SPP - MySchome magazine

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The Schome Park Programme - MySchome magazine


In November 2007 a small group of students got together and made plans for a newsletter in the island’s ’media room’. It was decided that the name of the newsletter would be MySchome – as it was aimed at participants of the Schome Park Programme and we wanted it to be personal, hence the ’my’. A discussion thread was established on the forum, where suggestions came in for articles and how we were going to distribute the finished newsletter.

To get the ball rolling, one member of the group (Schomer M) appointed himself as newsletter editor, and sent messages via the forum to anyone who had expressed an interest in becoming a virtual journalist. On the 28th April 2008 the newsletter was finalised and emailed out to all members of the community (download a copy). The overwhelmingly positive response really encouraged plans for a second edition. Feedback also came in on how to improve the newsletter.

In December 2008, after the end of Phase 3 when Schome Park was closed to most participants, another edition of MySchome was finalised (download a copy).

Benefits and impacts

8 members of the community contributed to the first Edition of MySchome and 5 contributed to the 2nd Edition. The table below shows the knowledge age skills used in the creation of MySchome, and evidence of how students were able to personally develop.

Knowledge Age Skill Used? Evidence
Teamwork A lot of teamwork was required for important issues such as agreeing on the content of the magazine and who would write what. In order to create a balanced magazine in terms of context the group had to ensure there was a mix of article genres to interest all.
Communication Communication was key to the success or failure of this project. Participants used a variety of tools such as the wiki and forum in order to communicate with one another and discuss how far everyone had got with their pieces. Communication was important when deciding on deadlines, to make sure that the deadline worked around real life issues such as exams and coursework. The deadline had to be altered on several occasions.
Leadership It was important that one person took the lead as for a long time the magazine was just an idea; there were no written plans. The editor had a lot of responsibility when it came to ensuring everyone was on target for the deadline, making sure all the articles came together and deciding on the design and layout of the finished publication. It was the editor’s job to liaise with staff to get the magazine distributed, as students in the programme were not permitted to share personal details due to child protection policies in place. At one point staff came back to the moderator regarding one piece which may have needed moderation. The solution for this issue required problem solving, teamwork and communication.

Knowledge age skill Used? Evidence

Creativity Participants had to be creative in order to make the magazine attractive so that people would read it. Their use of language had to be interesting.
Motivation The group was motivated by other students and staff. Personal commitment to the project and interest in the topic members were writing on both motivated the group to complete the magazine. However, there was no pressure to write an article. It was mentioned several times that other personal commitments such as school work should come first, and that it was ok to pull out of writing an article.
Problem solving As previously mentioned, staff came back to the editor about a possible issue with one article. The ultimate decision on what to do with the article, to ensure both that it met the Acceptable Use Policy and any changes didn’t offend the author, was left to the editor. It was decided that the magazine team would communicate through personal messaging on the forum to come to a solution, which led to moving the article further down the magazine to make sure any possible offence didn’t put readers who didn’t know the author off reading the rest of the issue.

Issues / Problems

One of the first problems faced by the newsletter was that preparation and planning was going very slowly, and had almost stopped. Because of this, one member had to step forward and self appoint themselves as editor. By doing this, Schomer M could have been accused of self promotion, however if no one had taken the leading role it’s possible that the newsletter would never have started.

Another problem was getting people to stick to deadlines. The Schome Park Programme is completely voluntary on the students’ behalves, and due to other, real life commitments such as homework, coursework and exams, there were certain times when people couldn’t write articles. Because of this the group had to communicate and agree on a deadline that would allow both real life commitments to be fulfilled and for the newsletter to be completed.

One article scheduled to be released in the first edition was flagged by members of staff who felt it may need moderation due to some of the content. The programme director contacted the newsletter editor, who then took the decision to involve all members of the newsletter team in the final decision on what to do with the article. It was decided to move the article further down the newsletter structure so that any possible offence didn’t put off potential readers. By doing this, the group ensured that the author wasn’t offended.

Finally, one of the biggest problems came once the newsletter was finished. Due to restrictions with the Acceptable User Policy, students aren’t allowed to contact each other, and so distribution of the newsletter had to be sorted by members of staff. This took some of the control away from the students, when most of the newsletter had been student orientated and led.

Key lessons learnt

  • Someone has to take lead of the project if it is to succeed
  • Online communication is essential in a project where face to face discussions are impossible, especially when making difficult decisions
  • Different tools are best used for different situations;
  • Second Life was important for the initial discussions; most of the newsletter content was orientated around using Second Life. Images were taken inside Second Life
  • The forum was important when making community decisions that needed to be more structured and in depth.
  • The wiki allowed us to promote the magazine and let the Schommunity know when the newsletter had been published. Initial ideas were structured using the wiki.
  • Email was necessary to distribute the final publication and to advertise it a few weeks in advance
  • Offline tools such as Word, PowerPoint and GIMP were used for drafting and final presentation
  • Creating a publication such as a newsletter is an interesting and fun way of sharing everybody’s talents and using everyone’s input, and it allowed us to do something we might not necessarily do in a normal classroom environment.

I feel that MySchome has been a very successful and interesting project to lead and be a part of. If I was to create a newsletter or magazine again in the future, there are very few things that I would change. I think it would be good to take on a different role, instead of being the editor, as it would allow me to get a different perspective on things.

NB. Contrary to what the history might indicate, the original version of this was written by Mars, who also edited both editions of MySchome magazine. PeterT just cut and pasted it in here from the original wordprocessed version.

The Schome Park Programme - MySchome magazine