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Saturday, March 4, 2017

"The Climb" - Just Like Miley Cyrus Said

      What a ride, and what a climb this term has been.  I’ve turned in my final assignment for COM 6691 Strategic Communication Inquiry & Research and soon will log on for the two-hour final exam for COM 6630, Strategic Communication and Emerging Media.  As both of these classes, and Term III, come to a close I realize I will have completed 60% of the degree requirements for my Master of Science in Strategic Communications.  It feels so good to be over that halfway mark, yes I can relate to “The Climb.”  But interestingly enough I have started entertaining the doctoral program idea once more.  I still have a bit, a couple of years, left on my Post 9-11 G.I. Bill and my work on this Master’s program has renewed my passion for Communications.  Although it would be nice to have an opportunity to do something “in passing” it is unfortunate that Troy University doesn’t yet offer doctoral programs in Communications.  In fact, I think the only PhD program there is at Troy is in Sports Management.  Like I said, I’m “entertaining” the idea.  Perhaps I could add a graduate certificate in Digital Media Skills from U.C. Berkeley.  They offer a graduate level certificate program that focuses on the strategic production and implementation of digital media content for a “web facing and mobile-first audience.”  Sounds interesting.  No matter which direction I end up going it’s like Miley Cyrus said in “The Climb” – “Ain’t about how fast I get there.  Ain’t about what’s waitin’ on the other side.  It’s the climb!”  
     One thing I do know, I have really enjoyed this blogging experience and I plan on continuing to update this blog throughout the remainder of my degree program and beyond.  I’ve just registered for my next term so coming soon will be a combined JRN 6615, PR and Strategic Communications and a COM 6635, Strategic Organizational Communication blogging experience.  I think that continuing to share my responses and thoughts related to coursework will also add to my knowledge base for the not-too-distant Comprehensive Exam.  So this isn’t goodbye, it’s see you real soon.

Strategically Yours,


I just love a good inspirational quote - so I'll leave a few right here for you to enjoy!

Friday, March 3, 2017

"Upside Down" - Just Like Jack Johnson Said

     "Upside Down" is a song that was written, played and sung by Jack Johnson. It is the first track on the album “Sing-A-Longs and Lullabies from the film Curious George, which was released in February 2006.  My kiddos loved this movie and this song in particular.  The movie was in their regular rotation of “please can we watch” requests.  I must admit I enjoyed the movie and continue to enjoy the song.  My favorite lyrics are:

“…And as my mind begins to spread its wings
There's no stopping curiosity.

I want to turn the whole thing upside down
I'll find the things they say just can't be found…”

      These lyrics really remind me of the direction I’d like to take this week’s blog.  Our assigned readings covered different aspects of today’s youth in relation to the digital age.  We, as a class, were given latitude to focus on any emerging media trend or topic and the effect on youth.  Instead of “Upside Down”, I’d like to take the spirit of the lyrics and look at the digital content based Flipped Learning educational movement.  Often simplistically described as “school work at home and home work at school,” Flipped Learning is an approach that uses digital content to allow teachers to implement various methodologies in their classrooms.  There now exists a Flipped Learning Network (FLN) comprised of a governing board, key leaders, and experienced flipped educators.  Together they have composed a formal definition of “Flipped Learning.”  They did so in the hopes that many of the myths that were being spread by teachers, media, and researchers could be dispelled.

         These Flipped Learning leaders also made a clear distinction between a Flipped Classroom and Flipped Learning. Mistakenly, they’ve often been used interchangeably and there are some noteworthy differences.  Yes, flipping a class can, but does not always, lead to Flipped Learning.  Many educators may already be flipping their classes by, for example, having their students read additional text outside of the class environment, but to engage in Flipped Learning, these educators must also be incorporating the FLN’s four pillars into their teaching methods.
The Four Pillars of F-L-I-P™:

     In a recent article for , website founder Kelly Walsh said about Flipped Learning that he “…quickly realized that this was one of the most meaningful ideas I’d come across for using technology in the instructional setting.”  Mr. Walsh is a leading expert and also a frequent contributor to Flipped Learning Network outreach initiatives.  “As a big fan of the flipped classroom and the possibilities it offers, I am delighted to see this grassroots movement continue to evolve.” 
     One of the primary reasons why technology is being integrated into the classroom is due in large part to the “grassroots movement” to disrupt traditional education.  “The traditional classroom, with an emphasis on lectures and rote memorization, does not take into account the experiences of the students. It was all about discipline and punish.”  Flipped Learning, in stark contrast, then allows students to take control over their learning process. Digital technology plays an essential role in Flipped Learning.  By using digital technology the students and teachers are able to collaborate in an often called “more productive and interactive environment.”
     Just a few weeks ago, for the 5th year, the Alliance for Excellent Education launched its “Digital Learning Day (DLD)” campaign on Thursday, February 23, 2017. 

     This year’s day-long charge was to “Get your #DLD17 on by Flipping Your First Lesson!”  Digital Learning Day was marketed in the hopes of getting teachers to embrace the potential of “digital learning”.  Defined, digital learning is any instructional practice that effectively uses technology to strengthen a student’s learning experience. It emphasizes high-quality instruction and provides access to challenging content, feedback through formative assessment, opportunities for learning anytime and anywhere, and individualized instruction to ensure students can reach their full potential.
     Digital Learning Day 2017 was all about raising awareness, encouraging innovation, and celebrating the good things that can come from embracing the power of technology to “strengthen a student’s learning experience”.  The Alliance even helped with suggested methods and varying levels of Flipped Learning for teachers new to this movement.  The following excerpt is from 2017 Digital Learning Day’s information on FLN’s website:

“Have you thought about possibility of trying flipped instruction in your classroom, but just haven’t gotten around to figuring out how to start? Well, we here at the FLN are embracing DLD 2017 as an opportunity to get started! Dipping your toes in the waters of flipped learning can be as easy as flipping one lesson.
Now this is not to say that flipping is a simple and takes no effort … putting the flipped model to effective use on an ongoing basis takes effort and requires time and professional development, but taking a first step to help get you thinking about the longer term doesn’t have to be hard.
Here is a pretty simple approach to flipping a lesson. You get to decide how tech-y you want to be with this be selecting from 1 of 3 different levels of tools or techniques.
Find a great video on a topic to introduce it and make that the homework the night before you want to start exploring this topic
Require engagement and gather feedback that can expose areas that require further exploration, or simply raise fun questions, by using one of these tools or techniques:
(Low Tech) Have your students complete a “WSQ”: The “WSQ” is a simple idea that requires students to Watch the video and then write a Summary that includes a Question. You give the student guidelines on what’s expected in the summary (how long it should be, for example). As for the question, this can be a question that students think you might ask about the material, or it could be something they want to ask about regarding the material.
(Medium Tech) Use to build a more complete lesson around the video: Ed.Ted.Com is a great way to turn any video into its own lesson. You can add questions, provide additional links to explore, and more. This article provides more insight into using Ed.Ted.Com.
(More Tech) Use EdPuzzle to build required questions into the video.  EdPuzzle is a tool that lets you insert questions right into a video – questions the students have to answer in order to continue watching. This is a powerful tool to make the most of using videos for teaching and learning.
Each of these approaches addresses several very important elements of good flipped lessons. First, they require engagement. Students have to do something while or right after they consume the learning content. They can’t just “zone out” and not pay attention while watching (and if they do, they’ll have to go back and really watch so they can do the work). Next, it gets them thinking about the content. By asking or answering questions, they have to make the effort to develop some understanding. Finally, those questions will likely help to expose misunderstandings or areas that really require further review. They can also provide some great feedback and thoughts that are fun to explore.
Of course, you can also give a shot at the “hi tech” approach of creating your own video, which is strongly recommended if you decide to move forward with more flipping, but it isn’t really necessary for this first go round. It can also be pretty time consuming to do this the first few times, depending on your approach. Students generally appreciate and expect their teachers to be the ones creating the content (assuming you do a decent job and don’t make the videos too long). But for your first flipped lesson, using someone else’s content is a great way to get started!”

    So now that we’ve looked at a few of the various ways in which teachers might be able to start flipping lessons, let’s take a quick look at some feedback from students who have been involved in Flipped Learning.  In a recent survey published by Flipped Learning educator and science teacher, Steve Griffiths, he shared his high school students’ responses to their experiences in the Flipped Learning environment:

“88.9% of respondents agreed or strongly agreed that they preferred the flipped classroom for learning science.   Some of the reasons cited by students include; that more class time is spent doing experiments, they can work at their pace, they can learn their own way and they can learn with each other.  Ultimately, it appears that students prefer the flipped classroom because it is more student centered.   As a powerful support for flipped learning, 88.9% of students reported that they wished that more of their subjects used flipped learning.
Students believe that it is easier to take notes from the videos.  This is because they can pause, rewind and watch the videos at their own pace.    Also, it is very important to teach students how to take notes and interact with the videos.  I have my students watch the video twice.  First at normal speed, then they watch it again to take notes, pausing and rewinding as required. I have my students watch a video on how to watch a video and I also send a video home for parents to watch as well.  I don’t assign homework videos until I am satisfied that students are taking effective notes.
Consistently, students commented that they liked how student centered the learning was.  For example, one student commented “students get to work it out themselves instead of being told” and another student said “we have freedom to learn the way the want to learn”.
The question that the respondents agreed most strongly about was being able to catch up on work when they are away from class.   All of the video lessons and learning experiences are on the web based learning management system.  So students can access the lessons at home and on family holidays.  Because flipped learning is more student centered, and students like and trust the process, they are empowered to keep up and catch up.”
     "It's really, really important for teachers to realize that flipped learning isn't about the videos — it's about what you can accomplish in class that adds value and engagement for students," said Jon Bergmann, one of the pioneers of the flipped class concept and a board member of the Flipped Learning Network.  Many practicing educators feel the most important part of the flipped lesson is the ability to use the additional time in the classroom to reach every student every day.   This is accomplished by designing activities that are engaging, interactive, and collaborative. 
     Ultimately, the Flipped Learning movement is all about being willing to take risks and try something new.  In our current period of innovation through rapid advances in technology I can think of no better time than now to try turning it all “Upside Down” or in this instance to try Flipped Learning in education. 

Strategically Yours,

Works Cited:
Walsh, K.  (2016). “Flipped Educator Spotlight.”  Retrieved from
Griffiths, S.  (2016). “The Students Have Spoken – Student Perceptions of Flipped Learning”.  Retrieved from
Lisi, J.  (2016). “4 Fascinating Trends in Education Technology”.  Retrieved from
n.a. (2017).  “Flip a Lesson for Digital Learning Day 2017 (Thursday, Feb 23)”.  Retrieved from
Pierce, D. (2015).  “5 Keys to Flipped Learning Success”.  Retrieved from
Bergmann, J.  (2016). “Students Liked Flipped Homework More!”  Retrieved from

Saturday, February 25, 2017

"I've Got a Name" - Just Like Jim Croce Said

     There is such power in a name.  Whatever it is that we are talking about be it person, place, or thing, the name itself becomes an immediate descriptor.  A name allows people to make quick judgments and assumptions with relative ease.  Yes, there is the possibility of potential harm with such assumptions, but for our human mind it is a super-fast way to process a whole lot of information in a very short amount of time.  Knowing that this shortcut exists helps us to better understand the nuances of our interactions.  Customer interactions with a company blog are really no different, in fact finding the perfect blog name can be a real game changer in a branding strategy.  A well-chosen name can add a sense of credibility to new ideas.  A prestigious name can lend authority to new concepts.   A name can and should be flexible enough to grow with your business. 
     In Strategic Communication and Emerging Media our focus this week was on branding.  Honestly, I must admit this topic couldn’t have come at a more opportune time for me professionally.  I’ve just been given management of a wonderful program at work, I’m very passionate about it and have a lot of experience with the program itself.  My predecessor had established an informative weekly “things to do in the local area” email and for the past few years had been distributing it to an ever-growing list of over 1,500 people who sign up for this email distro.  Let me insert a quick shout-out to Mrs. Merritt, she has done a great job establishing a wonderful customer base.   When I took over leadership of the program I knew immediately I wanted to look at a new format for the general information and plan for adding much more in the future.  I was having all of these innovative ideas while keeping in mind a valuable tip from the weekly reading: “We need to spend more time appreciating what already exists; and less time agonizing over what else we can do (Sutherland, 2009).”  I envisioned a blog format, due in large part to my experience with this graduate school blog.  Let’s just say that after this week’s readings and bit more research on my own I’m excited to have a strategic plan for the launch of our company blog. 
     “The Happs” -- that was the name of the distro’d weekly email specializing in on base and off base community events that went out to our loyal customer base.  So what does “The Happs” mean you may be asking yourself.  Well the Urban dictionary defines it as a shortened version of asking ‘What's happening?' when trying to find out more information about what's going on.  When I looked a little closer there were additional tie-ins with the name.  Henry Harley Arnold, “Hap” as he was fondly known was a pioneer Airman.  He received permanent five-star rank as general of the Air Force, the first of such a commission to be ever granted by a Congressional act.  Interestingly, he was taught to fly by the Wright Brothers.  He was also the commander of the Army Air Forces in victory over Germany and Japan in World War II.   He personally contributed to many of the major milestones of development during the Air Force’s history until his retirement in 1946.  He died in 1950 at his ranch home, Valley of the Moon, near Sonoma, California.  Hap Arnold's name is perpetuated at the Arnold Engineering Development Complex at Arnold AFB, Tennessee.  A couple of side notes: 1) Sonoma is part of our Bay area local community; and 2) My last active duty assignment in the U.S.A.F. was at Arnold Engineering Development Complex (AEDC) at Arnold AFB, Tennessee.
                                                                   Henry Harley "Hap" Arnold
     For all of the above mentioned reasons I think the blog name should carryover from the distro email and most definitely stay “The Happs”.  For the longest time I always thought that the brand WAS the name, and that branding was getting that name out in as many ways as possible.  Oh no, so not the case.  While the name is very, very important “branding has been characterized as the process of creating value through the provision of a compelling and consistent offer and customer experience that will satisfy customers and keep them coming back (Simmons, 2007)”.  So how does anyone go about branding a blog?  There are “three aspects of a successful brand:  1) a brand is dependent on customer perception; 2) perception is influenced by the added-value characteristics of the product; and 3) the added value characteristics need to be sustainable (Simmons, 2007)”.

     With that in mind and without further ado I’d like to share some insights learned about branding a blog.  A common strategic objective is to begin with the end in mind, in other words have a vision of what the company blog should achieve.  The ultimate goal for this blog is to transfer the established relationship between the organization and the customer base from a one-way, linear email method to an interactive non-linear communication process that can provide an engaging experience that will satisfy the customer’s wants and keeping them coming back for more from the blog brand, “The Happs”.  The blog brand will be infused in the title, the design, content, and basically every part of the customer’s experience. 
     In his article, “i-Branding: Developing the Internet as a Branding Tool,” Geoffrey Simmons shares research findings from an AT Kearney Report (2000) that characterizes the creation process of a “high-impact online customer experience as encompassing seven dimensions:
1)            Building communities
2)           Marketing connectivity easy
3)           Delivering compelling content
4)           Customizing the experience
5)           Embedding convenience
6)           Enhancing customer care
7)           Communication (2007)”.
     Simmons goes on to propose that there are “Four Pillars” necessary in the planning process of a successful branding campaign (2007).  These are: 1) Understand the customer; 2) Market communications; 3) Interactivity; and 4) Content. 
     Pillar I calls for understanding the customer.  It is here that trust is developed and a relationship is established.  The goal of Pillar I is to work toward a “long term, positive interaction” ensuring the customer’s needs are met.
     Pillar II covers marketing communications.  In this stage personalization of the blog will be key.  The goal is to engage the customers with your online environment.  Allow them to sign up for notifications of updated content and have the experience brought directly to them.  Under this pillar Simmons points out that the internet use in the marketing communication stage provides for three optimum conditions for effective online strategies, these are: presence; relationships; and mutual value (2007).  Presence deals with an effective draw, there must be content that is rich and interactivity to draw the customer to your blog.  Relationships are critical to the blog’s sustainability.  Mutual value means a win-win.  The company benefits through the opportunities to promote their tailored message and the customer benefits from exposure and interaction with interesting services, content, and ideas. The overarching goal of is to strive for non-linear communication with a free flow and exchange of information between the company and the customer base.
     Part III is all about interactivity.  Simmons notes that, “interaction with the customer is central to realizing the benefits a blog can provide in understanding customers and developing more personalized communications.”
     Part IV covers content.  Content includes more than just text it also includes visuals.  So it is important to add graphics, video clips, photos, and more throughout the customer’s experience in the blog.  Additionally, customers should know when to expect new content, it is important to keep a regular schedule.  Content needs to stay on brand thereby keeping the message consistent.  You also want to make it easy for the customer to share the content.  Finally, use the blog to link out to other communication strategies, like a Facebook or Instagram page or Twitter account.

     Integration and implementation of these “Four Pillars” is paramount to the success of branding a blog.   By incorporating these into the branding process value is created in the customer’s experience that will ultimately keep them coming back.  Additional goals for our blog is solid content and a branding strategy that will incorporate aspects and messages of our organization’s core programs which include: Relocation services, Transition assistance, Employment resources, a Key Spouse program, Air Force Aid, Personal Financial Readiness, an Exceptional Family Member Program, Information & Referral, and Volunteer program.

     Finally, since we have an established organizational website our blog will be joined there and not on a stand alone platform.  We already have a dedicated website with so we will be adding to our communication strategy.  Our direction is clear, we now have a branding the blog roadmap to proceed with our transition from weekly email to a broader more engaging online experience for our customers, who are at the heart of everything we do.

Strategically Yours,

Works Cited:
Haygood, I.  (2015).  "10 Awesome Corporate Blogs from the Best Content Marketing Brands." Retrieved on 22 February 2017 from 
Pintilie, D. (2016).  "How to Turn Your Blog Into a Popular Brand in 2016."  Retrieved on 22 February 2017 from blog.html.
Schaefer, M.  (2015).  "The 10 Best Big Company Blogs in the World."  Retrieved on 22 February 2017 from
Simmons, G.  (2007).  "i-Branding: Developing the Internet As a Branding Tool."  Retrieved on 20 February 2017 from
Sutherland, R.  (2009).  "Life Lessons From an Ad Man."  retrieved on 20 February20117 from