Educators are taught that adults learn best when they can see that the lessons they are learning are practical and valuable and can be put to immediate use.
That’s why I try to start every one of my lessons with an explanation of whystudents need to learn the skill, process, or practice I am teaching that day. Sometimes students see the value and sometimes they don’t, even though I’ve clearly shown them that they will need to know that thing once they’re in the working world. It baffled me—until now.
This year, I tried something different.
Instead of telling students the reason they should pay attention, I brought another person into the class to show them what the skill and practice I was teaching that day had done for him.
I Skyped in former student and well-known blogger Brook Johnston to show my first-year Writing for Marketing students how blogging can become an awesome way to strut your personal brand to future employers. I also wanted Brook to show these St. Lawrence College students how blogging can help grow their understanding of social media and strengthen their writing, critical thinking, and self-reflective learning skills.
Brook is a copy writer at Fuse Marketing Group, a successful creative agency in Toronto. His blog Marketingman.ca is read by some of Canada’s top marketing gurus and has attracted the attention of global corporations. Indeed—as a showcase of his creative flare, sharp wit, powerful writing skills and his sophisticated knowledge of the marketing and advertising industry—Brook’s blog helped him get his copy writing job.
Brook spoke to students for about 40 minutes via the college projector screen and speaker system and they were able to ask him questions. Later that week, I gave my Blogging 101 lesson and introduced the semester’s blogging assignment, which requires students to write 10 regular entries for 10 weeks.
It’s a big project worth 20% of their grade and students are finding it tough—particularly because they receive a zero for any late assignments and I grade them on whether they’ve fixed errors from previous weeks—but they are doing remarkably good work.
Each week, we examine a couple of the best entries and I have the authors of these entries review their blogs’ key features on the projector screen and demonstrate how their entries meet a basic checklist of requirements.
The first week, I identified about four superb blogs. Many others were full of mechanical errors, formatting blunders, and did not meet the checklist requirements. But by the second week, students were proofreading their work more closely.
The second week, I highlighted about six great blogs.
This week, Week 3, there are more than a dozen superb blogs.
I expect the numbers of amazing blog entries each week to grow, proving to me that at least one of the cornerstones of effective learning is to teach not just by example but by live example.
Here are four of my favourite blogs from the past week: