Junior Achievement of South Central PA Launches Pre-Teen Digital Literacy News Blog

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StageofLife.com and the Junior Achievement of South Central PA team up to replace the BizTown newspaper with "BizNet News," a student-run news blog platform.

Pre-Teen and Teen Blogging Gets Real-World Application at JA BizTown

BizNet News layout for JA BizTown in York, PA

"We had limitations with our old newsletter software, and we were ready for a big change. We wanted to take our BizTown 'newspaper' and turn it into something interactive, modern, and digital," Heidi Potter, Director of JA BizTown.

Junior Achievement (JA) of South Central PA, StageofLife.com, and Affinigent, Inc. joined forces to launch “BizNet News” - a student run news blog to replace the paper format previously used by schools when participating in JA BizTown, the experimental educational program that enables students to learn economic concepts in an interactive, hands-on environment.

StageofLife.com, an educational blogging community, approached its local chapter of the financial literacy, work readiness, and entrepreneurship non-profit, Junior Achievement, with an idea to build a customized news blog platform for JA to utilize in its BizTown sessions to help bridge the gap between traditional media formats (newspapers or newsletters) and new-media channels (blogs and social media).

Eric Thiegs, CEO of StageofLife.com, said, “With newspapers and other forms of traditional print media in flux, more people are getting their news online from blogs like the HuffingtonPost.com or the DrudgeReport.com. It will become crucial that students in today’s digital world be prepared to utilize, read, access, and understand the world of blogging and blog news-environments as they will become the next users of that media format.”

Junior Achievement Director and head of the BizTown experience, Heidi Potter, was intrigued by the idea and started working with StageofLife.com on the custom news blog concept over the course of six months, eventually naming their platform, BizNet News.

“We had limitations with our old newsletter software. We wanted to take our BizTown 'newspaper' and turn it into something interactive, modern, and digital. It was time for a technical upgrade,” said Potter.

For implementation and design, StageofLife.com pulled in web development partner, Affinigent Inc. of York, PA, to customize the BizNet News blog environment with features that include:
--News story posts using a blog-format with unlimited word count and photo posts within the story
--Streamlined BizTown business ad listings that take the shape of more internet-friendly advertising concepts
--“Shout-Outs” that combine aspects of social media with business ad listings
--Junior Achievement corporate sponsorship placements
--Pre-work upload options for teachers or JA Staff
--Customized news blog for each individual BizTown school session
--“Comments” field that allows for students, parents and educators to continue interacting with the BizTown experience through the Biz Net News portal after the actual BizTown session is complete
--Real-world practice of students using a web-based news blog interface to write, upload and publish stories and articles

After the platform was built, Affinigent, Inc. CEO, Don Bishop, shared, “We focused on two goals during our design. 1) We wanted to make it easy for the students to use and 2) we wanted the blog platform to have the ability to grow.”

Several York County, PA and Lancaster County, PA school districts were first to trial the new blog platform during its launch this fall. In one case, after its BizTown experience was over and the students returned home, the BizNet News site for that school saw over 60 post-visit comments to the stories and articles uploaded by the student staff from their peers, teachers and parents re-visiting the news blog in the days following their actual JA BizTown session.

“This is exactly what we wanted to see happen – their experience didn't end with the close of the BizTown doors that day... the students and teachers came back to us, digitally, for more,” said Tom Russell, President of the Junior Achievement of South Central PA.

He continued by summarizing the collaborative partnership, “We couldn't have found better partners in StageofLife.com and Affinigent, Inc. to execute and launch this amazing new digital literacy experience for the schools and 7,000+ students that utilize our JA BizTown each year!”

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For more on this story, reactions from teachers, or other information relating to any of the organizations mentioned, please contact:

Junior Achievement of South Central PA
Non-profit organization that brings the real world to students through hands-on curriculum
Heidi Potter, Director of JA BizTown or Tom Russell, President
heidi(at)jascpa(dot)org or tom(at)jascpa(dot)org
610 South George Street
York, PA 17401
(717) 843-8028

Teen blogging and educational consultants
Eric Thiegs, Founder and CEO
24 S. Franklin St.
Dallastown, PA 17313
(717) 244-0006

Affinigent, Inc.
Web site design, web marketing, and web applications
Don Bishop, CEO
4 Kent Rd Ste. 200
York, PA 17402
(717) 600-0033 x101

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