DIY Digital Profiles: Creating a Brand in the Digital Age

 By: Nate Green, Op-Ed Contributor

This past fall, three students approached me about an idea they were working on to help get young people interested in current events. “So you’re trying to be like theSkimm?” I asked. Undeterred by my negativity, these students created Cored News a few weeks later. Though I knew this endeavor would take away from the time they studied for my course (AP U.S. History), I quickly complimented them and embraced my new role as a loyal Cored News fan. It was a no-brainer. This website encourages skill development in close reading, succinct writing, critical thinking, and publishing/branding. More succinctly, they are learning, and that’s the purpose of school. The great irony however, is that these students had to leave the building and the curriculum behind in order to learn better.

Many educators label this generation of students “Generation DIY” for generation do-it-yourself. DIY acknowledges that students today have a different set of resources that make them uniquely poised to learn and share on their own—with or without school. I’d like to think that these particular students have fully embraced the DIY moniker. They saw a problem amongst their peers and they set out to fix it.

Perhaps the greatest thing about DIY learning is that students don’t need an adult or a school building to solve the challenge they identified. In the case of Cored News, the students read the news off the internet and social media, created a website through Squarespace, and built a following through subscription emails, social media, and word-of-mouth. As an educator, it makes me proud to see my students finding and pursuing their passions outside of school via the internet.

Another hot new trend in education is digital profiles—places where students post, curate, and brand themselves as a way to appeal to colleges or potential employers. The founders of Cored News have embraced the digital profile by establishing themselves in an online space. Their digital profile proves they’re passionate, proactive, intelligent, creative, hard-working and committed to a worthy cause. Cored News affects more than just the students in this group, or even the students in this community; Cored News has a worldwide audience! A college admissions officer or a potential employer only needs to follow the hyperlink to Cored News to accept one of these students.

The greatest thing about the digital profile is that it provides definitive proof of a student’s ability and initiative. Nowadays, every high school student seeks an opportunity for leadership within his or her school or community. Often leadership interest comes secondary to the allure of a prominent note on the college application. Too often this manifests itself in a student creating a new club with a limited audience, perhaps hosting one event, and nevertheless writing “club president” on his college application. I’m sure the Ivy League rarely finds an application without the applicant labeling himself a “president” of some organization. But how will they know whether that’s a student checking a box that gained little from the experience or a committed student with genuine interest and ability? The answer is digital profiles.

Clearly the founders of Cored News have benefitted in more ways than they know from this website. They run a business, they manage a brand, they work as a team, they negotiate criticism and they create content daily. But they’ve also gone above-and-beyond in skills that high schools and colleges value deeply, namely reading, writing and critical thinking.

So how do educators help other students do the same? Can we promote DIY learning and digital profiles while still completing a rigorous high school curriculum? I look forward to hearing a response from someone who has successfully navigated both…

Find Nate Green

Nate Green (@MrShakedown) | Twitter

The latest Tweets from Nate Green (@MrShakedown). I teach, I coach, I lead. I enjoy social media, technology, politics, and most of all, learning