World Wide Web(inars): The new normal for us teachers

Last Friday and Independence Day, June 12th, I facilitated a free Facebook live webinar, entitled “Educating Our Learners on Acceptance and Respect for Diversity” (yes, my first-ever article for my column was based on this), for Filipino teachers from all regions and of grade levels and professional experience. Together with my co-partner speakers and consulting and training industry friends Myron Sta. Ana of MSS Business Solutions and Eric Manalo of EIM Realty, we were able to pull it through and honestly, I did not expect that there would be 2,000+ views. This webinar that I conceptualized was out of my desire to have a post-birthday special webinar for our fellow educators and I chose Independence Day as the target date. Because an overwhelming majority of the participants were very satisfied with the outcome, I decided to have an encore of my webinar, this time on June 19th (coincidentally Dr. Jose Rizal’s birthday), and from then on committed to make my free webinar a monthly event, with encores of course.

Even before I decided to organize a webinar myself, I have been attending several webinars not only on education but on other topics as well, such as financial literacy, leadership, business management, disaster risk mitigation, and other similar topics of interest. I then realized that the power of webinars cannot be gainsaid due to the powerful impact of the internet and the World Wide Web to connect people from different lands and divergent cultures but the same goal: to learn in the comfort of their own homes while beating the Corona virus to the punch by keeping abreast of the latest developments in governmental efforts to arrest the pernicious pandemic.
Have webinars become the new norm only today? Absolutely not. This is because we have been doing it even during the infancy and the salad days of the internet, when MIRC, Friendster, ICQ, and other similar applications were the go-to programs for people who cannot meet face to face due to their very busy schedules and numerous tasks on hand to accomplish, hence the birth of multitasking. Today, with the advent of more sophisticated, technologically advanced applications and programs, webinars have become more interactive, graphic, and audio-visually pleasurable to the point of making us hanker for the voice of an eloquent facilitator, the angelic countenance of a motherly or fatherly mentor, and the exuberant aura of an inspirational and influential speaker whom one considers one’s idol, sometimes to the point of aspiring to be like the target of one’s admiration and adulation.

Why webinars are the new norm
Webinars are perfect avenues for distance learning and ideally, it intends to make learning more interactive despite the lack of tactile and auditory sensations that we usually activate during in-person, face-to-face seminars, conferences, forums, symposia, and meetings. However, with the pervasive and cringe-worthy problem of slow, antiquated, and embarrassing (to the point of burying our faces into our callused palms) internet connection, it is inevitable that there are many of us who get disconnected from our webinars, thus spoiling what should been a wonderful, fruitful, and empowering learning experience.

Why are world-wide webinars the new normal in this era of awe-inducing and future-inspiring technologies? First of all, they are inexpensive for all that webinars require of us are a stable internet connection and our active presence. There may be paid webinars because they have extras such as CPD points and digital certificates, but these won’t break the bank as long as their respective organizers are legitimate and accredited by governmental regulatory bodies such as the Professional Regulations Commission (PRC) and the Department of Education (DepEd) or its tertiary-level counterpart, the Commission on Higher Education (CHED). Second, webinars know no race, creed, and location because every webinar organizer and every facilitator can transcend even the farthest of countries in terms of participant presence and connectivity. Just like Internet radio stations and live internet videos, webinars can accommodate people from other countries, thus melding all cultures and accounting for a livelier, more dynamic, and hope-inducing interaction among all participants. Third, webinars are interactive in many ways; participants can chat with others, raise their hands, show themselves on camera, speak to others, and even have online photo sessions after a webinar has wrapped up. Furthermore, they reunite friends, help to build professional networks, and bolster many professional relationships to the point of developing intimate friendships and romantic relationships. Fourth, webinars have the power to build professional relationships because professional collaborations are not limited to face-to-face interactions anymore. As long as teachers like us and other professionals are able to catch one another’s drift, all is set for endeavors such as conducting research, creating modules, conducting meetings, and other tasks on hand for teachers, school leaders, and auxiliary staff. Fifth and finally, webinars are revolutionary yet not (and never will be) trendy. Webinars have been perfect avenues for meetings, seminars, forums, consultations, classes, and conferences; thus, they can pack a room more than the traditional, in-person seminars, especially when the facilitators are the cream of the crop and are the elite in their respective fields, having had much experience and expertise in their specializations. Webinars will never be merely faddish because they are now part of the digital world and milieu we are in right now. They are also staples of every professional organization, every business entity, and every educational institution, though they can never replicate the auditory and tactile sensations present in traditional gatherings.

What’s in it for us?
Who benefit most from webinars? Is it the facilitators? Or is it the organizers?

Neither. It is we teachers/attendees who benefit the most from the numerous webinars we attend. Why is this so?
As teachers, we get to activate our learner mode and our eagerness to learn more about our craft is a testament to our dedication, commitment, and loyalty to teaching as a noble, esteemed vocation. We may be deluged with several webinars but since most of them are free, it is about time that we do not quiver over the overwhelming requirements but instead take action by signing up, setting ourselves up for success, and learning from others.

Webinars are a perfect opportunity for us teachers to learn outside graduate school because we equip ourselves with tools and trends to help us tide the obstacles we commonly face in the community called the academe. Some of us might have forgotten the concepts that we have learned from our education courses (and our majors), so webinars are a great opportunity to refresh our memory, test our understanding, and apply what have been learned. Another advantage of webinars for us teachers is that we are able to digress on topics related to our profession without having to immerse ourselves in tedious, time-consuming, and humdrum face-to-face forums and seminar-workshops that tend to provide little to zilch value. Webinars also teach us how to be attentive even when we are not physically with our fellow participants because we learn how to be autonomous to some extent. They help us to manage our learning because as teachers, we need to be paragons of continuous, life-long learning to our students and our fellow educators. Lastly, webinars empower us to become world-class because we can attend webinars from both local and foreign experts who are renowned the world over for their brilliance, steadfastness, and ability to help to make a major difference worldwide.
When we attend webinars, we must exercise not only knowledge and expertise but also values because even a seemingly ubiquitous online staple such as a webinar can and must be put to good use by observing proper netiquette and ethics.

How can we maximize webinars for our professional development?
Webinars are very powerful tools for professional development among us educators. They do not break our hearts and our banks because we can stay cooped in our homes while learning from experts who are from a distance. As for facilitators, the sense of fulfilment springs from the innate desire to share and to give knowledge and wisdom to everyone else. Most of my fellow academics are into webinars and they are really generous and unwavering in their desire to both learn and teach.
How can we make webinars worth our time and our efforts? These are very practical tips that I can share with you all:

  1. Take notes instead of relying on slideshows and recordings. Note taking is one of the most neglected yet essential skills that we educators have to possess. Webinars are essentially learning events and learning opportunities, so we have to make the most out of them by inputting not only concepts presented on screen but also explanations by the facilitators.
  2. Stay focused on the webinars. We may be attending a webinar but there are times when we tend to do other things, such as accomplishing homework, eating, grooming ourselves, or any other activities. Being focused on the discussions involves note taking, active listening, and immersing ourselves in learning.
  3. Adopt the attitude of a learner. No matter what position we are in at our respective schools, we must continue to learn because we do not know everything. This also applies to experts because they, too, must keep on learning. Times change so quickly and some theories and other concepts are not applicable anymore, so we educators have to adapt and to adopt the attitude of a learner.
  4. Go for learning and substance, not for only a digital certificate and an addition to our credentials. There are many of us who are engrossed in attending webinars to satisfy professional regulatory requirements. However, it is very dismal to learn that there are those who hanker only for certificates and credential boosters, though I understand that these are their motivations out of an intrinsic desire to be tenured and to be praised for their professional alacrity and exuberance. Attending webinars should be taken as an opportunity to learn more and to add to an already existing body of knowledge, thus adding more to our skill sets and knowledge database.
  5. Participate actively in every webinar. We attend webinars not only to be passive learners but to be active ones as well. Ask questions without dominating the discussion because there are many who are also enthused and interested. Share realizations so that we may inspire others to keep on learning.
  6. Do not be limited to our field only. To become well-rounded and well-versed, we must find other niches that interest us. Attending webinars on personal development, leadership, crisis management, business management, professional development, and financial management are the best bets for us because they are corollary to the field of education. A teacher who goes beyond his/her comfort zone is bound to become more successful and flexible.
    Webinars are worldwide and are the new normal, which applies not only today but for many years, decades, and generations to come.