You can describe what your school does with educational technology ad nauseum, but in my opinion nothing will bring it alive as much as a well-written case study.
The reason that case studies can be so effective is that they take just one aspect of what the school is doing, rather than trying to present the whole lot. If I read, on a school’s website, a list of ICT projects as long as my arm, my eyes start to glaze over, and I start to wonder what exactly they are trying to achieve. Is it a sort of grapeshot strategy, by which the school hopes to hit something – anything? A case study or two, on the other hand, looks at just one thing, which then acts as a kind of microcosm of everything. In short, the idea is that someone reads the case study and infers from that that the school is doing some great things with the technology across the board, and makes them want to find out more.
In order to work, a case study must be:
- Readable and
Relevance, like beauty, is in the eye of the beholder, but the writer is not without influence. For example, why, as a parent, would I be interested in the fact that you have bought a new registration system that allows you take the register while halfway up Mount Everest? Tell me, on the other hand, that no matter where you take my children on a school outing they will be completely safe and accounted for, and I begin to take notice.
This is what the marketing people describe as the difference between features and benefits. Features are what the product does; benefits are what the product does for me.
If you want to put off your readers from reading the whole lot and also from believing you anyway, adopt the style of a lot of printed advertisements. Short sentences. Poor punctuation. Or no punctuation. Or adopt the style of a management report, and talk about leveraging the talents of the school’s teachers and students in order to align their activities with the broader aims of the institution. I don’t know how advertisers and management consultants speak to their loved ones over the breakfast table, but most normal people do not talk like that in their everyday lives. Plain talking, jargon-free without being patronising and not full of techno-twaddle: if your case study is like that, and no longer than the average newspaper article, then it’s bound to be readable.
And in case you’re wondering what I mean by techno-twaddle, it’s stuff like:
We have bought 4 new 20 megapixel cameras which can accept HDSD cards of up to 20 GB.
Why not say this instead:
We have bought 4 new cameras which can take really sharp pictures and can easily store all the photos taken by a whole class on a weekend field trip.
It may be less precise, but it’s a lot more meaningful.
Like any communication, the case study should end in a call to action. “Look on this website for more details.” “Phone Mrs Johnson if you’d like to help out.” “Sign up to our new ICT Project Alert Service to be first in the know the next time we run something like this.” As the examples illustrate, the action you’re inviting the reader to take must benefit them in some way, otherwise why should they bother?
Case studies can be an effective way of telling the world what a great job your school is doing with ICT. Give it a try.
For details of the types of writing assignments I undertake, including case studies, please see my writing page.