Random Thoughts

When to start teaching self branding

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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!!!!


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.

I started blogging in 2005 and found it such a powerful way to reflect and share my thinking about technology, this generation, and how we prepare students for their future not our past.


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  4. Self branding and identity protection create a unique tension in the online world. On the one hand I as a person want to protect myself from identity theft, on the other hand I am trying to carve out a piece of online territory that is ME! This becomes even trickier because our students are doing the same thing. They want to be recognized and heard and be noticed, but what if they are recognized and noticed?

    Thanks for a thoughtful post

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  6. Jeff, you probably already read this, but just in case… Wes Fryer just posted on what looks like a fantastic preso: http://tinyurl.com/d3x8kb

    Imagine giving graduating seniors their own domain names as a gift. See link in Wes’s post. Thanks for this! – Mark

  7. Great post Jeff- and I’d include in a sense of branding a design element as well. Speaking of which, what happened to your logo? 😉

    In all seriousness, I do have a slight disagreement with one of your points. In the case of Daniel, the name “daniel03pd2014” doesn’t serve as a ‘brand’, in fact, i believe it has the opposite effect. To me, the concept of a ‘brand’ is something that is easily recognizable and associative. “The Thinking Stick” is good example of a brand because it associates a mental image with the idea. Image works with text to create a more cohesive and memorable impression (which is another reason I liked the bat on your site, but that’s another issue). On the other hand a name like “daniel03pd2014” is not only forgettable, but hard to remember – even, I would guess, for Daniel.

    I understand why schools would do this (I was still in the tech department when that was agreed to at SAS), its efficient and easy to manage. However, in the context of your discussion here, I think there is a greater possibility that it disengages the students, rather than engages them.

    • I agree with you. But if schools are not actively teaching students how to brand then do we need to create that brand for them? Which we did at SAS. It’s not the best…as schools have to worry about privacy and such.

      What I would love is that we start teaching branding in schools and do exactly what you say. Is this the new art class? Understanding logos, brands, etc? Does this become part of the art curriculum?

      • Sure, I take your point. I don’t think we can create a ‘brand’ for them though (nor should we) – in the sense that you were describing. To me, what your suggesting is something that is not just a label (which is what the school provides) but an idea that is tied up in the individual student’s identity. I do think its a great idea to talk about that concept with the students – and good point about the art curriculum… in fact I do recall seeing lessons about creating personal logos- well before ‘2.0 culture’, it would be interesting to find new ways to integrate it.

    • Hello there. I was just on my blog when I saw that there was link here that led to it… Anyways,our “brand” names aren’t as hard as you think they would be to remember. The first part (Daniel) is my name. Then 03 means I’m the third Daniel in my grade. pd stands for Pudong (location of our school) and 2014 stands for the year we graduate out of high school. Although I use another “brand” name, I think this one works just fine.

  8. When looking at this from a purely marketing perspective (here we go my undergrad degree in Business Marketing rearing it’s head again)……..

    The 4 P’s of market positioning come to mind:
    Product-is there a need?
    Price-does it warrant a monetary value…if so what?
    Place-where will this product be found?
    Promotion- how will others know this product exists?

    Turning this into something applicable for students:
    Product- it already exists…the student!
    Price- not really applicable in lower grades but in high school students definitely start thinking about future careers and this is linked to income.
    Place-to me this is all about student choices…what instrument do you want to play…what HS courses do you want to take…what college do you want to go to….what social group to you associate yourself with?
    Promotion- I know that this has been talked about before when discussing students usage of social media.

    For an individual I would say that all of these 4 P questions need to be answered and thought about to be exactly who you want to be. For the most part this is done in schools just not in an organized fashion.

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  12. The idea of branding children is grotesque. Human beings are not brands. Can we let them be kids for a while before we start branding them or teaching them to brand themselves? There is a real world of real plants, animals and people to explore.

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