Barbara Ware

Monday, 23 May 2005 12:20

Why teach?

In the next 10 years, many teachers in the baby-boom generation will retire.

That fact, coupled with the high rate of turnover among teachers, especially beginning teachers employed in poor, urban schools, numerous job openings are expected. The most drastic need will be in areas such as mathematics, science, bilingual education and special education. The shortages in these areas are so acute in most geographic regions that many states have passed alternative certification laws, allowing a simpler and quicker route to teacher licensure.

At the same time, many mid-career Americans have found themselves out of a job due to outsourcing and rightsizing. Others have found themselves disgruntled in careers that once were thought to hold the keys to the American dream. They fear that they are not making an impact on anyone's life; they are making money and nothing else.

Some of these people are studying to become teachers. "Impact" is the word most often used by students as the reason for choosing to teach. They remember favorite teachers and the impact those people had on their own lives. They tend to be people who liked school themselves and think of returning to a happier, simpler life.

Teaching, however, has changed significantly during the past 10 years. High-stakes testing and accountability measures put new pressure on teachers to draw improvements in student achievement. The number of non-English speaking students has grown dramatically. More than half of all elementary, middle and secondary school teachers belong to unions that bargain with school systems over wages, hours and other terms and conditions of employment.

Most states require that teachers pass tests of content knowledge and pedagogy before being licensed, in addition to graduating from an approved teacher preparation institution. How, then, does a college or university prepare energetic and enthusiastic candidates to meet the demands put on teachers, yet maintain their optimism and desire to make an impact on someone's life?

School partnerships

The teacher preparation institution must build strong partnerships with selected schools that use the best practices in the profession. College faculty and K-12 teachers need frequent professional interactions, joint problem-solving sessions and job exchanges.

Faculty should provide professional development opportunities for teachers, and teachers should serve as adjunct faculty or co-instructors in education courses. This allows the college to involve its teacher candidates early on in the life of the school and minimize disconnects between theory and practice.

Year-long apprenticeships

The teacher preparation program should require a year-long apprenticeship in a school with the best mentor teachers.

It is important for teacher candidates to participate fully in the life of the school, not just the classroom, but parent conferences, social events, interactions with community agencies serving families in the school and meetings of the school's governing groups. It is also important to observe students for an entire school year.

The child who enters kindergarten in the fall changes dramatically by the following May.

High academic and performance standards

The teacher preparation institution must establish and maintain high standards for the knowledge, skills and dispositions that its candidates need upon completing the program. Teachers must know the subject matter they will teach, and they have to know it well enough to correct students' misconceptions and to make connections between what they are teaching and what the student already knows.

They have to know pedagogy and how children learn, and capitalize on that knowledge. They have to demonstrate genuine caring and concern for their students. This is not an easy job.

Teaching needs the brightest and most empathetic students -- the ones who will pursue their dream but know their profession well and who will make a positive impact on the lives of their students.

Kathleen Ware, M.Ed., is the interim chairperson of the education department at the College of Mount St. Joseph. She retired from the Cincinnati Public Schools in 2002 after serving as associate superintendent for 12 years. Reach her at Kathleen_ware@mail.msj.edu or (513) 244-3263.

Friday, 29 October 2004 05:18

Making your e-business profitable

When companies invest in an e-business solution, the goal is to give customers more access to a company's products, service and information. Twenty-four hour access gives customers an opportunity to do business on their own schedule, which reduces operating costs while opening new revenue channels.

Unfortunately, many companies don't realize a return on their investment because they don't do enough to promote their e-business solution. Establishing an online presence takes development effort, sure, but there's more to it. Your customers need to know you're online, and they need to know how your e-business solution works.

The rollout of an e-business solution is somewhat like an advertising campaign. Clear objectives must be set from the start. Answering simple who, what, where and how questions will help you determine where to focus energy when developing a strategy for your promotion.

 

* Know who your audience is. Before you begin your campaign, you need to know your audience. The first question you should ask is who will be using your Web site. Identifying your potential users will not only help you develop solutions they'll find beneficial, it will also help you decide how you should market your application. Don't make the mistake of speaking to a CIO in your communication, when your users will be IT staff members.

 

* Know why they use your product. Have you identified your target market and explored the ways they will use your e-business application? What are the benefits? What will potential users gain?

 

* Say when your site goes online. Build your campaign around your go-live date. It's a way to build excitement for the launch of your e-commerce solution. Don't miss this opportunity to contact your target audience and teach your users something new about your solution.

 

* Show where your Web site is online. Do your users know where your solution can be found? The URL should be on every piece of promotional material you send out. Think of each mention as a sign pointing the way to your site.

Also, do not underestimate the importance of a branding your site with a unique name and logo. If you have answered the first question, who, then you should know what will trigger your users' interest.

 

* Show how your e-business application works. Use your marketing materials to explain not only how the application works, but how it benefits your target users. If members of your target audience don't know how the application benefits them, they won't use it.

 

Why, when, how ... wow

Once you've developed your strategy, you need to execute it. Do you use direct mail? E-mail? Print advertising? Press releases?

Figure out what your users respond to and then wow them with eye-catching design and clear communication.

Most organizations don't have the expertise or internal resources needed to run a campaign efficiently. The last thing you want to do is spend a lot of time and money creating a campaign that your target audience could see as tasteless or confusing.

Marketing can be tough, and it takes time to roll out a complete program. It takes effort to build a strategy upfront, and to answer the "why, when, how" questions, but the results can mean the difference between a successful launch and a disappointing ROI.

 

Team up

If you don't have the expertise or resources in-house, consider teaming up with an agency. Agencies exist for the same reason your company does -- they are a resource with highly skilled and experienced people that can be hired to accomplish difficult but business-critical tasks.

It's important to find an agency that understands your product and your business. Choose the wrong agency, and you could go through a long, expensive learning curve, particularly if your product is difficult to understand.

Whether you partner with an agency or use internal resources, start planning early to make your rollout a success. Without a good strategy and careful planning, you run the risk of losing your target audience before they ever log on.

 

Barbara Ware is manager of marketing and communications at BravePoint, a supplier of e-business and enterprise IT solutions to mid-market companies. Reach her at (770) 449-9696 or bware@bravepoint.com.

Thursday, 20 November 2003 09:29

Desired results

The goal of most e-business solutions is to increase revenue and decrease costs by making customers more self-sufficient and reducing the burden on internal personnel.

But companies often fail to realize a full return on their e-business investment because they follow an "if you build it they will come" philosophy, neglecting to drive users to their Web site by effectively communicating the value and benefits of logging on.

The rollout of an e-business solution should be managed like an advertising campaign. Good campaigns are based on clear objectives. Define those objectives by following simple "who, when, where" logic.

Sticking to this framework will help you form the basis of your marketing strategy.

Who

Who will be using this solution?

Identifying the users you want to target, based on your objectives, is key to controlling your return on investment. You will get your best ROI if you target the customers that can save you the most money by using the site.

It may make sense to market to your best customers, but what about second-tier customers who use more of your customer service representatives' time than their orders justify? Once identified, inform potential users immediately of your plans to build the site.

Increase awareness by keeping them informed throughout the process.

Why

Explain the unique value and benefits the solution will provide, again based upon the customer segment you wish to target. If the benefits are apparent, potential users will talk about them.

When

Identify your go-live date and mention it often. Build excitement with the project timeline, counting down to the day users can log in. Keep your audience's attention and you'll get a stronger response on your go-live date.

Think of marketing the building process the way a restaurateur does. He hopes that by the time the restaurant is finally built, those who have driven by it will be eager to make reservations.

Where

Make the application's URL easy to remember. Brand it with a unique name and logo, and reinforce it with every piece of communication.

How

Invite customers to be beta testers and provide them with mini-user booklets that outline exactly which pages to test and what to look for.

Wow

Decide what strategy you'll use to communicate your messages. Direct mail? E-mail? Advertising? Press releases? Figure out what your users will best respond to ... and then wow them.

Marketing can be tough, and it takes time to roll out a complete program. Often, organizations lack the expertise or internal resources needed to run a campaign effectively. If this is the case, team up with an outside agency, but unless you want to waste valuable resources teaching that agency about your products and services, make sure you find a partner who understands your business.

Whether you partner with an agency or use internal resources, start planning early to make your rollout successful. Implement your marketing strategy in conjunction with your project plan so your users' appreciation of the solution grows as it is being built. With a good strategy and careful planning, your target audience will be eager to log on when you go live.

If you build it, they may or may not come. If you build it while effectively promoting it, they will come. And you'll begin to see the most immediate return on your e-business investment.

Next month: Ways to measure ROI of your e-business investment.

Barbara Ware is manager of marketing and communications at BravePoint, a supplier of e-business and enterprise IT solutions to mid-market companies. Reach her at (770) 449-9696 or (bware@bravepoint.com).