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Choate Rosemary Hall

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Sarah Gordon, Assistant Director of Communications
Choate Rosemary Hall
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[Podcast] Modern Craftsmanship: Creating Student Content Operations Systems
Strategize Like a Boss with Mia Major

In this episode of "Strategize Like a Boss with Mia Major", Mia is joined by Aaron Schorn. Aaron is a storyteller, craftsman, and a champion for Product-Based Learning. He is focused on creating student-centered systems to authentically tell the story of learning communities. As Programs Director at the Nalukai Foundation he creates curriculum and implements entrepreneurship programs for youth across the state of Hawai'i. He is also faculty at Hawai'i Preparatory Academy (HPA) where his Digital Journalism and Social Entrepreneurship courses are centered around Product-Based Learning, the Lean Startup methodology, project management, and building digital brands. The classes are supported by mentors across industries working directly with students on their products. Aaron's professional background is in international business, digital storytelling, operations/management, UX/UI, and content creation. 

Learn more about the podcast from this post written by Aaron Schorn:

Let me begin with the pitch. Authentic storytelling and content creation is achieved by centering an operations structure around your clients/customers, which are your student population and their families.

Your clients are now your writers, videographers, focus groups, website auditors, photographers, data visualizers, marketers, project managers, mentors, and product creators. Your school's digital platforms are now their spaces to apply learned skills, to build resumes and their digital brand, as well as view themselves as professionals. You are now building capacity within your student population and creating a sustainable content operations model for years to come.

Five years ago I became the Webmaster for Hawai’i Preparatory Academy (HPA), a K-12 school with day and boarding programs in the Upper School. The campuses are situated in Waimea, Hawai’i, one of the more beautiful environments and landscapes on earth. After choosing Finalsite as our CMS, my charge was to build out a website that authentically told the story, values, mission, vision, and brand of this incredible learning community. No small task. I began with market research, pouring over the websites and storytelling of schools like Loomis Chaffee, Thatcher, Avon Old Farms, Taft School, and Lawrence Academy.

I then set about workshopping with all relevant school departments, building out written copy all while using the school’s mission and vision statements to brand all created content. But there was something missing, it felt like I wasn’t capturing HPA’s value propositions or what made it truly unique.

So I formed a student website build team. We met once a week at lunch, discussed a timeline, goals, and split up to conquer the different elements of the build. The students audited over 100 school websites, and came up with data visualizations representing best practices of school home pages and outer pages. They interviewed other students, and chose brand words that came from our mission, vision, and core values. They aided in the creation of the site architecture, and wrote copy for sections across the site. Lastly, they created a presentation of our efforts and plan, and pitched it to senior administrators. That plan formed the foundation of what our website looks like today.

Iterating off of this experience I formed a six member student videography team the summer before we launched the new website. In two months these creative rockstars created 13 videos for the website, Youtube, and social media. We travelled across the island with drones and mics capturing what makes HPA and Hawai’i incomparable.

Our Welcome Video that was featured as a top 6 school welcome video, created by Daniel Matsumoto ‘15:

After the website launched, I asked to create and teach a course, Digital Journalism, that would utilize the school’s website and social media as platforms for students to create multimedia that authentically captured their experiences and love for the school. The school now had a content operations system in place, where students through videography, photography, audio, and writing, were creating ROI content that spread our brand and highlighted what our students were capable of. These students now had an environment where they could begin building their own digital brands, resumes, and network with professionals in the journalism, media, and tech industries.

Win, win.

One of my favorite pieces of content created by my students, the page was also created by another student.

Seeing the capacity and sheer talent of youth led me to my current position as a part-time faculty member at HPA teaching Digital Journalism and Social Entrepreneurship and as the Programs Director/Startup Camp Director at the Nalukai Foundation.

Now, how does your school build out a student content operations system that takes your storytelling and education to the next level? Well, listen to the podcast above, and in my next blog post I will share a step by step guide that you can tailor to your learning community.

If you would like to learn more about Aaron's work contact him at aaron@nalukai.org

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