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The Brand in the Classroom

Cross-posted here.

An interesting survey by Harris Interactive came out this month, one that may have quirky implications for teachers, particularly at the secondary level.  It’s called the Youth EquiTrends Study, a poll of 5,077 8- to 24-year olds administered last August.  The sample was drawn from 13- to 24-year-olds by online means, 8- to 12-year-olds through the parents.

The researchers aimed to identify “brand equity” among the young, that is, a brand’s overall strength as judged ”by a calculation of Familiarity, Quality, and Purchase Consideration.”  Respondents were asked to rate between 98 and 125 popular brands of goods, relaying how well they know them, how high is their quality, and would they buy them.

For 8- to 12-year-olds, the findings aren’t surprising.  It’s all entertainment and junk food:

1. Nintendo Wii
2. Doritos
3. Oreo’s
4. M&Ms
5. Disney Channel
6. Nickelodeon
7. Nintendo DS
8. McDonald’s
9. Toys R Us
10. Cartoon Network

Lots of screen time here, all for play and diversion.  At least Nintendo gets them off the couch and burns some of those Oreo’s calories.

For the next age group, 13- to 17-year-olds, a different screen time emerges, along with a drop in junk food (although one of them still tops the list).

1. Reese’s Peanut Butter Cups
2. iPod
3. Google
4. M&Ms
5. Oreo’s
6. Subway
7. Hershey’s Milk Chocolate
8. Target
9. Sprite
10. Microsoft

Note the appearance of Google at Number 3.  It isn’t something you buy or eat or watch, really.  It’s not a show or a TV channel, and you don’t shop for it in a store.  It’s something you do.

Most importantly for teachers, Google is a central learning resource in and out of the classroom.  For their homework, especially research assignments, students go to Google as their first resort.  Is this the first time ever that young people have given brand loyalty to a tool so much a part of their schoolwork?

The significance grows in the next age group, 18- to 24-year-olds, for which Google rises to No. 1 and is followed by another tool often used by teachers for instructional purposes.

1. Google
2. Facebook
3. iPod
4. Gatorade
5. Target
6. Subway
7. Apple
8. iTunes
9. Reese’s Peanut Butter Cups
10.Oreo’s

Once again, as far as I know, no other brand has ever proven so popular in both work and play, or adjusts so smoothly from school hours to leisure hours and back again.

This is an advantage in that teachers can coax students to conduct inquiries using a tool that they already love, as opposed to those clunky old World Book Encyclopedias in the library.  But it is a disadvantage in that Google in the classroom (and Facebook, too, for those teachers who implement them) carries with it a set of habits and expectations that students have built around them in out-of-school hours.

When students consulted library books and resources to complete their homework, diversions stopped.  They couldn’t use the books to communicate with buddies or download music.  The books were for one thing–learning.  Work and play didn’t meld.

Now they do.  This is worse than the old problem of students doing homework with the television on, books open and papers spread out while Friends unfolds across the room.  The older way is a form of multitasking, yes, an ineffectual one.  The newer one, though, is multitasking of a different kind.  With the laptop and Google, Facebook, etc., in action, multitasking of work and play takes place with the same instrument.

The new challenge, then, is this: with Google so popular and trusted and beloved, can teachers reduce the idle and distracting behaviors of the service and increase the intellectual behaviors of it?

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