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Wednesday
Mar052014

Trying (Again) to Measure Student Knowledge

The SAT will be revised again to make it a better tool to measure classroom learning and student command of vocabulary in common use.The SAT college entrance exam is slated for another overhaul, amid a time when a rival test has stolen its market share and some universities have stopped requiring an admissions test altogether.

An incentive to take the SAT, as opposed to the rival ACT, could be fee waivers for applications to four colleges or universities.

The SAT has been criticized for reflecting the education of children from higher-income families, not what a student actually learns in the classroom. There also has been strong reaction to test cramming that boosts scores, but may not reflect actual learning from kindergarten through 12th grade.

The redesign, the second this century, will make the written essay optional, drop vocabulary words not in common use and focus the math section more on critical thinking and problem solving. And it will once again be possible to achieve a perfect 1600 score, according to SAT officials.

SAT plans to post its own website with tutorials to help students prepare for the test and will stop deducting points for wrong answers on multiple choice questions, which encourages students to leave some questions blank rather than go with their best guess.

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Tuesday
Feb252014

140 Characters, Six Conversation Categories

Fourteen percent of the U.S. population uses Twitter to talk about almost everything. But Pew Research says all those 140-character tweets break down into six groups.

Much like in real life, there is the Divided group, consisting of a lot of politically polarized tweeting that rely on different sources of information by people who rarely intersect online — and maybe in real life.

Other groups include brand clusters, people who comment on brands, but have virtually no interaction with each other, and tight crowds, a type of online insider who tweets at live events to a usually well-defined group of followers and friends.

Community clusters occur when groups comment on topics that spill over into the domain of other groups, such as might have occurred when the United Nations released its report on human rights abuses in North Korea, angering a wide swatch of people.

Broadcast networks involve media types and bloggers getting out the word on their stories or blogs or retweeting stories and blogs from people they follow. This parallels the news aggregator role Twitter has absorbed in its evolution. 

Support networks are where large companies monitor for consumer complaints, then respond quickly with the goal of turning an online gripe into a compliment.

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Tuesday
Feb182014

The Power of Video

Evidence is mounting that people spend more time on websites that feature video content — and that video content can build trust and lasting relationships.

Video isn't a magic elixir, but it is perfectly suited to visual media such as websites, Facebook and YouTube. Unlike text that you read, videos are something you watch — and share. 

Videos are versatile. They can tell stories or explain visually how things work or are assembled. 

Videos appeal across demographic, gender and income lines. They even can span language barriers.

Videos can convey complex messaging by showing what you mean and creating context for what you're describing.

Videos can drive sales through compelling calls to action.

Not to be underestimated, but videos also have a long shelf life. Written content may not lose its meaning, but video doesn't lose its drawing power. Therefore, videos can be a good marketing investment.

MultiVisionDigital produced an infographic with interesting statistics about video viewership.

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Tuesday
Feb112014

Moving Away from Stock Stereotypes

A measure of how we see ourselves can be found in the images we use to depict ourselves. LeanIn.org and Getty Images have teamed up to change how we view woman in stock photography.

Instead of women with forced smiles and contorted postures, new stock photos show women in more realistic, contemporary settings  — multitasking, flipping through a catalogue and lifting weights. The idea is to break through visual stereotypes.

Sheryl Sandberg, author of "Lean In: Women, Work and the Will to Lead," told the New York Times, "When we see images of women and girls and men, they often fall into stereotypes that we're trying to overcome, and you can't be what you can't see."

Getty's part of the partnership is led by Pam Grossman, the stock photography company's director of research. Part of her job is to track demographics and visual trends. She has helped create a new library consisting of 2,500 stock photos of women and girls, a quarter of which are new to Getty's collection. While Getty has added images in lockstep with societal transitions, this is the first time it assembled a collection in collaboration with a non-profit.

Advertising agencies, PR firms and web designers go to stock photography libraries to search for the perfect image. Now Getty will offer a wider, more diverse range of images showing women and girls in less clichéd settings. The library includes women in roles such as surgeons, painters, bakers, soldiers and hunters.

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Thursday
Jan302014

Targeting Your Target Audience

If connecting with your target audience is important, then finding your target audience is even more important. Research is critical.

"Doing the research before you create the content, before you start the blog, before you run the ad makes you stronger, more informed and better equipped to serve your market the best way possible," says Tommy Walker, an online marketing specialist.

Writing for ragan.com, Walker says your research needs to do more than identify who your target audience is. Research also needs to pinpoint why it is your target audience. Looking at demographics and psychographics in combination yields invaluable insights into how to frame your marketing message and where to place it.

"I'd be lying," Walker says, "if I said this type of research is easy, because it can be time-consuming." He says "this investment in time separates pros from amateurs."

In today's digital world, there is a lot of data to analyze to pinpoint your target audience. "Realistically, most businesses should focus on only two core markers — data that define who your core market is, and one to three secondary markers — data that flesh out the core market," Walker advises.

Core markers might be occupation, age, education levels or residence. Where a buyer goes for trusted information also can be a key core marker.

Secondary markers reflect what motivates a buyer. Examining what a buyer shares on social media can provide important clues to their interests, values, lifestyle and personality.

The final step in the process of targeting your target audience is to construct a buyer persona. This aggregated avatar for your real buyers enables you to develop content aimed squarely at your target.

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