New class tackles social media
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.