Education is not preparation for life; education is life itself. ~ John Dewey

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branding

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At day two of the #ADE2010 conference here in Singapore we focused our time on thinking about personal branding. Something that I believe all educators should think about and that I’ve discussed on this blog here, here and here.

It's been frustrating getting connected to the Internet at ADE. Something I didn't think I'd have to worry about at this conference. Picture taken by teachingsagittarian

The presentation from Apple I believe was spot on in the fact that educators do not take enough time to pat themselves on the back, reflect, and think about themselves as a brand. Especially international teachers like myself who go recruiting ever 3 to 5 years and need to understand that their name and skills are their brand and can help them in getting hired.

What I’m not sure on….and the verdict is still out…..is why Apple had us spend a whole day focusing on branding ourselves. What’s in it for them? The fact that you would have all these educators out there who have websites/brands and have ADE on their resume? I’m not clear on the overall outcome of why we spent a whole day on this at this point…so I’ll reserve judgment till later.

Finding your niche
I talked with a couple other ADErs today who were struggling with getting started with branding themselves. I found it interesting that while Apple employees were introducing the concept to us they never talked about niche markets or audiences. Yet I find it helpful to start thinking about what your brand is, what your voice is to first workout who you plan to brand yourself too.

I talked with a high school history teacher who saw his audience as his students. Helping him to think about what it means to be an ADE and who that audience is he will be able to support, we narrowed it down to high school history teachers who are successfully integrating technology in their classrooms. Now that seems like a pretty small audience until you think about just how many history teachers there are in the world, and how many of those are looking for resources on the internet to help them teach their lessons….and you find your audience to brand yourself too (36 History Teachers on Twitter via wefollow.com).

From there he could brainstorm what his brand might look like and design a website that was tailor make for that niche audience on the web today. Apple brought in Joseph Linaschke to help us brainstorm and think through our brands. An amazing photographer who knows how to stage and capture moments. We took time to sit down with him in small groups to bounce our branding ideas off him. I talked about understanding these niche audiences and although he agreed that you need to have them in mind, he reminded me that your brand needs to be recognizable by anyone who comes across it. Personally Joseph doesn’t like to think about his audience to much but instead brainstorms and shoots with an idea in mind and then narrow it down from there.

Either way works….as long as you get to what your brand is.

All of this has me thinking of my own brand and the different between branding myself and branding a website. This blog has a brand that is The Thinking Stick…my faithful baseball bat that to this day sits with me in my office. That is the logo of this blog. It might not be the right logo, in fact at this point I’m sure people come to this blog and expect baseball content. My brand does not match my content….I have a logo/brand disconnect and wonder if I should fix it. But with what? 5th graders the other day said I should use a meter stick….not a bad idea….but then is that me? I’m struggling with this….suggestions?

My personal logo/brand is this icon to the left. Created by my friend and artist David Gran it is the current logo of my website and background for my profile picture on Twitter and conference websites. But is it me? Does it convey my message? The problem is I’m not an artist and have never claimed the creative gene. So I’m struggling with what a new logo would look like. This was a great logo a couple years ago when 2.0 was the buzz, but today are we 2.0ed out? Does it still convey the message that is me? What are your thoughts? Your suggestions….really……I’m all ears….and you are my audience! 🙂

So today for me was a thinking day. I enjoyed the conversations I had at lunch, in the hallways and over dinner the most (as per usual). Did I learn something new? Not really…but I did reflect and over the next month or so I hope you will help me recreate my logo to better represent me as an educator, consultant, presenter. So I go to bed tonight thinking, reflecting, and wondering where does all this lead to……

I was co-teaching earlier this week in a 7th grade environments class. The students were signing up for the wiki they were going to be using to do a project.

One boy in the class created his username as: tommmmmmmmmmmmmmyyyyyyyyy!!!!

Why?

When do we start teaching students about self branding?

I understand that part of this is a maturity issue, but when is the right time/age to start teaching students about self branding?

You might be branding yourself without even knowing it. Just by using the same username on different websites you can start a brand. For example, I always try to use the username jutecht.

Anywhere you go on the web I’m known as jutecht. Twitter, delicious, Diigo, etc, etc, etc. That is my brand. That is who I have become on the Internet and it’s the brand that is Jeff Utecht.

It doesn’t have to be your name. Langwitches is a perfect example. Or how about Cool Cat Teacher. Both of these two self brands do not include the person’s name, but who that person is on the Internet. This would be a safe way to help student start their online name or online brand.

Some digital savvy parents start branding their children early on. Dennis Harter and Chad Bates, my two colleagues, both set up gmail accounts for their kids when they were born. They have already started the brand that will be their kids when they are older (how will this change our schools when students star showing up with their own brands?).

There is power in branding your classroom and getting students use to branding their thinking. I’m sure most of us would argue you start teaching this as soon as students start creating accounts online, and that this is just one piece of a larger picture that is Internet Safety, Digital Literacy, etc.

http://remoteaccess.typepad.com/ideahivelogo.jpgOne way to get to this…..to help students understand the importance of it, is to give them something to believe in, something to belong to. That’s what I love about Clarence Fisher’s classroom. Clarence created a brand for his classroom. A brand that lets the students know they belong to something bigger than themselves.  Within that the students become part of the classroom brand and take on a personal brand allows them to belong to something.

Schools can also create the brand for the students. Taking the example from yesterday’s post on e-portfolios the school has created the brand for Daniel. Daniel is known on the Internet as daniel03pd2014. This is the naming convention that the school came up with. Staff at the school knows exactly who this kid is based on that username. Daniel still has ownership (which is important!) as they used his first name. The rest of the information is used by the school to know who exactly this Daniel is.

I think these are conversations we need to start having in our classrooms/schools. They go with the other conversations of what to write, how to write, and who do you want to be on the web. Teaching students to use the web for their benefit early on allows them to brand their thinking, their sites, themselves. How great will it be when a student can go to apply for a job or for university and can be proud of the fact that they are searchable…in fact they hope their employer or university search them on the web and finds great information that talks about who they are as a person and a learner.