How do YOU do Creativity, Action, and Service?

The IB Diploma Hexagon

Making CAS an experience, rather than one more IB Diploma Program requirement takes the effort of a whole-school or program, and the right philosophy.  Creativity, Action, and Service, or CAS as it is called, is considered by the IB to be one of the most important components of the program;  one which helps students see themselves as learners of the world, just not as academics.  Cultivating well-rounded young adults, who can pursue their interests as well as their studies is partly the mission for the IB.  For when students can participate in activities which grown the individual, students undoubtedly grow their outlook and attitude regarding creative thinking, emotional and physical well-being, and most importantly compassion and understanding for others.  CAS keeps students active in society, whether that be local or global, curious about the world around them, and invested in their part and place in it.  Even with this philosophy schools struggle to engage or motivate students to see CAS as the enrichment it is designed to be.

As part of our lesson this week, I was introduced to a new slideshow/presentation tool: Animoto.  The following video has been created to encourage student engagement and investment in CAS.

Rethink CAS!

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Who wags the tail

The Long Tail, as in use by the book of Chris ...

Who wags the tail? We do.

Chris Anderson’s work The Long Tail evaluates the “economics of choice,” and looks at the factors which have changed the way consumers and sellers interact in the digital age, specifically the internet retail market.  With greater accessibility to products, and more sellers able to meet the demands of what Anderson calls the “Niche Markets”, what consumers buy and what sellers deem as revenue makers has changed.  No longer do you find retail markets which rely exclusively on “hit” sales in a given market –in Anderson’s telling of this phenomenon he cites the music industry as an example.  Instead, Anderson’s prediction is simple: the future of business is selling less of more.  In Anderson’s book, “more” is the product.  Regardless of what product it is, in effect, the sales of a myriad of products which are small but frequent surpasses the expectation that the greatest profit should be found in the fewest products, or “hits” in any industry.

I am not the typical reader of economics or marketing strategy.  However, the evaluation of marketing trends, and the idea that sheer volume of sales of anything and everything make the greatest profit margins, fascinates me.  Probably because I am one of the all-seeking and shopping consumers whom Anderson discusses, and whom  Solis says companies must rely on.   It is clear from my own use of search tools and social media, that I can seek out products intentionally, but also can be informed about products that I didn’t know exist and can buy products I never realized I needed or wanted.

To me, that is the greatest influence social media like Google, Twitter and Facebook provide to the consumer world, and the greatest impact sites like Ebay and Amazon offer to the now informed and influenced shoppers.  Both Solis and Anderson discuss the power of being connected, and the themes of choice and access are central in both books.  However, Anderson’s explanation about the economics of choice and what is found and available in the long tail of any market becomes relevant when we think about the vast number of items one can buy in any industry.

Anderson’s long tail reminds me of the old adage “one man’s trash is another man’s treasure”

Offering unlimited choice, virtually, doesn’t require unlimited space, actually.  The concept, linking product access and real estate on a shelf in a store, is another idea Anderson explores,  mostly through the music and movie industry.   The access creates a whole new level of competition to the market of promoting and selling media to consumers.  I never consciously connected the demise of Block Buster’s and Border’s Books with the fact that I can get the same media available on my kindle, my iPod, or in print form, faster, using Amazon or other online retail providers.  The concept of the long tail is tangible in Anderson’s book, mostly because I think readers have all been consumers in the tail, and probably never knew it.  I know my husband’s love of random musical theater soundtracks and independent films has been well fed.

Thinking about the variety and quantity of options in “The Tail” also leads to the consideration about how an increase in product access impacts the economics of variety.  Anderson does describe the idea of possibly too much variety, but he then frames this concern with the sophisticated resources that are available to consumers.  Tools that help narrow product selection, such as key word search or other filters can help consumers navigate the choices.   Strategies such as offering product parings, as seen on Amazon, or consumer reviews and ratings, support purchases made by consumers.  Simultaneously these reviews validate what was also discussed in Solis’s book, Engage, where Solis identifies the increased faith in the individual consumer as a voice of authority, various companies and markets in general are realizing the importance of the advisory role of individuals.  The primary playground for this sort of consumer engagement is the Web.  Both Anderson and Solis speak about the Web not just as a marketplace for merchandise but also a marketplace for opinion.  Anderson calls it the great leveler of marketing, allowing for the niche markets to coexist along other larger well-known names.

I found Anderson’s work thought provoking.  But, applying Anderson’s “ Long Tail Rules” to my client, the International Baccalaureate Organization, is challenging.  The two rules I can apply, however, include rule 2: Letting the customer do the work for you, and rule 4: One product doesn’t fit all.  I see the use of social media (as Solis also describes) both effective, and practical, in letting the voice of the IB be the voice of the students, teachers, and staff that bring the program to life in schools around the globe.  I also acknowledge and support how the IB has evolved over time, creating different program strands to meet the needs of a variety of audiences.  Audiences including career-oriented high school students with their IB Career Certificate, and even offering their middle school program, called the IB Middle Years, in three forms:  five years in grades 6 – 10, three years in grades 6 – 8, and even two years, grades 9 & 10.   Most recently, the IB is offering students the chance to test in the Diploma program components which were traditionally components exclusive to students pursuing a full IB diploma program, these being the Extended Essay, Theory of Knowledge class, and CAS.  These changes may be seen as compromise, but they can also be seen as progress.

Where is the IB?

Deconstructing the value of socialized media for businesses, and guiding businesses to consider the role of these communication platforms, is one angle that Brian Solis takes in his book Engage.  Solis’s book explores how to create valuable relationships between an organization and its online audience.  More importantly, however, is his clarity regarding how a business can either grow or thwart its brand and interest by using social media.

I found this part of the reading interesting and applicable.  His approach to what he calls the “new media,”  is ultimately to share best practices with businesses.  Solis provides concrete examples and practical suggestions to businesses, specifically related to corporate interact with customers, both current and potential, through the use of social-marketing and media platforms.  Using what he calls the “Rules of Engagement” companies can become better equipped and informed as they create and further define their brand in this new media market.

In chapter 12 of Engage, Solis discusses the importance of the relationship between a corporate brand and the platform used by the corporation to pursue public engagement and interest through socialized media.   He suggests that an organization risks “brand dilution” when it approaches the process with a ‘ready-fire’ attitude, and jumps into the whole media scene without considering the target or goal.  Additionally, he goes on to describe how a lack-luster presence might do more harm than good, since an organization’s presence online needs to represent an articulated goal or point of view in order to garner public confidence or trust.  Strategies for accomplishing this are many, including customers first-hand, the voice of the employees, etc.

Take, for instance, this blog: IBOnline.  It is one of several blogs that are listed on the IBO website.  The purpose of this blog is very unclear.  Perhaps because it doesn’t have the direction or the attributes that Solis recommends in Chapter 19 — “The Rules of Engagement” .  Looking at the blog, the most recent post is October 7th, 2011,  and the purpose of the post is basically to encourage others to tweet, albeit for a cause.  I would think sending this message out on Twitter would be the better platform to encourage others to do the same.  Perhaps the team did use Twitter, and wanted to cover all the bases by posting it on the IB online blog as well.  But I question the level of readership on this blog in the first place, and so I wonder if the post ever yielded much of a response.

Generally speaking, the IB blogs seem to be misused or misinterpreted.  The stories are missing.   The voice of the organization (whether it be many or one) is missing;  instead, the blogs seem to be staging for announcements.  Announcements which are often already presented on the organization’s main website.  Solis cautions against this use, specifying that blogs, “when used as a corporate platform for marketing, shilling, pitching, or broadcasting promotional messages, are completely ineffective.”

As Professor Lutz suggested in his first lecture, some corporations do not know how to negotiate all the offerings for social media communication.  I view the IB as an example of such an organization.  Not knowing where to begin with social media, it tried everything.  In so doing,  the consequence is that the IB is not using any single platform to the full benefit or intent.  Ultimately, it is only the IB annual Conference blogs which have the most information, and for the time during the conferences, the most use.  They come closest to the model described in Solis’s book.

In addition to these blogs,  Twitter use and tweets during the conferences seem high as well. However, some of the tweets from the staff of the IB itself again suffer from lack of authenticity, and suggest unfamiliarity with the technology.  Regarding Twitter, it too is used in a similar mouthpiece fashion, rarely used to share insightful bites about the mission of the IB, or progress towards the goals which the IB has for global education.  While I think the IB has taken the initiative to explore different social media channels, after reading Solis, I wondered if the staff executing the IB plan had read this book —  or would do things differently if this book had been available to consider the ideas Solis presents. 

The voice of IB, as seen through its current social media use, will need to grow and personalize in order to engage readers and participants.  This will in turn, according to Solis, “create authentic voices and authentic opportunities for engagement with a world-wide community of learners and educators.”

While my past exposure to social media and communication has been minimal, this book has helped me to have a more informed concept about the use and purpose of social media marketing, and how these tools are used and can be used by businesses looking to reach customers through this important and growing medium. 

NOTE:

There are three pages  listed in the menu on the side-bar:  IB Public, IB for Teachers, and IB for Students.  I have created these pages in order to collect examples that might apply to the different stakeholder groups.  I have already started adding information and links to them.  Please explore these if you can.

A beginning – Why be IB educated?

Welcome.  This blog has been created for a graduate class in social and digital media.  Over the course of the next few months, entries posted on this blog will relate to the use of social media  as a tool to promote an organization, as well as how an organization can best use social media to gain a larger audience through public engagement.  The organization that I am using to build my case study and this blogging assignment, is the International Baccalaureate Organization.  You can learn more about the IB and their programmes at their website: IBO.org.

All entries on this blog are used for educational purposes, and any opinions regarding the International Baccalaureate Organization and its educational programmes those of the blog writer exclusively.  However, I will point out that I am a staunch advocate of the IB and an IB educator for over a decade.  While I am not a public relations expert or communication plan expert, it will be beneficial for me to evaluate and study what this organization does in this realm of its business.  My critical evaluation will helps me understand the goals of a social media plan, no matter the organization.