By Erin Bland, Middle School Educator at VIDA in Vista, CA
Despite challenges, our student-run business has thrived. Early on, I saw distance learning as an opportunity to create a highly successful social entrepreneurship class, VIDA Dreamers.
VIDA Dreamers has been in operation for a few years now and sells student-designed and manufactured buttons. Historically, students sold buttons mainly to the student body on campus. This year, however, I knew I needed to pivot and give solid structure around developing a well-rounded online business. Students have worked hard in specialty business teams, as well as a whole class, developing specific aspects of our business.
This year so far, students have worked as a whole to brainstorm and choose socially-conscious local or global issues to create slogans to put on buttons. The class chose a color palette to stick to, narrowed the designs down to a product line of 12 buttons, created a logo, researched and purchased button materials, researched and developed eco-friendly packaging options, and discovered and constructed effective product descriptions. The Videography team is working on stop-motion videos for social media. Individual business teams have decided upon specific projects to work on simultaneously.
Certain structural elements have lent themselves to the success of running a student business during a pandemic with a distance learning school year.
Whole-Class Shared File
The Whole Class Shared File is used to compile our documents, research, and information. It houses business team living documents, web design, social media, and marketing images, and the final button line images. Toolkits and color palette codes, as well as any other documents needed for everyone are found here. Students have access to all documents in the Whole Class Shared File in order to work successfully.
Business Teams Living Documents.
Business Teams Living Documents comprise the one location business teams record all their information. They are called a Living Document because students are always adding information as they learn and grow. The Web Design Living Document includes links to our business website as well as the student pins needed to access the website.
All Students Access and Contribute to a
Google Document at the Same Time
I created one document in my Google Drive and shared it with all students in the class. During a lesson to create button slogans, all students brainstormed local and global issues they are passionate about. Students wrote on the document in real time, all at the same time. From there, they were able to narrow down button slogans later used in their final button line.
Use of Discussion Boards With the Ability to “Like”
Once we had our button slogans, students needed to choose a color palette for aesthetic cohesiveness as well as choose their final button designs for their line. I added multiple color palette options to a discussion board and the color palette with the most likes became the color palette to use for button designs. The button design software we use gives students the ability to input the color’s Pantone number, giving students depth in their design process. Once students designed a plethora of button slogans, students were once again able to decide their favored designs by “liking” images of the buttons on a discussion board. The twelve button designs with the most likes became their final button line.
To emulate entrepreneurship outside the classroom, students chose one business team to join. They chose between Marketing, which focuses on email campaigns, Social Media, focusing on creating content for Instagram posts, Web Design to design, create, and maintain our website, New Product Development for generating and developing new ideas for products, and Videography & Photography for creating high-quality product photography and innovative stop motion videos for marketing. Each group has a leader who interfaces with me as the teacher then disseminates information to their group.
Students Create Google Slides Presentations
To Report Findings to the Class
Whenever students research a topic, such as eco-friendly packaging products, business teams create Google Slides Presentations to use when reporting their research to the class. Student leaders share their presentations with me, my screen shows the presentation to the class, and students are able to facilitate discussions about the topic they are presenting on.
Recently, Web Design researched effective product descriptions and their Google Slides presentation then drove the drafting and refining product descriptions for our class products.
One of the most impactful and helpful tools I have had the privilege of using this year are the EdCorps Toolkits. The curriculum and experiences I would have spent time trying to create for my students already exist in the form of EdCorps Toolkits. From creating a logo to creating a social media campaign, the Toolkits have well-rounded activities to lead students towards meaningful goals. By clicking on the camera icon on the Virtual Studio, we are able to access a copy of the Toolkit into our Google Drive. From there, I can add the Toolkit to our Whole Class Shared Folder and Canvas so different student business groups can work together to create and execute goals.
Screencasts For Clarity
All students benefit from clear, descriptive instruction and never more than during distance learning. To maximize productivity for our business, I created consistent screencasts to include in the lesson’s module to give students a visual representation of what I was asking them to do. I used QuickTime to record my screencasts which helped many students.
In all, working with the tools and processes I’ve described has helped me create a lasting sense of perseverance and success in my students. They have developed innumerable skillsets due to distance learning and having a growth mindset in the face of adversity. I could not be more proud of each and every one of my students and how they have worked to tirelessly build our student-run business over the course of the year.
Erin Bland is a middle school teacher at Vista Innovation and Design Academy in Vista, CA. Follow her on Twitter at @ErinBland6.