Are you waiting for the good old days?

August 20, 2010

Remember the good old days of funding, back when classes were small, classrooms were well-stocked, teachers were paid well and education was well funded? When was that exactly? If we think back, probably that time, if it ever existed was back in the 1970s or so.

By the mid-1980’s, massive cutbacks to education began across the developed world. In Canada in the U.S. the phrase “cost recovery programs” was introduced, meaning that courses such as those offered by continuing education branches of large public educational institutions and boards. In the UK, education changed dramatically under Margaret Thatcher. Class sizes grew. Morale among teachers dropped. Salaries stayed the same, as wage freezes took effect.

Do you still wish for the days before all the changes? I hate to break it to you, but they’re not coming back. There are fewer and fewer full-time positions available in all job sectors now. Outsourcing to countries where labor costs are much less expensive is taking over the world at a rapid pace. Educational experiences online are budding right through the traditional brick-and-mortar institutions.

The question is, what do we do now? I’d argue that the trick is to think forwards instead of backwards. Look around and assess what you really have in the 21st century. More teachers than every have graduate degrees. Classrooms are more technologically advanced than they have ever been. Children love to learn and play just as much as they ever did. And most of them can’t relate to those “good old days” because what exists today is the norm for them.

If we assess the current situation with a view to valuing what we have today, it shifts our perspective, putting us in a space of possibility and expanding horizons, rather than a black hole that sucks in your energy, your spirit and your love of teaching.

The question is not “How do we get our funding back?” but rather “How do we maximize the tremendous resources we have in terms of wisdom, knowledge, experience and potential to ensure that our students have the best experience we can give them today?”

The greatest gift we can give our children and our students is a future full of possibility, curiosity, creativity and compassion for their fellow humans. To do so, requires forward thinking and a commitment to make it happen for them.

What are you waiting for?

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Update – January 2018 – This blog has had over 1.8 million views thanks to readers like you. If you enjoyed this post, please “like” it or share it on social media. Thanks!

Sarah Elaine Eaton is a faculty member in the Werklund School of Education, University of Calgary, Canada.


Guerrilla Marketing for Nonprofits – Webinar recording

August 19, 2010

What an amazing hour we just spent with Chris Forbes, co-author of Guerrilla Marketing for Nonprofits!

We were so privileged to have Chris donate his time to talk about marketing for nonprofit organizations, how to raise funds, promote programs and develop a marketing strategy. Learn Central / Elluminate provided both the technology and the tech support to make it happen.

If you missed it, check out the recording.

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Update – January 2018 – This blog has had over 1.8 million views thanks to readers like you. If you enjoyed this post, please “like” it or share it on social media. Thanks!

Sarah Elaine Eaton is a faculty member in the Werklund School of Education, University of Calgary, Canada.


Formal, Non-formal and Informal Learning in the Sciences

August 18, 2010

A few months ago I shared a research report called Formal, non-formal and informal learning: The case of literacy and language learning in Canada. Following that report, I began working with a geophysicist, Heather L. Ainsworth, who also had interest in learning contexts. We collaborated and together we researched, wrote and published a companion report that took the same concepts of formal, non-formal and informal learning and applied them to science and engineering. The result was this companion report, which we co-authored.

View this document on Scribd

Formal, Non-formal and Informal Learning in the Sciences (July, 2010)

ISBN: 978-0-9733594-5-9

Formal abstract: This research report investigates the links between formal, non-formal and informal learning and the differences between them. In particular, the report aims to link these notions of learning to the field of sciences and engineering in Canada and the United States, including professional development of adults working in these fields. It offers practical, concrete examples as well as a conceptual framework for understanding formal, non-formal and informal learning. It offers examples of how all three types of learning are valued in the fields of science and engineering in both educational and professional contexts. It also discusses science literacy, what it is and how popular media is elevating science literacy in general. This is a companion report to “Formal, Non-formal and Informal Learning: The Case of Language Learning and Literacy in Canada” (February, 2010).

Full-text copies of this report may be downloaded from:

National Library of Canada Online Archives (Note: This link works in Explorer and Firefox.)

Related posts:

Formal, Non-formal and Informal Learning (Infographic) https://wp.me/pNAh3-266

Formal, non-formal and informal learning: The case of literacy and language learning in Canada

Formal, non-formal and informal education: What Are the Differences?

Formal, Non-formal and Informal Learning: A podcast

Breathtaking Impact of Volunteers’ Contribution to Non-formal and Informal Literacy Education in Alberta

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Update – January 2018 – This blog has had over 1.8 million views thanks to readers like you. If you enjoyed this post, please “like” it or share it on social media. Thanks!

Sarah Elaine Eaton is a faculty member in the Werklund School of Education, University of Calgary, Canada.


Strategies to increase enrollments in language programs

August 18, 2010

It breaks my heart when I hear about programs that have decreasing enrollment or worse, under threat of closure due to low enrollment. From my experience of working with schools and programs over the past decade I can honestly say that there is no “magic bullet” in a situation like this. It will take time for the program to rebuild. If you teach for or manage a program that needs a boost in enrollment, here are some strategies that may help:

1. Every semester plan an event around the language. Events can include:

Native Speakers’ Day – Bring in native speakers who are successful and could be considered role models to come into the school to give presentations on their work, their life, their travels, their culture or whatever inspires them. Get bios for each speaker and have students prepare questions to ask them.

Second Language Speech Competition – Bring in “celebrity” judges from your local community who speak the target language (politicians eat this stuff up and we’ve had good success getting both local,  provincial support and even embassy support for speech competitions).

Cultural celebration day – Have students showcase their work through videos, poster presentations and demonstrations. They can prepare food, perform a dance (or better yet, give a short dance class) or have a sing-along. Make the students who are currently enrolled in the program the focus of the entire day. Invite parents and community stake-holders to observe, drop by and share in the celebration. Having a local “celebrity” native speaker to offer opening and closing remarks or emcee the day is a huge boost.

The idea behind all of these is to get involvement from people in the community. This not only generates interest, when we get outsiders involved, it also builds credibility and legitimacy. These events take a huge amount of organization and I can tell you for sure, they are absolutely worth it.

2. Get media coverage. It breaks my heart when I hear about programs that have decreasing enrollment or worse, under threat of closure due to low enrollment. From my experience of working with schools and programs over the past decade I can honestly say that there is no “magic bullet” in a situation like this. It will take time for the program to rebuild. Here are some strategies that may help:

3. Have a contest – any kind of contest – with the students enrolled in your program. My favorite is a video contest on centered around a key question. My favorite is “How does learning a language change your world?” You can get more details on this particular activity in my downloadable ebook – “Want to Change the World? Learn Another Language: Leadership Inspired by Language Learning ebook” at http://wp.me/PNAh3-5H

If your school allows it, students can post their videos on YouTube. Their friends see it… they get talking, and interest in your program goes up.

There is no short-term solution for a language program that is in need of “program rescue”, but consistently celebrating students work, adding in the element of community, getting a local celebrity native speaker or two to champion your program and getting some positive media coverage will all contribute significantly to bolstering the program’s image and generating interest. Do that for several months and you’ll see your enrollments go up bit by bit. all of the above, work with your school secretary, principles and district communications office to send out press releases. I guarantee you that if your events get media coverage, you will generate interest. There is an art to writing press releases, and often school districts have strict protocols around communications, so working with your admin team and district is not only helpful, it is essential.

There is no short-term solution to your question, but consistently celebrating students work, adding in the element of community, getting a local celebrity native speaker or two to champion your program and getting some positive media coverage will all contribute significantly to bolstering the program’s image and generating interest. Do that for several months and you’ll see your enrollments go up bit by bit.

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Update – January 2018 – This blog has had over 1.8 million views thanks to readers like you. If you enjoyed this post, please “like” it or share it on social media. Thanks!

Sarah Elaine Eaton is a faculty member in the Werklund School of Education, University of Calgary, Canada.


One key tip to make your marketing materials pop – It’s all about you

August 16, 2010

Marketers of educational program make one fatal mistake. They think like educational administrators and not like marketers.

I’ve seen marketing materials that look more like a handbook of rules and regulations than they do promotional materials. They’re long, boring, tedious and impersonal. Here’s one key tip that will change the way you write and think about your marketing materials.

Use the word “you”.

That’s it. Sound simple? Well, if you’re used to writing your marketing materials that way, it is pretty straightforward. Many programs use third person plural – for example, “the students” or “they” – in their marketing materials. This weakens your marketing edge because it puts perceived distance between you and your prospective learner. This passive writing style is harder to follow by speakers of other languages, and is considered old-fashioned in modern writing of all kinds.

You are promoting your program to the person reading about it, so speak to that person directly. This is a marketing and communications technique that brings the product or service closer to the individual, and connects it to the client in a personal way. Consider the difference between these two statements:

“Students will be taken on interesting excursions every Friday afternoon.” (Yawn. Booh-ring!)

“You will go on interesting excursions every Friday afternoon.” (Who, me? I will go on interesting excursions every Friday? Well, sign me up!)

Do you see and feel a difference between these two statements? If the second statement has more impact on you, then you understand the power of speaking directly to your prospective learner.

One technique for writing marketing materials is to envision one single person you would like to sign up for your program. This could be a current student if he or she fits your vision of the ideal registrant. Bring a picture of your this ideal prospective learner into your mind. How old is that person? Where is your learner from? What language(s) does your learner speak? It is unlikely that you are only going to have one type of learner in your program. The point isn’t to focus on one person to the exclusion of other types of learners, but rather to bring a visual image into your mind so you have someone to “talk to” when you write your marketing materials.

Then write as if you were speaking to that person directly. You will be amazed at the powerful marketing materials you can produce.

In marketing, as in teaching, the most powerful word is “you”. It is always about the learner. In your classrooms. On your website. In your brochures.

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This post has been adapted from “Idea # 11: Write your marketing materials using ‘you'” from 101 Ways to Market Your Language Program.

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Update – January 2018 – This blog has had over 1.8 million views thanks to readers like you. If you enjoyed this post, please “like” it or share it on social media. Thanks!

Sarah Elaine Eaton is a faculty member in the Werklund School of Education, University of Calgary, Canada.


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