New class tack­les so­cial me­dia

The Sentinel-Record - - FRONT PAGE - JAY BELL

Schools are in the first year of of­fer­ing a new course about on­line com­mu­ni­ca­tions as the state shifts to bet­ter pre­par­ing stu­dents for mod­ern, dig­i­tal ca­reers.

The Arkansas Depart­ment of Ed­u­ca­tion re­placed the for­mer Dig­i­tal Com­mu­ni­ca­tions cour­ses with So­cial Me­dia and Com­mu­ni­ca­tions. The course is meant to “pre­pare stu­dents with ap­pro­pri­ate com­mu­ni­ca­tion, tech­nol­ogy and em­ploy­a­bil­ity skills for an en­try-level po­si­tion in the tech­nol­ogy com­mu­ni­ca­tion field.”

The two-se­mes­ter project-based course in­cor­po­rates tech­nol­ogy, soft skills and on­line mar­ket­ing cam­paigns into a ca­reer readi­ness course for high school stu­dents. The class was borne out of sev­eral leg­isla­tive acts to en­hance ca­reer readi­ness pro­grams and of­fer more tech­nol­ogy-based in­struc­tion.

Lake Hamil­ton High School teacher Tam­mie Wil­son and other teach­ers through­out the state at­tended pro­fes­sional de­vel­op­ment ses­sions dur­ing the sum­mer in prepa­ra­tion. Schools were given the op­tion to add So­cial Me­dia in the same path­way or de­velop a course for a dif­fer­ent path­way.

Wil­son said the class shifts from the print soft­ware pro­grams taught in Dig­i­tal Com­mu­ni­ca­tions to in­for­ma­tion about use of so­cial me­dia and on­line mar­ket­ing cam­paigns. The first unit fo­cused on teach­ing stu­dents soft skills, in­clud­ing how to de­velop a re­sume, cover let­ters, pro­fes­sional be­hav­ior ap­pro­pri­ate at­tire, and in­ter­view skills.

“The stu­dents feel that the doc­u­ments for pre­par­ing to ap­ply for a job are very im­pact­ful,” said Andrew Love, who teaches the course at Hot Springs World Class High School.

“The se­niors are pre­par­ing to en­ter the real world. Hav­ing these doc­u­ments and hav­ing the knowl­edge to cre­ate them helps tremen­dously. Man­ag­ing so­cial me­dia ac­counts ap­pro­pri­ately is very im­por­tant with the grow­ing de­mand for this type of com­mu­ni­ca­tion in most ca­reer fields.”

Love said he was un­able to at­tend a state train­ing this sum­mer be­cause of a con­flict with the National Char­ter School Con­fer­ence in Washington, D.C., where he at­tended re­lated ses­sions. He also at­tended a pro­fes­sional de­vel­op­ment work­shop in Al­bu­querque, N.M., about International Bac­calau­re­ate Business Man­age­ment which in­cluded ap­pli­ca­ble in­for­ma­tion.

The So­cial Me­dia course calls for stu­dents to cre­ate elec­tronic ca­reer port­fo­lios, cre­ate mar­ket­ing cam­paigns, col­lab­o­rate with oth­ers and prac­tice work­place-re­lated com­mu­ni­ca­tions. Stu­dents will be tasked with ap­ply­ing ver­bal and non­ver­bal com­mu­ni­ca­tion skills, tech­nol­ogy and pro­duc­tiv­ity pro­grams and ap­pli­ca­tions.

Lake­side High School Makaila Good­ner at­tended a work­shop in Fort Smith hosted by the Arkansas Depart­ment of Ca­reer Ed­u­ca­tion in which a pre­sen­ter ex­plained how com­pa­nies train em­ploy­ees to ef­fec­tively use so­cial me­dia to mar­ket and ad­ver­tise. Good­ner said teach­ers through­out the state worked to­gether to cre­ate les­son plans.

“So far, the most im­por­tant thing about this class has been teach­ing the stu­dents that they can use so­cial me­dia plat­forms for more than just post­ing pictures and talk­ing to their friends,” Good­ner said. “We have looked at how em­ploy­ers look at your so­cial me­dia as a pre-screen­ing for em­ploy­ment and we are be­gin­ning to get into how busi­nesses use so­cial me­dia to mar­ket and ad­ver­tise.”

Wil­son’s stu­dents re­cently com­pleted pre­sen­ta­tions on mar­ket­ing cam­paigns by ma­jor com­pa­nies. Se­nior Aubrey Hibbs stud­ied how Wal­mart uses so­cial me­dia and the de­mo­graph­ics of its tar­get mar­kets.

“This is a great course and the stu­dents learn so much about tech­nol­ogy and the ap­pli­ca­tions that are avail­able for use in many dif­fer­ent sit­u­a­tions,” Love said. “A very im­por­tant part of this class is that the stu­dents learn the ap­pro­pri­ate and most ef­fec­tive way to com­mu­ni­cate.”

Stu­dents cre­ate ca­reer-re­lated doc­u­ments ac­cord­ing to pro­fes­sional lay­out and de­sign prin­ci­ples. The class cov­ers photo and video edit­ing skills needed for pro­mo­tional and in­for­ma­tional business com­mu­ni­ca­tions and mar­ket­ing cam­paigns.

Wil­son said her stu­dents can part­ner with lo­cal com­pa­nies or cre­ate their own mock busi­nesses to man­age dur­ing the course. They will cre­ate em­ploy­ment pa­per­work, con­duct in­ter­views with po­ten­tial em­ploy­ees, cre­ate brands and lo­gos, de­velop so­cial me­dia cam­paigns and learn how to mar­ket to their tar­get au­di­ences.

“I do se­nior por­traits, which is sort of my ‘business,’ and through this class I’ve cre­ated an on­line port­fo­lio that I send to po­ten­tial clients,” said Lake­side se­nior Paige Arthur. “I’ve learned how to make that port­fo­lio and how to make it stronger.”

Brian Bridges, Lake Hamil­ton School Dis­trict com­mu­ni­ca­tions co­or­di­na­tor, re­cently vis­ited Wil­son’s classes and ex­plained how he uses so­cial me­dia for the dis­trict and for his per­sonal business. Hibbs’ cap­tion was se­lected to send out with in­for­ma­tion about Bridges’ visit.

“He stated that so­cial me­dia is be­com­ing a ma­jor part of ad­ver­tis­ing,” Hibbs wrote. “Ap­pli­ca­tions like Face­book, In­sta­gram, Twit­ter, Google and more are uti­lized in ef­forts to suc­cess­fully ad­ver­tise for var­i­ous busi­nesses. Bridges shared with the class how he uses these sites and plat­forms to ad­ver­tise for Lake Hamil­ton School Dis­trict and what features he likes to use to bet­ter tar­get peo­ple for school re­cruit­ment.”

Bridges said stu­dents must learn how to craft cam­paigns for Face­book, which is more heav­ily used by their par­ents. Snapchat is cur­rently the most pop­u­lar so­cial me­dia plat­form for teenagers, fol­lowed by Face­book and In­sta­gram.

Wil­son said Lake Hamil­ton is a trial site this year for a sim­u­la­tion in which stu­dents can run so­cial me­dia cam­paigns. Stu­dents will tar­get spe­cific mar­kets within the sim­u­la­tion.

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