Using eBay To Educate

The idea came to me when I watched students haul box after box out of a classroom on a Saturday morning. My first questions were: What are you doing in school on a Saturday and what’s in the boxes? The student excitedly replied, “We’re having a garage sale for Ms. Sherman’s class. All the money we make we can spend on the class party at the end of the year.â€

Fundraisers have been around as long as public education, so I asked myself: Why haven’t some of our technological tools played more of a role in simplifying the process? The biggest garage sale in the world is a 24/7 Web site called eBay. There are dozens of other sites that attempt to replicate the success of this online auction leader. But is there a place for this Web site in the classroom? I would like to believe so. Setting up an eBay business would serve as a great middle school elective. The class could teach students concepts that align with state standards and make money for the school in the process.

Setting Up An eBay Business For The Classroom

To set up an eBay business, you need several parts. It is easiest to establish each part as a department, with a group of students representing each team.

The Buying Department

This team would be responsible for locating the merchandise that would be sold on eBay. The kids might start by producing a flyer that would announce the need to gather merchandise. Finding the right type of merchandise to sell is important and could be a class lesson in itself. In retail jargon, buyers are people who locate what merchandise a store will sell.

The Copy Department

This team is responsible for writing copy for each piece of merchandise. While all students should participate in the writing component to enhance skills in descriptive writing, the team might be responsible for editing the work for the final submission. In addition, submitting the ad allows students to show their technological expertise when displaying the ad on eBay.

The Photography Department

A good digital photo of an item can greatly improve its chances of selling. Setting up displays for items can teach layout and design.

The Shipping Department

Assuming items do sell, they need to be packaged and shipped. eBay offers the merchant the chance to ship all over the world, teaching students lessons in geography and postage.

The key to success on eBay is reputation. Everyone who uses eBay receives feedback to either reinforce the participant’s credibility or warn others that the participant is not reliable. Most people who use eBay rely on good faith transactions. I believe many eBay users would purchase items from a classroom business knowing that the money is going to a good cause. The teacher’s oversight is obviously extremely important. Nonetheless, the eBay business model could be a fascinating exercise in teaching.

Ian Williams