can use them in class this year).

Find Your Tribe

Every project starts with the forming of groups. The problem is most students are actually pretty bad at selecting team members... at least at first. The first group project of the year should start with teams formed by the teacher based on a good mix of gender, strengths, and experience. As projects wrap up ask the students to reflect on how effectively they completed the task and how each team member contributed to the goals.

As students come to understand each other better they will increasingly be able to self select teams based on the task at hand.

Teach Feedback

Asking students to reflect or provide feedback isn't the same thing as actually doing it well. I love the Plus / Delta model for high functioning teams but for beginners my favorite is the sandwich method.

To offer feedback begin with a compliment about the task or person followed by an opportunity to improve. Wrap up the feedback with another compliment.

I appreciated that you came up with so many creative ideas for our project. Next time it would be great to have them on time. You were also really willing to listen to the ideas of other people.
— Sandwich feedback example

Feedback is difficult but when done well it will enhance team performance and is a powerful lifelong skill.

Assign Roles

If you were working in an organization you probably have a pretty good sense of what is expected of you. In fact you might even have a written job description. When assigning group work consider providing the same kind of guidance. Of course everyone should be expected to contribute... but maybe everyone doesn't need to contribute in the same way. Here are examples of some group roles:

  • Team Leader - Responsible for the overall progress of the group and for communicating with the teacher.
  • Scribe - Captures ideas, takes notes, and gets everything down on paper.
  • Front Person - Takes the lead on presenting findings, in charge of speaking to the rest of the class
  • Quality Control - Makes sure the task is completed successfully, provides feedback on progress and quality.

You may need other roles depending on the project so use these as a starting point. Consider changing roles for every project so students get a feel of their own strengths.

Assess Differently

It can be hard to assess group projects. When you have group roles you can change how you assess to reflect process as much as product. Did the Front Person do a good job presenting findings? Did the Scribe contribute to the group Google Doc? Did QC ensure all the parts of the project were completed? Did the Team Leader get everything done on time and respond to teacher feedback? Instead of one rubric for a group project you could have one for each role!

When you approach collaboration more deliberately assessment comes naturally!

Set Goals Together

Here's a little secret I've learned from working with student teams: when given the choice students will often set much higher goals for themselves than you might. On the one hand this comes from inexperience... on the other hand it also comes from ambition and drive.

Next time you are setting a goal for your students consider taking their input into consideration or offering them a choice between several options. You may be surprised when they choose and deliver on the more challenging option!

It's Okay to Work Alone

Collaboration isn't the same thing as working together. Sometimes - even in group work - students should split off and work alone. Perhaps the team needs to break a big task into smaller chunks or one student is just really good a something and needs to be left alone to bust it out.

When working alone make sure the Team Leader has their eye on the big picture and can eventually bring everyone back together to report out.

What do you think? Do you teach collaboration in your classes? Do you do group projects? Is there a skill you think I've missed? Let me know in the comments!

On the virtues of 'Geeking Out'

There is great value in focus, in oh-my-gosh-I-can't-believe-it's-already-time-for-dinner moments, in just plain geeking out. I don't mean 'geeking out' in a pejorative way or even in a specific way. I don't limit geeking out to geeky pursuits. I define geeking out as,

Focused and concerted attention to a thing for no particular purpose other than the thing itself.

It's just as easy to geek out over Legos as Lamborghinis. And here's the thing: I believe that geeking out is valuable no matter what you geek out over. The skills, knowledge, and belief system that is developed while geeking out is incredibly valuable.

But it's pretty hard to geek out in school.

Or at least these moments don't often come in the context of academics. Why? Most learning in most schools happens in the context of:

  • Silos of content
  • Delivered by discrete subject area experts
  • During a time-limited class block
  • Bounded by a extrinsically motivated final assessment

There just isn't the time or space for geeking out in class.

Arts, athletics, clubs, and hobbies, are where most of us learn how to geek out. Think about it... these activities are practically the mirror opposite of an academic experience because they require:

  • Mastery of varied types of theoretical and practical content
  • Taught, modeled, and coached by mentors, peers, or even by yourself
  • During open times much less limited by a bell schedule
  • Bounded by highly intrinsic final assessments called games, concerts, or simply showing off what you can do for your friends

What does geeking out look like? In Adam Savage's TED Talk he vividly describes how ideas, research, hands-on building, and obsession led him from a dodo bird skeleton to a (nearly) exact replica of the Maltese Falcon. It would be hard to posit that this experience didn't provide Savage with a deep research-based educational experience.

I believe it's possible to create these kinds of experiences in our schools in the context of academics.

I'm excited to see the Maker Movement take hold in many of the schools I visit. This is one way for us to deepen the academic experience for our students. Sometimes I also get a bemused question from a humanities teacher looking at a 3D Printer, "Am I supposed to take my English students to shop class?"

Maybe. But probably not.

In a future blog post I'm going to talk more about maker labs and the promise and pitfalls thereof. For now I'd like to pose two questions:

When was the last time you personally geeked out over something? What was it?

Do you think we could provide more opportunities for our students to geek out? Why or why not?

Let me know what you think in the comments!