Tuesday, June 30, 2015

Today's Reads, Views, and Links

I find this kind of stuff fascinating: 40 Examples of Classic Branding Next to the Modern Version.

I don't know if it's my interest in design and advertising or just my interest in what caused the evolution of these logos, but I could study this type of stuff all day.

Here are some of my favorites:

 This one is interesting because out of all of the examples, I think the classic logo actually looks more modern than the modern version.

I love the logos that are so identifiable that they don't even need words.  You just see them and you know it's the brand.

The classic Apple logo is sophisticated and elaborate, but it runs opposite of what is at the heart of everything Apple does: easy and simplicity.

Their new logo captures that perfectly.

Not a huge change, but the NFL logo looks much better without the clutter of color in the background.

Oh what color can do.

Another logo that doesn't need any words at all.

A huge improvement over the original.  I can't see how they can improve upon the modern logo.

Not much of a change here, but the new font is a big improvement.


What if instead of finding things to do before we kick the bucket, we find ways to help others instead.  It reminds me of the famous Zig Ziglar quote -


I wonder how teachers could use these techniques to keep their students satisfied?

One of the things that has fascinated me lately is the connection between business (see my branding post above) and education.  If I ever go on for more graduate work, I think I'd explore the connections between these two in my research.  That would be a lot of fun.

For the record here are the Nine Ways

1.  Know they customer.

The example given here is the Dollar Shave Club.  I'm not a member.  I'm one of the few remaining dolts who begrudgingly pays $20 for half a dozen razor blades.

After watching this hilarious commercial, it's easy to see why the brand is so strong with its customers.  Their message is simple: they know we are all getting screwed (in this case sucker punched) by the big razor blade companies.  The Dollar Shave Club guy is on our side.  He sympathizes with us and wants to make our lives better by saving us money.

They know that their customers are fed up with excessive prices and like humor.

How can we as teachers model this in our classes?

One way I do it is on the first day I have students complete this homework assignment (and I do it with them as well): list 111 things about yourself.

What I like about this is that students are encouraged to share the most random things (I have six cats; my dog eats my stuffed animals; I'm left handed; I hate country music . . . ).  I read this and highlight the ones that catch my eye.

But what I'm really getting is an incredible glimpse into the lives of my customers.  From this I can help cement culture and build tribes.

When we read Shirley Jackson's "The Lottery" and I know that one of my writers is a sci-fi geek, I can ask him if he's ever seen The Island.  If he has, I tell him, he'll find "The Lottery" very similar.

It's all a way of trying to find an "in" to connect with my kids.

This is the same reason I choose to follow them (if they follow me, that is) on social media (namely Twitter and Instagram.  I usually wait to follow a student on FB until they have graduated).

2.  Dig deep to find out what really drives our students.

Etsy is as good as it gets when it comes to this with their customers.  I am a total geek.  Thus, when I was looking for a unique cell phone case and Googled "Star Wars iPhone cases," up came the usual standard stuff that I could get at Best Buy or Target.

But being an uber-geek, that isn't what I wanted. At all.

It's then that I noticed a few really crazy and unique cases.  When I searched more, I discovered that they were sold on something called Etsy.

Apparently, Etsy is a site that allows its users to create products and sell them.  Similar to ebay, but not quite as wide or random.

The more I explored Etsy, the more I felt at home.  I thought, here is my kind of place. Geeks like me live here.

The more I explored, the more amazing things I found and the more money I wanted to spend.

That never happens to me at unremarkable places like Wal-Mart or Kmart.

Etsy has a way of not only knowing their customers, but it also has a way of appealing to the geeky aspects of people like me to cement a relationship that will reward us both - they make money and I get all the uber-nerdy stuff that I crave and that very few other people have.

Where else can you find geeky stuff like this?

This case is my current one, and it combines my two favorites: Star Wars and apple.

This will be my next case: a painting from one of my favorite artists, Lichtenstein.

Once we know our students, how can we make their experience in our class richer and more rewarding.  How can we take what we learn about them and then use that to understand what drives them?  Once we know that, how can we use that to make our content more relevant to them (to answer that dreaded, "When am I ever going to use this?" question).

I know my students love technology, especially social media.  So the question becomes, how can I use this to make my class more meaningful and engaging.  I share assignments and interesting content via social media.  Here is a cool way I can use the site Storify, Pinterest, and Youtube.

3.  Unite internally to improve externally.

StumbleUpon, which I don't happen to use, is the example illustrated in the article.  This is when a company or brand has it's crap together in everything they do.  Their content, engineering, and marketing all work together fluent.  Apple is a master at this.

One brand that fail horribly at this is DirecTV.

I left them when we moved to TRF.  I loved DirecTV when I was in RLF.  But there was one problem in TRF: I have 57 trees on my property.

I explained this to my DirecTV rep when I cancelled.  Had they offered to come out and try to see what they could do to give me a clear view of the Southern sky (the direction their dish must face), I would have entertained remaining loyal to them.

But they didn't.

Now they waste money sending me mail trying to lure me back.  This doesn't work because I just recycle it.

Every time I see one of their damn letters I think, had they worked half this hard when they had me as a customer, I would never have left!

But they blew it.  Now I'll never go back.

As a teacher, uniting internally to improve externally is difficult for me. I'm just not organized enough.  One thing that has helped though, was when I created weekly syllabi (I stole this idea from our principal who sends out our staff weekly).

The key here is not just a weekly updated syllabus.  The key is the extra content I add in (again stolen from Shane and the staff weekly). I add Tweets that I collected from students (sometimes they make fun of me or discuss something we are doing in class or highlight some humorous or important aspect of their lives).  And when a student sees they made the staff weekly, they love it. I couldn't pay for that type of reaction.

I also add in part of story or document related to what we are studying to add depth to our content (for example, if it's in College Comp and we are writing our how to survive college essay, I may put in an article on the top five skills college students need or the top five reasons people dread living in the dorms).

Finally, I add some humorous pins from Pinterest.  Again, adding humor and uniqueness to the syllabi, which we go over on Mondays.  It's always a fun way to being class.  Plus, it keeps students alert to revisions in our syllabus.

4.  Test methodically.

Breaks my heart in education when I see this.  This is great for the market place where companies need to know how their product is doing and what their customers think of it, but I fear we test far too much in education.

And I fear we are testing for the wrong reasons.  If, after all, teachers really want to know how our products are doing what our customers think, giving a traditional test isn't always the best means.  A portfolio, discussion, individual observation, presentation are all great "tests" of our products and what our customers think of them.

The problem is that sometimes teachers (and I've been guilty of this many times) don't know what to do other than test for testing sake.

That scares me.

5.  Educate students about the full value of our product.

Michael Hyatt talks about this in his book Platform.  He analyzes it in three instances -

1.  Provide products and services that you'd actually use.

2.  Solve problems in unique ways.

3.  Over deliver.

  Again, here is where I use social media, usually Tweets or posts or texts from former students.  You see I'm in a privileged position.  My seniors see almost immediately once they get to college how what I've taught them about reading and writing is instantly true.  And they share this quite often.

So I share these with my classes (either by printing them our and taping them to my podium, re-tweeting them, or adding them to a board of mine on Pinterest).

  I let these show my students the full value of the reading, writing, and thinking we do in CC 1 and 2.

6.  Make student retention a KPI

Student retention? Not a whole lot we can do about that, unless it's for electives.  But think back about your college experience.  I bet there were professors that either were so interesting, smart, charismatic, or engaging that you flocked to every course your could take from them.

How can we do the same thing at the high school level?

This is what I struggle with.  And it's what motivates me every single morning as I think on my way to school: if students could report to any class they wanted to, not the classes they had to go to, but the class that they felt most valued in and respected in and that their voice mattered most in, would I have anyone in my room when I got to school?

I hope so.

7.  Beware of discounting

The point here is that customers won't build a relationship with your product just because they save money or find a great deal.

This doesn't directly apply to teaching.  But one correlation I can see is that teachers can offer vital knowledge or college credit . . . but if they don't offer real value in terms of classroom culture and engagement, they aren't going to get the same type of student buy in.

8.  Focus on quality customers

Now I think sometimes this is just what we do in high school and it costs us big time.  In the age prior to NCLB you could just focus on the top 15% of students (those most likely to go to college) and they'd carry the rest on their back.  However, once NCLB began "measuring" (in the form of high stakes tests) skills in various sub-groups, it became clear that the top 15% of students could no longer take the attention away from the lack of education the 85% were not getting.

The real key in education is how to connect with and boost that 85% up while not neglecting the top 15%.

9.  Drive students to your product's most valuable resources

This is another area where I use social media and texts from past students.  Early on in College Comp I will ask the class to text someone they know (often a sibling or relative) who has previously taken CC from me.

I challenge them to ask them how College Comp prepared them.

Then when the results roll in, I don't have to say anything.  The results speak for themselves.  I get instant buy in.  No selling involved.


A great TED Talk I can across.  And what a great topic: fear.


I've heard of the woeful Snakes on a Plane, but Cat on a Plane?

This is awesome!

Don't worry.  The pilot realizes the cat is on the wing and lands quickly and safely.  With the cat!

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