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Digital Branding is Key for Professional Growth

By Matt Harris
Digital Branding is Key for Professional Growth

We educators excel at many things, but on the whole self-promotion is not one of them. We shy away from highlighting the extraordinary work that goes on in our classrooms in favor of focusing on student work. Yet, this is a huge loss for the educational community as it limits the exemplars of great teaching practice found in all of our schools. Educators at other schools in other countries or even the ones in adjacent classrooms aren’t exposed to these professional learning opportunities because they don’t know about them.
The best way to solve this is for us to discuss and share our work with the broader community. Yet, the breadth of geography in the international school community and the sheer number of teachers at those schools requires more than opening up the classroom door. It necessitates that we educators go online to broadcast our message and that we do so in a way that is distinctive to what we have to offer.
To begin, we have to engage in the online social community. I’ve found that the strongest network of professional development resources—ideas, concepts, discussions, and people—are found through social media sites such as Twitter, Facebook, LinkedIn and Scoop.It. When educators engage in these media for professional development, we find a host of people to follow for insights and links to transformative ideas and actionable materials. We re-share blogs, participate in discussions, and follow more and more thought leaders, ostensibly creating a global professional learning network.
My suggestion here is to jump in without trepidation. Start a Twitter account and follow people in your field. Read their posts and exchange ideas with them. Join a Facebook group and post questions. Build a LinkedIn profile and connect with peers in other schools. Find key influencers on Scoop.It and follow their posts.
But simply being a consumer of knowledge or a discussion participant doesn’t engage in the deep professional learning required in contemporary international schools. This only comes when we share our own work online. Teachers who share become more mindful of their work and they open themselves up to discussions with engaged peers at other schools. They get to see their work impacting other students and the feedback they receive helps them improve within their own context. These teachers find their opinions are not only valued, but often sought out, thus building their understanding of quality teaching and learning.
You can begin sharing your work in a number of simple ways: start a blog, take pictures of learning in action, or even make a short video. The best piece of advice is start with something, anything, regardless of how small. It is important just to share and add to the online discussion at first. Excellence and relevancy will come over time.
However, you need to be mindful of how your message is portrayed, similar to the positive digital citizenry we are teaching our students. You need to create a digital brand for yourself so your work isn’t misunderstood, misappropriated, and it reaches the correct (and broadest) audience. As Coca-Cola consumers understand the company isn’t selling vacuum cleaners, so should your audience understand that you are talking about growth mindset in primary school and not DP Biology.
How is this done? Start with a topic area. For me, I talk about Educational Technology. I share links, write posts, and record videos around my experiences as an #EdTech leader. With this topic, choose keywords and hashtags to include in all your materials. I use #edtech, #edchat, and #edleadership. Point people to your materials whenever possible. I rarely give out my email address anymore; instead I ask people to follow me on Twitter, which links to my school, my blog, and other sites. Lastly, be consistent in your self-portrayal. Use the same byline, picture, name, and topic areas between media.
The most impactful and up-to-date educators I have met brand their work online, thus personalizing the impact they hope to have. They do so not for own fame or financial benefit, but to improve the conditions in their classrooms. In short, share your work and become a better teacher.
Matt Harris, is Deputy Head of School for Learning Technology at the British School of Jakarta and Chair-Elect of the Board of Directors of the International Society for Technology in Education ( Matt on Twitter: @mattharrisedd.

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