Branding the Learning Organization

At the beginning of the 2011-2012 school year, I presented some information to our board of trustees and discussed the importance of “digital footprint”.  I was not just speaking about this from the viewpoint of individuals, but also from the idea of schools and organizations building upon their digital footprint.  Needless to say, as organization, there was not much out there about our schools and we wanted to focus on building our presence as a “learning organization”.

I have seen many administrators talk about the idea of “branding”, and I understand that in many places this is important when schools may be competing for students more so than we are in our own school division.  Our focus was not the idea of “branding” necessarily, but the idea of learning, connecting and showing our work in continuously growing as a learning organization.  You may have a principal or a teacher that has a large enough Twitter following that when you do a search for the organization, one of the top results is not necessarily the school, but the person with the enormous web presence.  To me, schools are not about one specific individual, but are about our kids and all of our learners.

With that being said, one focus for us was to share the stories of our school division and schools within Parkland and what they are learning through our 184 Days of Learning Project.  As I was very purposeful in tagging each post with the school name, it was interesting to do a google search of one of the schools (Muir Lake School):

When looking up the term “Muir Lake School”, the top post shared was the school website, but it was also interesting to see that the blog and twitter account were now also visible as well.  It was not only those sites, but it was also posts from the 184 blog that stood out as well.  Posts from both teachers and students were showing up in the results and I could not think of a better way to develop the digital footprint of a school; through the voice of students and teachers.

Isn’t this the type of “branding” we want?  Organizations spend millions of dollars on their web presence, where our division focused on using open source software this year  and web 2.0 sites such as Twitter and Facebook that had a minimal cost to get our community to tell the stories and share the learning of our schools.

The best advocates for schools is always the students.  Giving them opportunities to help create your digital identity is a no brainer.


  1. George, I have enjoyed following the 184 blog this year and we plan to start something similar at Graded. The high school blog will focus on learning and members of the community will share experiences throughout the year. We won’t have 180 posts but it will be active. One aspect that I really like is that it’s such a great archive for important work that is done at the school. Instead of highlighting this at the end of the end of the year, it’s highlighted throughout the year when it’s timely. It’s a much better way to tell a story of a school year. Thanks for developing this idea for us to follow.

    July 2, 2012
    • Thanks Blair! If you are going to do that, please check out this post: We want schools to share to the #learn365 hashtag so that we can see all of the stories of learning happening around the world.

      July 2, 2012
  2. Jaime Stacy said:

    Great post.

    If school leaders don’t market the brand that is the school, students, parents, and the community are going to market it for them. It’s also important to check your own school profile on sites like and People often visit these sites when trying to find out about a school, and the feedback can be one sided.

    July 2, 2012
    • Great point. I often talk to schools about this…who is talking about your school? What are they saying? Are you even in on the conversation?

      July 2, 2012
  3. Our profession is really in trouble when those who work in it begin to sound like those advertising and marketing schmucks from Madison Avenue.

    And many of you still insist on blaming standardized tests and inadequate curricula.

    “Brand” indeed. What other hackneyed terms from the last ten years can we toss out when we attempt to justify our mission as educators on the blogosphere?

    At least 75% of those in the teaching profession right now are the reason why education fails. A person fails when they become a “useful idiot” mouthpiece for the low rent culture that surrounds us. They rely on trendy jargon and feel the need to “belong” and serve that very same low rent culture that provides all their talking points and behavioral cues.

    You don’t improve anything by dumbing down the system to make it more equitable at the expense of rewarding the very best and the brightest. I read these exchanges and that’s all I can surmise. “Dumbing down” makes it easier for all so no one feels “excluded.” What’s the point of excelling at something if the person next to you who underperforms is rewarded equally to you?

    The tragic thing is that many of you are just fine with all this. You would have no problem with a more egalitarian socialist society, wouldn’t you?

    People who can “fail upward” in their profession is another result of this trend. Schools are filled with teachers and admins who advance on this very premise. As long as they say and stand for the right things, their superficiality overshadows the fact that they lack substance.

    How many of you are truly style over substance? As long as you recite from a carefully rehearsed script peppered with the proper jargon, wear the right clothes, drive the right car, support the right political causes, agree with your superiors, check your email frequently, and faithfully maintain your social media accounts, you will slide upwards without having to really accomplish anything of meaningful or lasting value, because the culture that you bow to doesn’t value real integrity or merit. Real integrity and merit is standing up for what you believe in at most any cost, being honest and straightforward with people, not following the crowd or popular tastes… being an INDIVIDUAL.

    Ayn Rand once wrote about the folly of “going along to get along.”

    If you haven’t read THE FOUNTAINHEAD, you should. You’d learn more about life from that one book than all the Seth Godin, Daniel Pink, Marcy Jacobs, and Diane Ravetch books combined.

    July 7, 2012

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