Every educator has the responsibility to upgrade his/her skills, competencies, and knowledge set, regardless of one’s stage in the teaching profession. As purveyors of knowledge and paragons of self-improvement, we teachers put prime priority on our profession by pursuing post-graduate degrees, in addition to a plethora of training sessions, seminars, and conferences (often at our own expense, if our schools’ budgets cannot permit it) that we attend as requisites for professional development and career advancement, if lady luck would smile on us incessantly and our lucky stars would give us a chance to be promoted.
Today’s coronavirus pandemic has afforded us educators with the luxury of time, albeit with added responsibilities apart from preparing lesson plans, teaching learners, assessing and evaluating their performance, and contending with mountainous piles of paperwork. Because almost all of us are in the comfort of our own homes, we juggle our professional responsibilities and our domestic responsibilities without sacrificing one over the other. Hence, we can afford to attend webinars, especially those that are related to our respective fields, whether local or international.
Webinars and other online platforms are great avenues and opportunities for exchanging knowledge, best practices, and professional opinions with other educators and experts. Though there are resource persons, they, too, are on equal footing with us because they are also learners who just happen to have wide expertise and much experience in certain areas of study, in addition to having extensive education and training.
Though we perceive consecutive online training sessions as cumbersome and at times chaotic due to poor internet connection, we cannot deny that they will be eventually useful for us in the long run. These learning sessions are in themselves well-intentioned and well-crafted as well as relevant and timely. Sometimes though, we fail to appreciate the beauty of learning sessions due to a variety of reasons (most of which are valid, and I totally understand where we are coming from). One reason is that our superiors sometimes fail to realize that in-house, online training sessions clash with other online learning events in terms of schedule. A second reason is that there are some presenters who may be competent in their areas of expertise but fail to present their concepts coherently, cohesively, and enthusiastically. Third, there are some webinars that lack substance and relevance. In addition, there are some organizers who are ill-prepared and lack alacrity and anticipation, thus bungling what is supposed to be a professional, glitch-free learning session. Lastly, some webinars are exorbitant with the fees they charge to prospective attendees, so there is no other recourse for most of us but to wait for the next free webinars that are to come our way.
The beauty of gaining knowledge online
It is time for us educators to rediscover the beauty of learning from resource persons and other experts and practitioners at this time in the face of a perilous pandemic and increased public pandemonium. We can never fully appreciate learning sessions and the opportunities they bring until we need them the most. Noteworthy is the fact that the Department of Education, the Commission on Higher Education, and other entities such as schools and training providers are exerting much effort to bring learning into our homes without having to deal with contentious, monstrous traffic jams and discombobulating registration processes.
Why should we appreciate learning online as part of our profession and our vocation as educators who are indeed shapers of the mind, and sculptors of our students’ futures? Here are the reasons that we have to fully comprehend:
- Online learning helps us to grow professionally by breaking our plastic bubbles and freeing us from our gilded cages. Long before the advent of the internet and online meeting platforms, we have been used to attending learning events entirely in person, so it becomes an all-or-nothing experience (or sometimes a dilemma) for us teachers. But nowadays, we have so many opportunities and so much time on our hands to attend webinars, no matter where we are. In this manner, we are all able to step out of our comfort zones and explore the wonders of online learning.
- When we learn online, we develop more discipline. As professionals dedicated to disseminating and practicing knowledge, we develop the discipline of taking notes, being attentive throughout every learning session, and participating actively in discussions without having to dominate these. What we practice in traditional learning events must be carried over to online learning sessions in order to fully maximize learning.
- We get to update our knowledge and upgrade our skills. Online learning presents the challenge of learning independently and remotely (to be exact and correct, interdependently), but we educators can and do definitely rise to the occasion. Even without face-to-face learning, we are quick to learn and to adapt to new technologies regardless of age, location, and experience.
- Online learning breaks barriers related to gender, ethnicity, creed, level of experience, and professional status. It is heart-warming and encouraging to learn that so many online platforms are being used to create worthwhile, widely received webinars and other learning events. As educators, we are connected through the wondrous world of the internet, no matter where we are, where we come from, and what we identify as. Whether one is an instructor or a full professor, nobody has the monopoly of learning especially online. Hence, we are all on equal footing whenever we attend webinars and other opportunities for professional education. Online learning knows no ethnicity, gender, creed, or professional level.
- Online learning is magical and international. Why is online learning magical? It is because we have never imagined before that we can communicate with our fellow professionals and experts online, without the travails of travelling long distances and burning the phone lines and then incurring humongous bills. Online learning is also international because we can learn from people of various nationalities and feel that we are comfortable in their presence.
The wonders of sharing knowledge online
We all have been resource speakers and learning facilitators at one point, to say the least. However, there are some of us who have not had the chance to share our knowledge and expertise due to stringent selection procedures by learning event organizers or our superiors, lack of time, or lack of expertise. But wait, for there is good news!
What is the good news, then?
The good news is that we are all capable of sharing our knowledge online, given the opportunity. However, not every opportunity is presented to us on a silver platter because there are times when they are done so to experts who are widely renowned and well-respected, or to those who show much promise. All is not lost, though, because we can create our own opportunities by contacting learning event organizers, approaching them, and convincing them to let us do a presentation. However, there are some who have the chutzpah (and sometimes, to a greater extent, braggadocio) to inveigle organizers- such as universities, training providers, and other organizations- to give them at least one shot at giving presentations, and this is totally understandable for we educators need to continually build our professional portfolio and credibility.
To enlighten all of us, the following are the wonders that we can derive from sharing knowledge online:
- We build our credibility and body of work. We educators really need to build our names through our professions, and one way to do this (but not limited to it alone) is to speak at learning events and deliver presentations there. All we have to do is to determine the skill sets that we already have developed and practiced, so all we have to do is to plan our presentations and attune them to the needs of our audience.
- We get to establish our own brand and style. No two teachers are alike. There may be some who tend to be way too serious and straight-faced when speaking in front of an audience, while there are some who are humorous and light-hearted. It is good to establish our own style and brand as educators, not only in front of our students but also our fellow professionals. Nothing is better than making a positive mark in the minds and hearts of our fellow educators.
- As learning facilitators and educators, we transcend into a world of modernity and a century of high technology. Education nowadays is easily accessible, anytime and anywhere. The fact that technology empowers us now to do things that we used to not do so due to the limitations of technology cannot be gainsaid. As long as we have the right technology and the right tools, we can share our knowledge even on our own, given the opportunity and the audience.
- Our fellow educators get to be inspired by us. The opportunities that our lucky stars give us make us more empowered. In turn, we must use our knowledge and best practices to empower our fellow educators, not to belittle or disparage them. We are not superiors of them but learning partners. Sharing our knowledge and best practices online (at least for now) is a very good start for us to be intellectually generous so that we can empower our fellow educators who learn from us.
- Sharing knowledge online does not require much gobbledygook and jargon but burning passion and sincere desire to help others. We educators may be highly educated and fully trained, but these are not excuses for us to impose our ideas or to lord it over others (whether consciously or unwittingly). Presenting our ideas requires us to be passionate about our topic and to be of service to our fellow educators just like how we are towards our students.
Continual professional development is indeed a two-way street: we share and we give knowledge. When we love what we do and love whom we serve, the world (especially the world of the academe) would be a much better place and we can eventually be a beacon of hope, empowerment, courage, and change to our fellow educators.
I would like to greet the following people for reading my column and finding delight in it: Mrs. Joan Rosaldo-Tacadena and her family; MFI VP and COO Mr. Noel Dumaguit; Dr. Eduardo Bolaños; Dr. Shirley Dita, Dr. Jose Cristina Pariña, Ms. Kimberley Migallos, and Dr. Ramilito Correa of DLSU Manila; Dr. Nimfa Dimaculangan of Laguna State Polytechnic University; Dr. Teresita Hermosilla of Central Mindanao University; Mr. Jaimer Espiritu of JFE Teacher Training Services and JFER Training and Development Services and staff; Dr. Daylinda Laput and Dr. Alice Mae Arbon of Jose Rizal Memorial State University; Ms. Nilda Abellon-Guira and her family of Batac, Ilocos Norte, Ms. Cedra Binalet of Ifugao State University; Ms. Nivelle Dumlao, LPT of Lourdes School of Mandaluyong; Mr. Nonong Noriega of PLDT; Ms. Nette Flores; Ms. Jonalyn Grefal-Gozum of Lourdes School of Mandaluyong; Mr. and Mrs. Butch and Rose Florido of Mandaluyong City; my Bañez, Magsombol, and Ramos families; Dr. Agnes Catalan-Francisco of Cavite State University; Mr. Sonny Mediana; Ms. Michelle Manalastas-Malone of Washington, D.C.; the MFI Polytechnic Institute community; my Philippine Advocates for Consultants and Trainers (PACT) family; and, all my other friends especially in the fields of training and education.