MK 354 Spring 2010

April 21, 2010

Jumpstart gains an added dimension

Filed under: blog #10 — ajblack029 @ 6:44 pm

Even though I have been working with Jumpstart all semester, for the most part I have only been thinking of the short-term effects of the program. There have been countless studies that show the importance of early-childhood education and how it can positively affect these young children greatly: higher test scores, improved social skills and generally being more prepared to succeed in school and in life.

Recently, I have started to hear stories about people who have been through programs like Jumpstart. More often than not, those who have gone through similar programs or attend preschool, are extremely thankful for the opportunity, even fifteen to twenty years later. An article in Pittsburgh’s Tribune-Review, Preschool education promoted as crucial, featured a student, Natalie Bercik, who felt so influenced by her preschool experience, that she felt inspired to pursue a degree in early childhood education.

                After reading this article, I realized that I have heard several stories like that. I had written a backgrounder on a Jumpstart Corps member named Freddy who said he had joined Jumpstart to return the favor that he had been given in a similar program when he was younger. Even closer to home, my grandmother was a teacher, both my mom and sister are teachers, and all of them have echoed similar sentiments at some point about being inspired to get involved in education by their own experiences in the classroom.

                The realization that attending preschool can have a profound effect on a child’s life brought a whole new depth of Jumpstart to my eyes. Not only are these children learning essential skills to enter school prepared to succeed, Jumpstart enables partner schools to be able to provide this meaningful experience to the young children. In the article, Bercik concluded, “If each child felt like I wanted them to be there, I did my job.” Through Jumpstart and other opportunities in early-childhood education, a child’s life can certainly be changed forever.

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April 12, 2010

Early childhood education faces another battle as states battle to reduce budgets

Filed under: blog #9 — ajblack029 @ 12:00 am

                Each time I go to look for something to write about, I find yet another article stressing the importance of children receiving proper early childhood education. Unfortunately, many of these articles are the result of impending budget cuts on these important programs. A recent article in the Topeka Capital-Journal by Barbara Hollingsworth, “Early childhood dollars targeted,” explains that Kansas’ state-funded preschools are in jeopardy. While the article states that the programs have had bipartisanship support in the past, both the state’s House and Senate have proposed cuts for early childhood education as a result of the state’s budget shortfall exceeding $400 million.

                As expected, educators in Kansas are extremely worried about the impending budget cuts. Tom Krebs, a governmental relations specialist for the Kansas Association of School Boards, explained to the Capital-Journal that having “school-ready” kids in kindergarten makes K-12 education much easier on the state. The article explains why early childhood education is so important by citing a study conducted by the Center on the Developing Child at Harvard University that explains during a child’s early year is the “most active period for establishing the neural connections that comprise our brain architecture—700 new connections form every second in the first three years of life. As it emerges, the quality of that architecture establishes either a sturdy or fragile foundation for all the capabilities and behavior that follow.” Without trying to sound too drastic, this study implies that the preschool years of a child’s life can really be a make-or-break situation.

                Luckily for students, there is help outside of private preschools and state-funded programs. Jumpstart is a national nonprofit organization that is devoted to helping students in these early years of development. Jumpstart shares the same belief as most educators that it is vital that students enter kindergarten prepared to succeed in both school and life. The program stresses the importance of this first step for children to enter school at the proper literacy and social level. Stephanie Mullholland, a communications director for Kansas Action for Children, explains that state-funded early childhood programs and programs such as Jumpstart can have lasting effects on children that ultimately save the state money: “They’re less likely to have criminal problems… They’re less likely to be on welfare as adults. All of these things result in cost savings down the road.”

                It is impossible to argue against the logic that early childhood programs are beneficial to students; however these programs are often some of the first up for cuts in the state education budget. It is important for those in states with proposed education cuts to speak to their state representatives about the significance of early childhood programs. For more information regarding the benefits of early childhood education and the Jumpstart program, visit jstart.org.

March 28, 2010

Dogs help students read

Filed under: blog #7 — ajblack029 @ 3:11 pm

Learning to read is hard; I personally don’t remember it, but I’m sure that it was difficult. According to a CNN article by Rachel Rodriguez that I recently stumbled across, reading to dogs may be able to help young children in the process of learning how to read. There are several programs nationwide, including R.E.A.D.—Reading Education Assistance Dogs, that use this idea in order to help children develop literacy skills. The dogs are trained therapy dogs that sit with young students as they walk them through the story—no pun intended. The feature, entitled ‘Learning to read? Try talking to a dog,’ explains the philosophy behind the program:

Children who are just learning to read often feel judged or intimidated by classmates and adults. But reading to a dog isn’t so scary. It won’t judge, it won’t get impatient, it won’t laugh or correct if the child makes a mistake. In a nutshell, dogs are simply excellent listeners. And for shy kids or slow readers, that can make all the difference.”

Minnie, an 8-year-old pomeranian therapy dog, listens as a child reads aloud.

When thinking about it, this type of learning makes a lot of sense because it puts the child in the position of higher knowledge. The child must talk the dog through the logic of the story; if there is a word the child doesn’t understand, they can work through it together. Kathy Klotz, executive director of Intermountain Therapy Animals, explained that the children “get to be the teacher, the storyteller, the one who knows more than the dog for a change… They just blossom when they get to be the one who knows more than the dog.”

The animal therapy program is especially interesting to me as a result of the similarities between this type of program and Jumpstart. Now, I’m not saying college students resemble dogs—though some might be able to pass for one—but rather that both programs work around the idea of making children comfortable with the learning process.

At Jumpstart, there is a lot of focus put on the importance of Corps members forming a bond with their partner child. This relationship is similar to the bond that is encouraged between students and the therapy dogs. Both programs work to make the child comfortable with the learning process; if a child can become comfortable with their partner, the anxiety of asking for help is lessened. There is no intimidation in going to ask for help or embarrassment for not knowing a certain word.

Children who have exposure to programs like Jumpstart or reading therapy dogs certainly have an advantage over those students who do not. Whether the child is working with a dog or a college student, the individualized connection the two share are great motivational factors when learning how to read or learn anything inside or out of the classroom. The success stories are terrific examples of how volunteering can touch the life of a child.

For more information on R.E.A.D. visit therapyanimals.org/read.
For more information on Jumpstart visit jstart.org.

March 21, 2010

Parisian Love

Filed under: blog #6 — ajblack029 @ 10:54 pm

                We hear stories every day; friends, co-workers, and even strangers have a constant need to share special moments that they have experienced or heard of. In marketing, stories offer a unique opportunity for companies to connect with their target. In Made to Stick, authors Dan and Chip Heath explain the appeal of stories: “When we read books, we have the sensation of being drawn into the author’s world. When friends tell us stores, we instinctively empathize. When we watch movies, we identify with the protagonist.” As a result of this, when consumers are presented with advertisements that feature stories, there is a higher level of engagement the ad potentially has with its target.

                In Google’s highly-acclaimed Super Bowl ad, “Parisian Love,” the audience is told the story of a young student who falls in love with a girl he meets while studying abroad. The ad chronicles the boy’s use of Google as he first searches for international programs in Paris, followed by several searches that show the development of the relationship between the boy and a charming Parisian girl he falls in love with and eventually marries. This plot falls into the category the Heath brothers classify as “the Connection plot.”

                A Connection plot is a “a story about people who develop a relationship that bridges a gap—racial, class, ethnic, religious, demographic, or otherwise.” In the case of “Parisian Love,” the young couple must bridge several gaps: a lack of knowledge, different demographics, and a language barrier between the two. Luckily for this couple, Google is here to save the day. It just so happens that every gap that we see this couple encounter is solved with the help of the world’s most popular search engine.

[YOUTUBE=http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=nnsSUqgkDwU]

                Because most everyone who is able to see the ad has used Google at some point, it is extremely easy to connect with the commercial. At one point or another we have all used Google for trivial things such as, “study abroad programs Paris, France.” Heath and Heath explain that “brain scans show that when people imagine a flashing light, they activate the visual area of the brain; when they imagine something tapping on their skin, they activate the tactile areas of the brain.” It is for this reason that when anyone views this ad, it is easy to connect with the story the short spot highlights. Made to Stick also points out that “stories have the amazing dual power to simulate and to inspire.” While the story is fiction, it is easily passable as fact, stimulating the senses while inspiring to those who know the excitement of young love.

February 21, 2010

“This is your brain”

Filed under: blog #4 — ajblack029 @ 12:15 am

As a child growing up in the U.S., doctors, parents, teachers and countless other persons of authority continuously remind and lecture you about the dangers of drugs. Anti-drug commercials often silently echo these warnings in failed attempts at explaining the simple equation: you + drugs = bad. However, the Partnership for a Drug-Free America has had some success in creating ads that use its credibility to promote the harmful effects of drugs.

In 2006, the PDFA released a series of ads relating drug use to an egg being fried. The most popular of the ads, “Brain on Drugs,” portrayed an egg—your brain—being pulverized by a frying pan—heroin—slamming down on top of the egg. The ad then states, “It’s not over yet,” as the frying pan slams into plates—your family—and other items around the kitchen—your friends and your life—are all shattered to pieces. According to the PDFA Web site, the ad, with its “famous tagline, This is your brain. This is your brain on drugs, is the most widely-shown TV message of any created by the Partnership for Drug-Free America in its 20-year history.”

In Made to Stick, authors Dan and Chip Heath explain that these “vivid details boost credibility.” This television spot undoubtedly features some vivid details. For one of the first times, the destruction that drugs can have on a person was given a visual comparison for people to witness and comprehend the dangers of drugs. The statement made by this emphasis on vivid details and demonstration is shockingly bold; however, more importantly than this vivid detail in the ad is the PDFA’s standing as a credible source of information about drugs. The Heath brothers state, “Authority makes us think twice about what would otherwise be some pretty incredible statements.” Because of this authority of the PDFA has, the ad’s claims are seen as more credible in the viewer’s mind, giving the commercial more validity and seen as more effective in reaching the target.

February 15, 2010

“As beautiful as it is powerful”

Filed under: Uncategorized — ajblack029 @ 11:02 pm

                It’s humorous to think that the technology that today fits in our pocket in the form of smartphones and PDAs used to be contained in entire buildings just a few decades ago. Technology has come a long way, particularly in the way we manage our information and lives on the go. Research In Motion, the maker of BlackBerry devices, has been one of the industry leaders for several years now, producing many of the top-selling devices in this mobile market. But as the market becomes more saturated, RIM must keep up, not only by producing these devices, but keeping the consumer’s attention, and loyalty, inline with the BlackBerry brand.

                In 2008, RIM introduced the BlackBerry Bold, a device they describe as “beautiful as it is powerful.” The commercial opens on several snapshots portraying random objects that one encounters in everyday life; as the spot progresses, the snapshots come together in the shape of the new BlackBerry Bold. The ad proclaims, “connect to everything you love in life,” in reference to the variety of tasks the phone is capable of. This statement is pretty broad, as there is little—or so it seems—difference between the Bold and other smartphones on the market. The ad is compacted by the concrete statement that the phone is “as beautiful as it is powerful.”

In Made to Stick, Dan and Chip Heath explain that “if you can examine something with your senses, it’s concrete.” That is just what RIM had done in this spot that introduced the device. The simple statement helped transform the device from any old smartphone into a stylish and powerful device that is capable assist you through “everything you love in life.” Similar to the example the Heath brothers gave of The Nature Conservatory “converting abstract blobs on a map into tangible landscapes,” RIM was able to sell the consumer on characteristics of the device that they are familiar with, rather than consumer-foreign technical specifications such as the amount of megabytes available for 3D rendering capability. I’d say RIM did a pretty good job with this one, if it hadn’t required a carrier-switch, I would have owned a BlackBerry Bold by now.

February 7, 2010

‘Swear Jar’

Filed under: blog #2 — ajblack029 @ 4:24 pm

As I sit down to write this, there are only a few short hours until the most anticipated advertising event of the year: the Super Bowl. Unfortunately, I still haven’t developed the ability to peer into the future, so I will not be discussing one of the undoubtedly-hilarious commercials that will be aired tonight, but rather I have chosen a campaign that is a little older

The Bud Light “Swear Jar” viral advertisement was a one minute spot that was created for Anheuser-Busch in 2007 that took the internet by storm. The premise of the ad is simple: an office has an ordinary swear jar that people put change in every time someone swears. The receptionist suggests that the money could possibly go towards a case of Bud Light for everyone in the office. Suddenly, even then top executives are throwing swears around to earn a cold Bud Light in an unexpectedly hilarious spot.

As the Heath brothers explain in their book, Made to Stick, “the most basic way to get someone’s attention is this: Break a pattern.” As anyone who has seen the commercial can attest, this is not your average commercial. The text explains how a broken pattern disrupts the schemas that the viewer has about what their preconceived notions of are about what is to be expected, in this case, in commercials.

Most of the schemas I have in regards to commercials are pretty standard. It’s understood that in the thirty or sixty second spot, that someone is going to try to sell me some sort of product or service; that’s what a commercial is. There is sometimes drama, or sometimes there is humor, though it is commonly believed that there isn’t going to be anything altogether too crazy going on.

Dan and Chip Heath note that “surprise gets our attention” while “interest keeps our attention.” In The Swear Jar spot, the viewer is not expecting a commercial of dialogue filled with censored out swears: people don’t swear in commercials, it’s just not done. When something like this is shown, you’re thrown off guard by the fact that they are running their mouths off in the commercial. This is an excellent example of how something unexpected in advertising can manage to gain all of your attention and suck you into a memorable ad.

The spot was never aired on television, but the ad did stick in many people’s mind; according to AdGabber, the ad had over 12 million views as of September 2008, a number that is surely much higher by now. In addition to millions of viewers around the globe, Anheuser-Busch also won its first Emmy for “Swear Jarin the “Outstanding Commercial” category. *Bleep*in’ awesome.

February 1, 2010

‘Fratalian’

Filed under: blog #1 — ajblack029 @ 1:09 am

A trip to Starbucks can certainly be an intimidating experience for a novice customer. While ordering a drink is a seemingly easy concept, as you wait in line you constantly overhear new orders that all seem to have growing complexity. A simple latte turns into a grande nonfat no whip white mocha.  The woman in front of you orders a tall half-skinny half-1 percent extra hot split quad shot latte with whip. It’s easy to doubt your latte-ordering capabilities. Am I ordering this properly?  Can’t I just an order a latte, and not to make a fool of myself in the process?

Enter Dunkin’ Donut’s quest to bring the latte to the everyday Joe Smith.

This particular commercial showcases Dunkin’s venture to bring the latte to the ‘common-man’ public they target. It takes the seemingly complicated task of ordering such a sophisticated coffee beverage and makes it simple. In the book, Made to Stick: Why Some Ideas Survive and Others Die, brothers Chip and Dan Heath discus the importance of simplicity in creating concepts that stick. Dunkin’ Donuts decided to create the sophisticated latte experience on an unsophisticated level for everyone to enjoy, in other words: simplify it. That seems to be something Americans can get behind in an instant; nothing can be too easy. Dunkin’ introduces the idea that there’s no need to rush out and purchase an updated version of Rosetta Stone in order to train your mouth the proper techniques for the skill of ordering a afternoon pick-me-up latte.

The Heath brothers emphasize the idea that simple = core + compact; this equation implies that a successful simple campaign is straight-to-the-point message with one clear message. In the case of the Fritalian ad, the commercial’s’ punchline, “Delicious lattes from Dunkin’ Donuts. You order them in English,” is a perfect example of a core and compact idea. It informs the audience The Dunkin’ is now carrying lattes, and they’re easy to order. Simple enough, right? I think so.

The campaign seems to have been a success, too. Most every Dunkin’ Donuts now carries the latte products, and I constantly see—at least on the East coast where Dunkin’ easily holds its own amongst competitors—nearly as many Dunkin’ branded lattes being caddied around as those ‘fancy’ hand-crafted masterpieces from Starbucks.  Has Dunkin’ brought the latte to the ‘common-man?’ I think they certainly have. A tip of my hat to you, Dunkin’ Donuts.

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