Business Studies, the Catalyst for Collaboration

Iain Home

Iain Home

No structure, whether it is in the education world or the business world, ever seems to be perfect. Problems of one kind or another always exist. One common problem in business is the functional silo where people are either struggling or not willing to think beyond their own department or function. The following scenario may be easy for me to write, in the comfort of an office, not knowing all the challenges that teachers face in school… but is this workable?

A secondary school teaches Business Studies. This is probably Year 10 and 11, maybe 14- to 16-years-of-age. They are set a practical test to set up and run an enterprise for a term. The class break into groups. The groups go away and brainstorm, collaborating using an interactive whiteboard or projector. The output is saved and shared on a VLE (Virtual Learning Environment) or some other cloud- or network-based storage area. There is a good chance the students have a 1:1 device or access, either at home or at school, to a computer that allows them to pull up this content when it suits them. The following week, the same document is reviewed with the suggestions the group have made over the course of the week and then finalised.

The students have an acorn of an idea that local people and local businesses would support, such as a local initiative involving local kids selling artwork of local landscapes and landmarks…but none of them are really artists! They Tweet and post to Facebook asking for volunteers in the school, and they post the same message on the VLE.

The students realise that they don’t know what the focus of the art should be. Twitter, Facebook and the VLE are used to push out a message to the History and the Geography classes, looking for research and mapping of historically important landscapes and landmarks in the area. They need to restrict the artists in terms of subject matter, but allow any media to be used to create the artwork.

The History students complement traditional research techniques with Google searches, local websites, blogs and Wikipedia. Information gets shared via e-mail and instant messaging and is also posted to shared areas. The Geography team start to take content from the History team and begin mapping the data and combining it with geo-tagged images.

The Business Studies class, remembering they need to do some market research, use voting software to get a cross-section of people to vote on the most popular subjects for the Art class. The short list is reviewed, the content compiled and then put in the shared area for the Art students. Online meetings take place via web-based video conferencing throughout this process.

The Art students take regularly scheduled photos on digital cameras and tablets and upload these to the shared area in order for the Business Studies team to track progress.

The Business Studies team realise they have no external communications in place. They contact the Information Technology class to help with a WordPress site, and they ask for some help aligning and expanding their social media efforts. The request is made again via the Facebook site, Twitter and the VLE. They also need an artist who is looking to become an illustrator or graphic designer when he/she finishes education, in order to get all the web media (and printed media) looking good. Both the Information Technology class and the Art class have access to current computer hardware and software in order to create professional quality output comparable to that of many businesses.

At this stage, instant messaging, e-mail, Facebook, Twitter, a WordPress blog and shared areas are all being used.  And computers, tablets, mobile devices and digital cameras are, as well. Students are now coping with multi-platform ways of working, whether hardware or software, just like in the workplace. They now also have virtually 24/7 access to a lot of the information and the ability to work wherever they are, just like in the workplace. They are having to work in more than one mode, understanding multiple functions, just like in the workplace. They are getting used to working across time zones and remotely, because even though the pupils are in the same school, they are not necessarily available to respond or meet when it suits the Business Studies team.

You can see how this might expand. They need live music for the art exhibition so they contact the Music class. They also hit on the idea that they could sell CDs or downloads of the music they perform on the night, again made possible by the technology at their disposal. Students want to do some interviews with the artists for the marketing, which are recorded using a smart phone and turned into podcasts and audio assets. Transcribed copies are printed as articles on the blog. They think “teaser” shots of the partially-finished artwork will get the people interested in the final product. Digital cameras are used to capture and load the images to the blog site and the social media sites. This is supported with Tweets to drive traffic. They have a strong English Language student helping with the collateral. They have the Head Boy ready to address the guests at the exhibit using an interactive surface to present. Students use the voting software again in order to capture feedback about the individual pieces whilst they are in the exhibit by linking their own smart phones and devices to the school network. This is actually the tip of the iceberg… you could see this touching virtually every student in most subjects.

This doesn’t have to be an artwork project. The choices are pretty much endless. I know kids are capable of this. They are often capable of a lot more than we give them credit. This will help to create workplace-ready employees regardless of whether they were the Business Studies group, or whether they were part of the larger enterprise, maybe only contributing to one small part. This will give students leaving education more confidence to become entrepreneurs and not rely on jobs that have been created by others, empowering them to create jobs on their own, or wear multiple hats in terms of the work they complete.

Naturally all profits go back to the school, more equipment is purchased and the hole in the roof that has been there for two years is fixed, and the whole cycle starts again with a different group of kids. This does not even need to be across one school; it could be a district, a country or even connecting schools overseas; it all depends on the enterprise chosen.

I would love to know if this is happening, maybe only in part or whether it is just a flight of fancy. I can only begin to imagine what sort of enterprise might have been dreamt up, and that would beat watching Dragons’ Den any night of the week.

About the author: Iain Home is a UK father, student of education trends, and an international marketing strategist for Promethean.

Iain Home

Iain Home is a UK father, student of education trends, and an international marketing strategist for Promethean. Iain is also a regular columnist at Connect Learning Today.
4 Comments on this post.
  • Matthew Jelley
    20 August 2013 at 5:47 am -

    Iain,

    From my personal experience, I have seen this both work (In small private schools,) and fail (in large comprehensives)!

    Having spent a number of years abroad working with expats and locals from a varying backgrounds, a greater sense of community spirit and collaboration was needed to ‘make the school work’.

    As such, when numerous annual enterprising/ fund raising events were proposed, a ‘can do’ mentality prevailed! Each subject department was given their role in the event due to their individual ‘specialisms’ and the (already present) communication channels developed their ‘chatter’.

    In stark contrast, i have experienced reluctance (or indeed resistance) to fully ‘buy in’ to the projects and those collaborate; particularly when it is unexpected and deeply time constrained.

    No doubt, this is increasingly due to the tight timing demands in terms of class hours and curriculum content. Many schools, however, are able to successfully (very successfully in many cases) pull off annual productions; with a whole school mentality developed to do so.

    Can we assume therefore that a greater degree of planning is needed to guarantee success?

    It may be possible to draw tangible links between the size of a school, its structure and staff mentality to the success in driving enterprise activities forward; which no doubt mirrors the business world!

    • Iain Home
      Iain Home
      22 August 2013 at 11:56 am -

      Maybe, as you describe, the key is to use something that has a community spirit, charitable angle or supports a major festivity in order to kick-start this type of collaboration.

      In a school or an office environment, you will always get those who don’t want to be part of something like this and I suppose it is about minimising those who are pulling in an opposite direction.

      I am speaking purely for myself but I wouldn’t want to be part of a community, school or work environment where everyone was insular or kept themselves to small groups and I think if nothing else, I would find it pretty lonely and very boring.

  • Wendy Brunson
    20 August 2013 at 3:53 pm -

    First of all, this vivid picture of collaboration on and contribution to a common goal is very exciting, Iain.

    Matthew’s comments illustrate and bring to mind what may be a key component of ensuring buy-in, both from faculty and students: choosing a project and end result that everyone values. As you suggested, Iain, that end result may be any number of things–funding new technology, supporting a school team or club, renovating an area where students spend break time, or fixing the roof–but it needs to be something that participants really care about.

    The combination of a compelling project idea, clear curricular connections for all classes involved, and a worthy beneficiary might go far in encouraging school-wide participation and support.

    • Iain Home
      Iain Home
      22 August 2013 at 12:19 pm -

      Wendy, I agree with all of your points.

      Maybe use the profits for an Xbox 360 or PS3 for the staff room and a couple of Foosball or Air Hockey tables for the kids. That should be enough to get the interest up.