Education

On Unpaid Interns

On April 4th, 2014, I was listening to CBC Radio One (as I always do) and that particular day featured a discussion about “UnPaid Interns” on BC Almanac, hosted by Mark Forsythe. By the end of the program I was agitated (read: raging) and dropped everything (sorry, kids) to compose an email and send forth my thoughts on the subject.

As is the case with most, if not all, communications written in haste, it is riddled with writing errors: what I do hope is clear, however, is my disapproval of for-profit organizations exploiting the workforce under the pretence that interns are gaining such valuable workplace experience they don’t deserve a fair wage. Shame on these organizations and shame on our political bodies for not regulating this better.

Here is my letter below, copied & pasted from the original email.

Dear Mark & BC Almanac,

Your program today on unpaid internships has me all fired up. As a post-secondary instructor, I would like to weigh in on this after the fact: although the discussion doesn’t end today and thankfully will continue as proper legislation helps carve out a framework to address this very issue.

Although I recognize that there is likely a “good case” for each and every situation to be examined independently, in general unpaid internships are exploitive of the intern and fundamentally wrong for the employer. I sincerely doubt that those who decide to “hire” an unpaid intern don’t say, “hey let’s give someone a truly educational and fulfilling work experience to better their future career!”. No. They likely come to the decision by saying, “hey, let’s get an intern to do it.” Perhaps because I teach business I am more skeptical, but I’ve seen this attitude, I’ve heard these comments, and I believe this is the common attitude shared by for-profit employers when it comes to hiring interns to just, “do the job”.

I can’t help but wonder, and worry about, the kind of example these employers are setting for our future generation of leaders. They are basically telling them, and showing them, that other people do not matter. That they are not valued. They are disregarding the individual and instead focusing on the task at hand that needs to be accomplished, completed, tested, or fulfilled using the fewest resources possible. It’s bottom line driven. It’s exploitive.

There are no excuses for companies to not partner with an educational institution to ensure that any intern position is fulfilling educational goals. In the academic world these are called “Learning Objectives” or “Outcomes” and all of the courses we offer must fulfill these objectives. Perhaps a course can only deliver on its objectives by partnering with an employer, and in that case, compensation is very likely not necessary or appropriate. But it’s those companies who are approaching unpaid interns with the attitude of “just getting stuff done” that is not appropriate.

Finally, my other concern regarding this topic is the sort of “segregation” it creates in our society and more specifically amongst our working-able population. Those of privilege may be more likely to accept unpaid interns because of their own personal circumstances that allow them to forfeit income. I teach at an educational institution where many of our students are not privileged. They are likely holding down one or more jobs to pay for their schooling. And they likely are supporting family at home, or in a foreign country. Many of my students are already facing barriers to learning and work, the very idea of an unpaid internship in “exchange” for work experience further separates them from a class of students who already have a step up on them because they face few, if any, barriers. it’s wrong and it’s not what we should be condone in our diverse and multi-cultural society.

I see a number of offers come across my inbox for companies looking to “hire” unpaid interns in business roles. I refuse to endorse these and will not share them with my students. Perhaps employers don’t value them, but I do. And more importantly, I am doing my best to teach them how to value themselves and become ethical and moral leaders in the future.

Thank you,
Andrea Niosi

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DDB Canada shares its wisdom with Kwantlen marketing students

Today I attended a tour of DDB Canada’s Vancouver head office. It was an event arranged by the Kwantlen Marketing Association (“KMA”) and it was well-attended by a number of my 2nd year Advertising students and other marketing majors at Kwantlen. My thanks goes out to the KMA for organizing this event and conducting themselves professionally: we have a truly wonderful group of students representing our institution in the community.

We met a number of DDB professionals today who offered up some wise words of support and encouragement for our students as they forge ahead in their education and eventually emerge a marketer seeking their first post-undergraduate job.

Sara: On “Share Value”

Example: Eggonomics

The big trend today is creating what DDB calls “Share Value“. Many consumers naturally want to share content on their own which means clients no longer need to spend a lot on paid media. Share Value puts the consumer in control of spreading the content. It’s free, it’s social, and it’s powerful.

Sara: On Integrated Campaigns

Example: BC Hydro PowerSmart

Integrated campaigns are typical of agency work these days: it’s rare that a client doesn’t want to have some integrated component across media channels. Working with BC Hydro, DDB came up with an integrated campaign to raise awareness around energy usage and inspire conservation across the province. The campaign involved the creation of video, print media, digital billboards, and an online game. Success was measured in the reduction of power consumption, the number of visits to PowerSmart’s website, and overall change in consumer behaviour and attitude around power usage. The campaign also won DDB Strategy Agency of the Year.

Paige: An advocate for education

The PR Director of the agency spoke to the students about the importance of education: quickie courses; short-cuts; and mail-in certifications will not take anyone far in this business. Paige is an advocate for education and lots of it. She holds an undergraduate degree in Business; post-graduate credential in Public Relations; and a Masters’ in Communication.

Paige: On getting your feet wet

Starting your career at an agency is a great way to get your feet wet. The exposure to different areas of business, creative, strategy, production, and industries provides a valuable learning opportunity for all new marketing grads. Employers often look for agency experience when hiring in-house marketing talent.

Zerlina: On what production really does

Zerlina heads up production at DDB which means she manages a team of 8-10 project managers who see client projects from conception through to end deliverable. The team is responsible for budgeting and timelines: they also get involved in strategy, idea formation, and of course, production. From mobile apps to interaction to web development, they do it all (or outsource if the project calls for that). What else does production do? Well, they’re problem solvers Zerlina tells us. They work closely with creatives and techies and bring an idea or concept to life. What skills do these people have? Zerlina tells us that the kind of people who best suit these roles are those who have strengths in organization and working with structure. I’m married to a project manager so I can tell you flat out, she’s absolutely right.

Paige: On developing writing skills

I had to ask this question because I see so many of my students struggle to develop a clear, succinct, professional writing style in many of my courses. Part of the journey from first year to fourth year is perfecting the art of the written word. Communication skills are so important in marketing and although I firmly believe some of us have “raw talent” it doesn’t mean we shouldn’t work hard to develop writing and presentation skills. In particular I have noticed a degradation of writing skills over the years and as educators it’s our job to prepare the students for upper-level courses and the working world.

So what did Paige tell us? She told us to practice. Practice, practice, practice. Get used to having to re-write your work 6 or 7 or 8 times (my students can already attest to that). Always consider your audience first: a news release or formal piece of corporate communication is always going to be written in a different style than a blog post. Paige also said to write your first draft as though it’s your first and only draft: in other words, start becoming a perfectionist immediately. Don’t do half the work and expect someone else to fill in the gaps later. Write each item as though it needs to be the best piece of work you’ve ever written. I sure hope my students are reading this right now.

Josh: On the fallacy known as the “creative process”

I was dying to ask a Creative Director this question all day so when we were invited to ask Josh, a DDB Creative Director working in Digital a question I jumped in.

Andrea: Can you describe the creative process and whether or not you follow a structured creative methodology or if it’s more organic in nature?

Josh: Definitely no structure!

Andrea: Throw your textbooks away everyone! No, just kidding. Please elaborate, Josh.

So, Josh went on to explain that the process they follow is definitely more organic, however the creative brief is still the starting place. He called it a “conversation”, which I liked and could relate to from my past agency and client experiences. Josh said that although the process is less structured it is still governed by clear objectives which give direction for the strategic process.

Sara: On getting started

At the end of the tour Sara wrapped up the Q&A with some insight on how to get started in the business. As a recent UBC Commerce grad, Sara knows what it takes to get your foot in the door. I’m sure many of the students were surprised to hear that it wasn’t grades, or “raw talent”, or creativity. It all boiled down to personality. Working in an agency means you have to have the right kind of adaptable, outgoing, open-minded personality which will enable you to work with clients, creatives, and techies. Even if you are not the most creative cat in the room, you need to have an eye and appreciation for great creative work. Sara said it’s important that you learn to speak up and develop strong communication skills.

I couldn’t agree more. Thank you Sara, KMA, and DDB for the insightful and inspiring afternoon.

Twitter in the classroom

I love coming across articles like this one recently published by The Vancouver Sun. And I am so encouraged to see the growing adoption of social media technologies in the classroom – and not just in post-secondary!

I have spent the past few months of my non-teaching time exploring new social/sharing platforms to better understand their user offerings and limitations. Twitter continues to rank high on my list of effective, prompt, and succinct tools for communicating with students in and out of the classroom.

But a new rising star is on the horizon and I have to give brownie points to GooglePlus: launched this past July, G+ has grown to over 20-million users (power-users for the most part – journalists ,marketers, tech junkies) and offers the best of Facebook and Twitter paired with capabilities more commonly seen in Skype and Foursquare. And the iPhone app is easy to navigate and has an excellent and speedy uploading feature.

So while I continue to encourage new and existing educators to explore the possibilities of Twitter, I would also like to see the adoption of G+ for collaboration, communication, and content creation. I for one am beyond eager to use this tool in my future courses and am thrilled to see so many of my Kwantlen (and one BCIT) students already on G+.

Cheers to all the power-users out there (isn’t it fun being an early adopter).  😉

Turning the “lecture” class into an “interactive” class

Just finished reading this article by Cathy Davidson, “Going Interactive in a Big Way: How Can We Transform the Lecture Class?”, and what really stood out was the following:

Since embracing student-created, peer-driven methodology, I’ve not taught a large lecture class. At this moment, Duke has wanted to be an explorer, pushing the boundaries of teaching, and I’ve concentrated on the small class experience to prototype some methods. But I’m looking ahead to the large lecture class, one of my favorite forms of teaching and one that, at many universities, isn’t a choice but a necessity.

Cathy goes on to ask about how we can take advantage of the “group learning” experience to turn it into an interactive one. After all, she says:

We go to movies rather than only watch DVD’s alone; we go to sports events rather than just watch them on tv; we hear live music and go to plays together…because there is something humanly compelling about sitting among strangers and collectively enjoying and responding to (or not) the same stimuli.

Some ideas collected and shared include:

  • Student-run classes (organized and activities prepared)
  • Turning large classes into “Production Companies” (via Michael Wesch) — see video in attached article
  • Connecting “old” media to “new” media via the entire production & marketing chain (eg. create product, market product, promote product, sell product, process feedback on product).
I can’t help but think about how we at Kwantlen have the advantage of having small classroom sizes where there is perhaps more freedom to be innovative and experimental in delivering a profound, relevant, and meaningful learning experience to our students.
What ideas do you have to turn our classrooms into more interactive environments? Please share in the comment box below, we’d really love to hear from you — faculty, students, and “others”!

Technology is not the enemy. We are (summary)

From April 19, 2011

Today was a great day. I attended Kwantlen’s Engaged Learning Symposium both as a learner and as a presenter. In the morning session I presented a 50-minute lecture entitled,”Face it: Technology is not the enemy, we are.” It was my “call” to all faculty to consider using more technology, and in particular social media, in the classroom instead of banning it all together. I delivered my lecture via Prezi and dissected the content into 3 “pillars”:

  • My Story – who I am and how I arrived at this point in my teaching career. Included a screen shot of my 2 worst reviews on RateMyProfessor.com (which were eye openers and impetus for change).
  • Technology vs Culture [Managing Change: Technology & Education] – we can’t talk about bringing radical new teaching styles into the classroom without acknowledging the need for change management. Understanding why people (eg. faculty) might resist change helps us recognize how to successfully deliver them into acceptance.
  • Technology in the Classroom: Marketing 3311 demonstrated use of social media – focusing on blogging (WordPress) and micro-blogging (Twitter) I discussed the role of social web tools and outcomes for both students & instructors.

I could have used another half hour, at least, to field questions at the end of the session, but alas…I may just have to offer a Part II session instead. The discussions were great though – and impressed me to see that the wheels were turning…couple of questions that came from faculty included:

1. “If I’m teaching 4 sections in one semester with 30 students in each, how am I supposed to read 120 blog posts each week. Isn’t using technology supposed to help create less work for the instructor instead of more?”

– Yes; less work is one of the desired outcomes for faculty. So in this case, my suggestion is to have students “sign up” for a set number of blog posts throughout the term so that you are only reading and evaluating, say 5 per section, each week and then having the remaining 25 students in each section comment and engage in online discussions.

2. “How can I teach to a class of students who are surfing the web, Facebooking friends, watching YouTube videos, tweeting nonsense, etc. This is what happens when we allow hardware into the classroom and into the hands of students.”

– Yup, agree; this is what happens so let’s redirect their focus. Let’s keep students busy so if they are surfing the web they are…finding critical changes to Canadian Criminology Law and codes in the last 5 years; or if they are on Facebook they are…analyzing advertising strategies or finding examples of Metcalfe’s Law in action; or if they are watching YouTube videos they are…finding Google’s YouTube channel that delivers web analytics seminars; or if they are tweeting they are actively following hashtags for #sociology #orgbehaviour #Ghana #photosynthesis and finding thought leaders, bloggers, influencers, and important publications not found in textbooks.

Using technology and social media in the classroom requires a complete re-wiring of the educator’s brain: this experience allows us to take on a completely different role: a collaborator, moderator, and facilitator of the educational process. The scarier it feels the more liberating it will be. Allowing this role change opens up a great opportunity to learn, share, and grow, and not just for the students.

If your wheels are turning and you are pondering how to do this you have already made huge (mental) strides. Allow yourself now to tinker, explore, experiment, and sometimes…to fail. Students are both accepting and forgiving in my experience and also great teachers. That is, if you are willing to allow them to be.

Where would you like technology to take you?

Mmmm…I love mini-epiphanies

I haven’t had one in a while (what’s wrong with me?), but at the Kwantlen Engaged Learning Symposium I had a nice little epiphany during the lecture presented by the very passionate Katie Warfield and equally passionate Steve Dooley. Katie and Steve’s presentation was entitled, “Weaving theory and practice to foster passion in the classroom”. They shared their personal and professional experiences in bringing passion into the classroom and encouraging students to learn from a place of passion.

Sheer brilliance. And the outcomes were evident, based on the qualitative feedback from their students.

So back to me. After their lecture, Katie and Steve had the attendees take a minute to write down our own passions. My list looked like this:

  • learning
  • sharing
  • my kid
  • geeking-out
  • cooking/baking

This pretty much sums up where I am in my life right now.

Then, they asked us to find a theme amongst our passions. Hmm…let’s see…learning and sharing is what I do (as an educator) and has kept me in perpetual motion for the past, er, number of years/decades. My kid, geeking-out, cooking/baking…well hold the phone. A year and a half ago I put all of these together and created my personal blog called My Picky Kid and it has been a great source of amusement for me as well as inspiration.

Next Katie & Steve asked us to consider how we could bring our passions into the classroom. Ok, now I feel like a cheat at this point. Given I teach (digital) marketing, I use my own personal blog as a means to teach students how to blog, what to blog, and how to promote their blogs. It’s really the “walk” of the “walk the talk” scenario. Good stuff!

A mini-ephiphany! Good stuff, bravo Katie & Steve.

Technology is not the enemy. We are [summary]

Today was a great day. I attended Kwantlen’s Engaged Learning Symposium both as a learner and as a presenter. In the morning session I presented a 50-minute lecture entitled,”Face it: Technology is not the enemy, we are.” It was my “call” to all faculty to consider using more technology, and in particular social media, in the classroom instead of banning it all together. I delivered my lecture via Prezi and dissected the content into 3 “pillars”:

  • My Story – who I am and how I arrived at this point in my teaching career. Included a screen shot of my 2 worst reviews on RateMyProfessor.com (which were eye openers and impetus for change).
  • Technology vs Culture [Managing Change: Technology & Education] – we can’t talk about bringing radical new teaching styles into the classroom without acknowledging the need for change management. Understanding why people (eg. faculty) might resist change helps us recognize how to successfully deliver them into acceptance.
  • Technology in the Classroom: Marketing 3311 demonstrated use of social media – focusing on blogging (WordPress) and micro-blogging (Twitter) I discussed the role of social web tools and outcomes for both students & instructors.

I could have used another half hour, at least, to field questions at the end of the session, but alas…I may just have to offer a Part II session instead. The discussions were great though – and impressed me to see that the wheels were turning…couple of questions that came from faculty included:

1. “If I’m teaching 4 sections in one semester with 30 students in each, how am I supposed to read 120 blog posts each week. Isn’t using technology supposed to help create less work for the instructor instead of more?”

 – Yes; less work is one of the desired outcomes for faculty. So in this case, my suggestion is to have students “sign up” for a set number of blog posts throughout the term so that you are only reading and evaluating, say 5 per section, each week and then having the remaining 25 students in each section comment and engage in online discussions.

2. “How can I teach to a class of students who are surfing the web, Facebooking friends, watching YouTube videos, tweeting nonsense, etc. This is what happens when we allow hardware into the classroom and into the hands of students.”

– Yup, agree; this is what happens so let’s redirect their focus. Let’s keep students busy so if they are surfing the web they are…finding critical changes to Canadian Criminology Law and codes in the last 5 years; or if they are on Facebook they are…analyzing advertising strategies or finding examples of Metcalfe’s Law in action; or if they are watching YouTube videos they are…finding Google’s YouTube channel that delivers web analytics seminars; or if they are tweeting they are actively following hashtags for #sociology #orgbehaviour #Ghana #photosynthesis and finding thought leaders, bloggers, influencers, and important publications not found in textbooks.

Using technology and social media in the classroom requires a complete re-wiring of the educator’s brain: this experience allows us to take on a completely different role: a collaborator, moderator, and facilitator of the educational process. The scarier it feels the more liberating it will be. Allowing this role change opens up a great opportunity to learn, share, and grow, and not just for the students.

If your wheels are turning and you are pondering how to do this you have already made huge (mental) strides. Allow yourself now to tinker, explore, experiment, and sometimes…to fail. Students are both accepting and forgiving in my experience and also great teachers. That is, if you are willing to allow them to be.

Where would you like technology to take you?

Professors need to be on Twitter (via Kyle Darvasi Media Group)

Former Marketing 3311 student, Kyle Darvasi, has composed his opinions on the use of Twitter by professors and students. This is a great conversation for many of us to weigh in on – so please provide comments, your input is valued!

Students get frustrated when they are unable to get quick feedback from their profs. Or worse, when they are unable to get directly in contact with them, or if they do, it’s almost too late to change what has already been written, etc. Last semester, one of the marketing profs that I had was readily available to answer any questions or look at material through her Twitter account. A student would ask a question or make a comment, and an answer c … Read More

via Kyle Darvasi Media Group

Managing Change: Technology & Education

As “innovators” in education, I think we have to be mindful of the fact that not all educators are created equally. Some of us embrace new technology whereas others may deny or resist the change as an automatic and natural reaction. I was reminded of this just a few weeks ago when I brought in a guest speaker to my BCIT class, Strategic Corporate Communications. My guest, a Change Management professional who conducts internal change management at SAP (and has lived through countless large M&A’s) spoke to us about the various stages of change individuals go through in an organization (particularly when new technology is introduced);

  • Denial – the classic, “this isn’t happening to me” reaction
  • Resistance – “this may be happening, but I am not going to have anything to do with it”
  • Exploration – “how can what is happening benefit me”
  • Acceptance – “I welcome this change”

In a perfect world, individuals would glide seamlessly through these different stages of change: but that simply is not the case. They often see-saw back and forth between resistance and exploration (assuming you’ve managed to yard them out of denial). It takes trained professionals to help develop and deliver the appropriate communications to support these individuals and bring them into full acceptance, which let’s be honest, sometimes never happens.

I see a secondary issue stemming from this: we over-rely on our individuals in “acceptance” (eg. our educators who are early adopters) to become the sole champions of the change and carry the burden of responsibility to deliver the others from one stage to the next. We may be self-proclaimed technology-geeks, but change management experts we are not. So how can we be supported in our roles to use our insight for good (and not just hoard it for ourselves)?

My colleagues at Kwantlen have recently created an online community for educators using digital technology in the classroom (or outside of the classroom, but for the purpose of engaging with and empowering students): this is a positive step towards supporting all of us. As innovative educators, we need more tools and ideas to not only develop our own skills, but also share and help others around us. I see little benefit to hoarding our knowledge, but great value from sharing and building on what we have done already. Call it a sort of, “open-source” approach to teaching if you will.

Embracing new teaching styles

I feel fortunate to be teaching in the Marketing Department at Kwantlen, where we are often looking for new and effective ways to help deliver content and support to our students. I have to admit, I have undergone a very significant transformation since the first day I taught (which was ONLY two years ago!). I stood in front of the class, told them “no cell phones” and I think I may have even asked them to close their laptops, and basically, just instructed them to sit there like quiet little zombies and listen to me. I pointed to my PPT slides and spoke from the many bullet points I had so neatly and time-consumingly constructed before each and every class.

Dreadful.

This September I had the privilege of being selected to teach a new marketing course that is now offered in the new Bachelor of Business Administration, Marketing Management degree (“BBAMM”), called “Marketing in a Digital World”. This course allows me to turn my teaching style, and quite possible most conventional classrooms, on its head. We explore and follow current trends in the Social Web, we blog, tweet, use wikis, and accept that sometimes our class discussions and assignments take us in a whole different direction than originally envisioned. Over-preparing for a course like this could kill (or severely paralyze) an instructor. The intention is to have this course mimic the pace of the change on the Internet as closely as possible. Perhaps this is why we all leave class looking a little more wind-blown than when we first entered.

On both personal and professional levels, teaching this course has enabled me to completely transform WHO I am and HOW I do my job: I am a moderator, advisor, supporter, and vehicle of ideas and (some) content. I do not lecture, I do not take a position of authority. I engage, listen, and sometimes provoke to allow for a deeper and more well-rounded perspective of the topic at hand.

I’ve also created a few “rules” to keep me grounded and true to my role:

Rule #1, no PPT slides. Ever.
Rule #2, students must blog, during, before, and after class.
Rule #3, students must use Twitter to connect, communicate, and share
Rule #4, students must use laptops, desktops, and smart phones during class and outside of class
Rule #5, students should use wikipedia for learning
Rule #6, students must help me break more rules wherever possible for the sake of greater learning

Teaching Outcomes

Now sure all this sounds good (at least it does to me) but what about the results? So far, 2/3rds into the semester I have witnessed the following observations and experienced the following outcomes from my students engagement in this course:

– increased time spent and higher quality of collaboration on class assignments (in class and out of class using, mostly using wikis)
– increased support of one another in individual and group work
– increased communication (and quality) using public and abbreviated micro-blogging tools, such as Twitter
– increased personal accountability to the class and to the work (eg. students who miss a class immediately correspond on Twitter to see how they can get involved and pick up the slack).
– increased class attendance and participation; both in person and virtually (eg. comments on blogs and use of Twitter)
– improvements in writing and expressing: within 3 weeks students transitioned from writing blog posts with the, “my teacher assigned homework” tone, to, “I am an authority on this topic” tone.

This new career of mine has become a very fulfilling, enriching, and inspirational experience. Thanks to my colleagues, my students, and a little thing called the Internet.