Thursday, 16 January 2014

Marketing Education / Marketing Your Subject

Advertising for publicly funded education.
The other week I was sitting in a local movie theatre before the latest round of The Hobbit when an advertisement came on for our local Catholic board.  It strikes me as odd that they allot money for advertising, but I guess that's what you have to do in a publicly funded system that competes against itself.

The idea that we have to market our educational choices might seem mercantile to academics, but it's not always a bad idea.

The poor appearance of our departments on our school webpage came up at a recent heads meeting which tailed into a big discussion about how we lose a number of students in grade 9 to our (marketing focused) catholic competitors.  Evidently most are back by the senior grades because spending ten hours a week on a bus for what turns out to be a better advertised, if not necessarily better education, doesn't add up.  Our poor showing in marketing our public school for local consumption raised questions of what we should be focusing on, advertising, or, you know, education.

I might not understand the benefits of funding two redundant public systems that then pay to advertise against each other, but the need to market your subject area in a high school is vital for a successful program.   If we don't get students signing up, we don't get sections, so any teacher, especially one in a non-mandatory subject area, should probably spend some time ensuring that students know they are out there.


Tonight is grade 8 parent's night.  We have a large group of excited, nervous parents and students touring the school.  Each department is expected to set up a booth and ply their wares, encouraging next year's new grade 9s into taking what they teach.  I've been spending the semester beating the bushes to put computer studies in its best light.  You'd think that computer studies would be an easy sell in 2014, but not so much in rural Ontario.

I used to treat grade 8 night as just another time grab, but it's silly to ignore marketing your subject area, especially if it can help you get sections and run a more complete program.  In the case of computer studies I'm straddling the need for school-wide fundamental computer literacy as well as offering specialized courses that will prepare students for post secondary and beyond in programming and engineering.  I'm beginning to think Ontario should split its focus on computer studies and offer general technology fluency as well as specializations.

As many of the celebs mention below, a working knowledge of computers is vital to life in the 21st Century, whether you're looking to be a career computer nerd or not.

Grade 8 night was a successful evening.  With robots, quad-copters and other technology on hand, I put the department on the map.  With any luck we'll get an uptick in computer studies sign ups next year and be able to run a more complete program as a result.  You'd think a healthy computer department in any high school in 2014 is addressing an important 21st Century fluency, but if students and parents aren't aware, they won't sign up.

Here are some of the pieces I put together (thanks to for the quotes):

Taken from the quotes & Will.I.Am's webpage
Everyone should know the basics of a technology if they are going to live submersed in it every day.
Just one of the smartest guys in the world, feel free to ignore the opinion.

I did a number of posters for the department.

Extra-curriculars are a good way to support student interest in your subject.

Even if you're not headed for a career in computers, they are
becoming a vital soft skill. If you work anywhere and can
provide your own tech-support, or can problem solve even
basic coding, you have made yourself vital to the 21st Century
workplace.  Computer studies: not just for nerds any more!