Creating and Curating Your Online Brand

Creating and Curating Your Online Brand

TL;DR Version: There are wealth of free digital texts and tools that can be used to create and curate your online, educational brand. More importantly, when developed with a digital learning hub, you can build up and control your own learning management system.

 

In working with teachers in pre-service programs, professional development, and institutes like the MA NLI, I’m struck by the way that individuals typically view the use of educational technologies in their classroom. Typically, there is a certain sense of making our classroom, or teaching and learning “fit” into the digital text and tool. For example, a school starts an iPad initiative, and then administrators and faculty identify apps and content that should be used with students. There is a certain belief that technology is “necessary”, or “the next big thing” in society and education. However there never is a sense of what teachers can do with technology. To that end, I believe that we can empower our students in the reader/writer nature of online information. First we need to empower teachers in these online literacies. The first step in this process is managing our online identity…and possibly creating a brand for ourselves.

Using your own personal learning network

I see this as being a multistep process that really should be done every year. The first step would be to decide what online tools and environments are out there..and which do you want to be a part of? I’m currently on Twitter, Google+FacebookScribdAcademia.edu, Foursquare, numerous Google Sites pages, and about 45 NINGs around the planet. I view my identity on each of these as different than one another, and sometimes they intersect or support one another. What I mean is that I see myself as being more like “me” on Google+ and Twitter, than I am on Facebook. On Google+ and Twitter, I share links about interesting projects I’m working on, or things I read that I find interesting. However on Facebook I share links and ideas, and toss in my fair share of family photos and videos. It’s important to understand what the affordances are for each group, or tool…and also decide how you chose to use them. The common thread in the use of all of these social networks is that I use them to drive content to my main website…which you’re reading right now. 😉 My advice is to use the social networks that make sense to you…and have them all drive content back to your blog, or your digital learning hub.

Your Digital Learning Hub

Your digital learning hub is your classroom website. In work with teachers I advise them to use a free tool like Google Sites to create a classroom website that you control. Consider the purpose and audience of this site before you start building it. This will help you think about how you design it for students/teachers/parents/the world. Think of this as your “teaching space.” I also advise teachers to start up their own blog. This blog is where you reflect on your own practice and this would be your “work space.” You should feel free to openly think and post about questions you have in your “work space”…this is for reflection. We want our students to reflect…as teachers we should be healthy, reflective practitioners…so now start reflecting.

Creating, curating and modifying your digital identity

While you’re signed in to Google, I would investigate your Google Dashboard and seeing what Google knows about you. Of course you could be proactive and add your own information. If you visit Google Profile you can add/edit/revise your own identifying characteristics that will be used by Google as people search online for information about you. By filling in this information for yourself, you can be a little more sure about what people will find when they search online for you.

Additionally, registering a domain name is a great way to be proactive and build online information about you that YOU control. Domain addresses and hosting are relatively inexpensive and allow you to have online spaces in which you house your brand. Building a webpage using Google Apps, or hosting it elsewhere provides you with an opportunity to share biographical information, blog..or even link to your other online accounts. A very basic, yet somewhat slick tool to use as a basic homepage that I love is flavors.meFlavors.me puts together a home page for you in a couple of minutes that gives you the opportunity to compile and distribute information about your online identity.

Control your digital identity and brand

Whatever choices you make about your online brand, they are CHOICES. You should understand what each tool or social environment can do…and more importantly what do you want it to do. For most ICT tools there really are no rules for how they must be used. So, if you want to go nuts…and add avatars for all of your online accounts…feel free. The real key is to understand that your online brand is constantly evolving, even now as you’re reading this. The question is whether or not you’re informing that evolution or not. I would rather be proactive and create online content that people will be directed to when they search online for information about me.

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12 Comments Creating and Curating Your Online Brand

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  9. wiobyrne

    TL:DR Version: This blog post shares advice on how to think through and develop an online learning hub, or front door for your digital identity.
    Over the past couple of years I’ve worked with educators to create and curate their online brand. Most of the time I guide teachers to build up their own space using free, online tools and focus on entrepreneurial motives. My thinking is that educators should focus on building up their own brand, or digital identity…and not concern themselves with building up content in the silos of a school’s website. Recently, I’ve been thinking more and more about the indieweb movement, and building up a domain of one’s own. In this post, I’d like to share my guidance for educators thinking about starting up their digital learning hub.
    Purpose
    One of the first questions I believe you should consider is the purpose of your site. Will you be blogging (daily, weekly, monthly) and reflecting about experiences in your classroom? Will you be sharing teaching materials? Will this be a form of e-portfolio for you? There are tons of opportunities out there, I think it’s helpful to first think about WHY you’d like to build this hub.
    In the IT&DML program, I have students build a learning hub that serves as a spot to save and archive all teaching materials for their students. They also create a blog to routinely post work, announcements, reflections, etc. The blog and the hub (in my mind) are two different spaces that should interconnect. That being said, many of my students over the past year have started to merge these two online spaces into one larger site using different tools. We’ll talk about that in a minute.
    Audience
    One of the second questions I ask students is to identify the specific audience they are targeting with this hub. Who are you focusing on as you share these materials? Are you building this to share with and build a personal learning network (PLN)? Are you building a spot for your students to access teaching materials? Is this a way to share with colleagues, and promote your own work? These are all very good reasons, and i’m sure there are many more out there.
    Part of the reason why I suggest that students separate out different online spaces is to help identify and focus on the audience. Take for example this blog (wiobyrne.com). I primarily teach teachers. I also try and provide guidance for colleagues in higher ed, and K-12 on technology integration in literacy-based practices. As a result, I create teaching and learning materials. I use this blog to post and share any and all materials that I create with my PLN. I also use this blog as a way to reflect on things I’m experimenting with. As an example, I documented my learning and thinking about digital badges along the way. This has helped me consider my own growth, and helped others (perhaps ) as they develop badges.
    The very important factor to also consider is that I’m doing this openly. I made a decision at the beginning to write, think, and share in the open. This blog serves as one part of my online hub, or digital identity…and becomes an open educational resource (OER) to help other learners online. I think there is a certain amount of serendipity that occurs as we learn, share, and connect in online open spaces. Please review the recent interview I conducted with Cable Green from CC to think more about open and OER.
    Design
    Now that you’re thinking about the purpose, and audience of your hub, you’ve got plenty of options to think about the digital tools and texts you can use to design and develop this spot. Greg McVerry put together a great overview of possibilities for building this front door to your digital identity. As you develop your hub, I think it’s important to understand that you have something important to share, and that your ideas have merit. You’ll be building a home for all of these ideas. The thinking is that you’ll continue to build this home…and share content out to others from this space you’re building. We’re building up an infrastructure that you’ll continue to build, edit, revise, and share.
    In class this past week, I shared several tools I think you should check out as you find a place to build your digital identity.
    WordPress – WordPress is a great blogging platform. This is the type of tool I’d recommend if you plan on routinely (daily, weekly) posting content and sharing it. This blog is built on WordPress. You can choose to have WordPress host it, or pay a bit and run your own domain. I’d suggest starting with the free version for a bit, and then purchase your own domain if you keep going with it.
    Tumblr – Tumblr is also free and very easy to use. Tumblr is “lightweight” compared to most of the other options. Tumblr provides an opportunity to routinely post and share with others, but makes it very simple to do so.
    Google Sites – This is one of the traditional tools that I use, and initially teach to teachers. It’s free, and a product of Google. As a result, it plays well with Google Apps. It’s not as sexy as some of the other online spaces…and requires some tinkering. I’ve found Google Sites to be a good tool to use to create basic, “throwaway” websites. Here is an overview of the teaching materials I’ve produced in the past for Google Sites.
    Wikispaces – Wikispaces is the second tool that I always introduce to teachers as they get started building a hub for their online classroom. Wikispaces and Google Sites provide an easy to use spot to create and share online, starter websites. In my classes, I use Wikispaces and Google Sites for my classroom spaces. They’re not perfect…but they get the job done. Please review this wiki to get a great overview on how to use and develop a wikispaces site.
    Weebly – Weebly is a tool that I’m just beginning to learn about. I was introduced to Weebly by Tina Hurlbert and continue to really like it. Tina was one of the first students to suggest that my dichotomy of needing different spaces for a hub and blog might be misguided. In checking out the space that Tina is building…I think I agree. I think Weebly might provide a nice opportunity to build up a blog, and teaching hub that can serve as the e-portfolio and teaching resource for your classes.
    Wix – Wix is a free online tool that provides a sophisticated online hub using drag and drop tools. Wix is (for the most part) drop dead simple. I was introduced to Wix by Tim Flanagan last year as he was developing his digital portfolio. Since then, most of the students in the IT&DML program have jumped to the platform. I’ve also seen it advertised a lot online and TV. It’s becoming a staple of Shark Tank episodes. I think Wix provides a nice, easy way to develop an e-portfolio that you’ll enjoy.
    Build it and share it to let them know to come
    My advice is to think about the prompts up above and play with the tools presented. What is not blocked in your school? What “looks” the best to you? What interface do you like? These are all important considerations. Feel free to play and see what you want to invest more time in developing.
    Don’t worry about building something…and throwing it out. Many student have this concern that when you create a social media account, or a website…everyone online will come look at you, point, and laugh. Trust me…it doesn’t happen. I’ve got tons of content online (good and bad) that people could bump into. When you Google me, you get the blog posts and information I push out on social media. It’s identity curation and obfuscation through creation. Basically, you need to produce and publish more and more content to create the brand that you want to promote…and push the other stuff down in search rankings. So, play, create, share, reflect, repeat the process…
    Finally, Creative Commons license your content and share, share, share. CC licensing is a great way to protect, and more importantly promote your content online. It’s the mark of a savvy, and web literate individual.
     
     
    Image CC BY-ND 2.0 Nathan Larkin
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  10. wiobyrne

    We’re nearing the end of Learning Event Three of the #WalkMyWorld Project 2015. You can learn more about Learning Event Three by clicking here.
    This week started to unpack considerations and representations of our identity. We asked you all to open up and share more about yourselves. As a result, we’ve had some interesting themes and questions pop up.
    What is a digital identity?
    In discussions that I had over the past week many of you have been questioning exactly what do we mean by a “digital identity”?
    Wikipedia describes your digital identity as:

    Digital identity is the data that uniquely describes a person or a thing and contains information about the subject’s relationships. The social identity that an internet user establishes through digital identities in cyberspace is referred to as online identity.

    I also recommend reading the following white paper by Hal Abelson and Larry Lessig in which they define/discuss your digital identity in cyberspace. Stacy Koosel also discusses the challenges between your public and private versions of your digital identity.

    One of the challenges in understanding your digital identity is thinking about where it exists. Previously, we held this misguided belief that there was a difference between online and offline. Now, in the Post-Snowden era of the Internet, we now understand that governments, businesses, and others are harvesting our online data, and tracking us. That being said, I think we can (and should) create and curate our online brand. If you have things about you online that you don’t want others to know (we’ve all got baggage) then do something about it. Start up a blog. Create, share, and promote information that helps define the type of identity you want to promote. I think there are challenges now in the future when we use the Internet in literacy practices, but it’s our duty to educate, empower, and advocate for our students that are in these online spaces.
    People sharing and opening up
    It been really cool to see all of you continue to open up and share what makes you special. We’ve seen a ton of images, websites, blogs, poems, videos, audio, etc. Many of you are sharing your offline images of your tattoos to help develop your online, or digital tattoo.
    Sometimes it can be a rick to think about what to share…and what not to share. At the end of last week I shared a stupid photo of me goofing off with some money. The fact that I’m goofing off, acting, and there’s photo or video evidence of it is not a big deal. The fact that I would actively share this online IS the challenge. I spent a lot of time thinking before, and after I sent that photo wondering if it will come to bite me in the butt. At the end of the day, I reached out to a couple people that I know and trust to give me a honest opinion. The indicated that they liked the photo, that it humanized me, and helped accentuate my digital identity. I still do wonder.

    What effect do online actions & identity have on offline interactions?
    The colleague that I referenced in the beginning of the blog post asked me if others are considering what effect their online actions and things that we share affect their offline, or everyday lives. I indicated that I have, and some of my students have expressed concerns about what sharing content online would do for potential employers. I know that I currently have my name out online for a couple of things, and there are people that might be reading this words right now and viewing my silly photos that I share.
    The question that students in my classes have been asking is…what happens if I don’t get hired for a job because of what I share. I think this should be in the back of our minds as a consideration. For the most part, the response that a peer usually quickly offers is that the position or place might not be a place you want to be. The challenge is that I’m living and interacting in the northeast of the U. S. My students are working in schools in the northeast…and many will continue to live and work in the region.
    We now have many people joining us from around the globe in the #WalkMyWorld Project. It’s totally awesome to see people sharing from Japan, Europe, South America, and rugby matches. One thing that really hit home in a discussion this week is that many of us are privileged in what we’re allowed to express and share. In discussions with my colleague and friend, we discussed recent events in which people in that country were tracked, jailed, and in one case killed for what they share online. It’s easy for me to spout ideas about opening up and sharing your thoughts online, but for some the challenge might be more severe than not getting a job.

    Let us celebrate and exercise our freedoms. Let us also remember that freedom is not equal for all. I’ll continue to reach out and work, play, and share online. I’ll also work to educate, empower, and advocate for others in online spaces. I think you should join me in helping out others that might be walking in worlds unlike our own.
     
    Thanks again for pushing my thinking…and sharing online. I look forward to seeing how everyone connects in the next learning event.
     
     
    Cover image CC BY-NC 2.0 Winston Vargas
    Top image CC BY-NC-SA 2.0 Tom Beardshaw
    Middle image CC BY-NC-SA 2.0 Pictoquotes
    Bottom image CC BY 2.0 IssacMao
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