The Internet is a treasure trove of free digital tools that can be used to create and curate your online educational identity and brand.
The process starts with managing your online identity and possibly creating a brand for yourself.
- Not All Great Tools Are Necessary
The Internet is chock-a-block with countless amazing tools that can be used in online teaching. However, it is important to realize no matter how lucrative they may seem, not all are necessarily suitable to your teaching needs. Striking a fine balance between what is required and what will enhance the value of your online presence is crucial.
To begin with, keep things simple. Because students may have difficulties using all your fancy digital paraphernalia. In such circumstances, flashy effects, your videos, audio and animation will become a liability rather improving your digital prospects. It may also negatively affect the course material and students’ ability to learn.
And no teacher wants to have fancy stuff that caters to just a handful of students. As an educator-entrepreneur, you will want to cater to as many learners as possible.
Go slow on technology. Be vigilant about identifying and incorporating what is absolutely necessary to achieve your online teaching goals.
- Use Your Own Personal Learning Network
This is a multistep, constantly evolving process. The first step is to decide what online tools and environments are available and which do you want to be a part of.
To begin with, get proactive on as many social platforms as possible – Twitter, Google+, Facebook, Scribd, Academia.edu, YouTube, LinkedIn, Google Sites pages, NINGs, et al. Understand what benefits each group, tool or platform offers to you as a teacher and how you want to use them.
For example: On Google+ and Twitter, share links about interesting projects you are working on every now and then, or things you read that you find interesting. Initiate quizzes on Facebook or share fun facts about your subject.
In short, use social networks that mean the most sense to you and make them drive content back to your blog, website, teaching group, or your digital learning hub.
- Digital Learning Hub
Create your classroom website which will be your digital learning hub. Use a free tool like Google Sites to create and control it. This is your ‘teaching space’. Start your own blog. This should be your ‘workspace’ where you reflect on your own practices – the challenges you face as an educator, what changes would you like to bring about in the education sector and why, how can you improve upon the industry best practices, post any questions you have, et al – for self-reflection. By doing this, you will set an example for your students to be reflective practitioners.
- Creating, Curating & Keeping Up Your Digital Persona
Start with asking Google how much it knows about you! Because, the information you feed to your personal social profiles is what people searching for you online will see. They will also possibly make judgments about you based on the information they find about you online. Don’t agree? Picture this: According to a recent survey, 45% of people searching on Google find something in a search that makes them decide NOT to do business with someone. Certainly, you DON’T want to be that ‘someone’.
So, get proactive, take responsibility for your own digital persona and ensure you make a lasting impression when people, especially your learners, Google you.
But don’t just stop at creating extravagant social profiles. Keeping up your digital image is equally critical to your success in the social world. Update your social profiles regularly. Keep adding to your own information. Revise and refine your own identifying characteristics.
Also, use the same name on your other social media profiles as it allows your current and prospective students to identify you instantly irrespective of the media you are using. Link all your accounts to each other.
Additionally, register a domain name. It is inexpensive and allows you online spaces to house your own individual teaching brand. Build a webpage using Google Apps.
- Personal Search Engine Optimization
Search Engine Optimization (SEO) is the process of creating or improving content to make sure it shows up as high as possible in web search results for the right keywords (in the case of personal SEO, Your Name).
For instance: You made a personal website, but on searching your name, the search engine does not show it up on the first page of results. There could be a slew of reasons behind this. May be the search engine could not understand the information fed to it because of a badly designed page. Or the site did not seem to be as trustworthy as it is. Or perhaps the search engine was not even aware that your content exists.
Here’s where SEO helps! By employing general SEO strategies, or using specialized tools, you can ensure your content is search engine friendly. This will enable the content to be: quickly found by Google, designed in a way that search engines can instantly recognize it is about you, linked to and stored in reliable databases and directories across the web so search engines know it’s trustworthy.
- Control & market your digital identity and brand
As much time and resources as you spend on building your online identity and brand as a teacher, spend an equal amount on marketing it.
Aim your marketing and branding efforts towards your target market. Consider your learners, both in terms of age, geographic location, and areas of interest. Increase your brand-awareness by creating a consistent presence across major social platforms. Measure your brand’s social footprint and your learners’ emotional reaction to your brand. Analyze what motivates your core consumers to come to you. Lastly, continue to evaluate and alter your digital strategy according to your learner needs.