What It Means to Be a Modern Online Educator

Traditional college instruction is part of a well-established tradition that has remained fairly unchanged over time. Becoming an instructor in this environment has meant conformity to teaching standards that have also remained fairly unchanged. A college professor is associated with someone who is a subject matter expert, likely to achieve a position with tenure, and have dual roles as an instructor and researcher. It is expected that they will be published authors of scholarly journal articles that have been peer-reviewed and contributed knowledge to their field. While this form of education and instructor still exists, there is another academic institution that has also been established and it is an online college and university.

For a modern form of online education you will not likely find any positions that are labeled professor. Most online universities hire adjuncts and many refer to their instructors as facilitators. Some universities expect their instructors to complete annual professional development requirements but rarely does that include publishing peer-reviewed journal articles. What is needed now more than ever is a new category of educator, one who meets the needs of students who participate in this modern form of education. Now is also the time for online universities to embrace this new form of instructors, those who can be called a Modern Educator.

From Traditional to Online Teaching

The traditional format for educating students is the lecture-driven class. The instructor delivers information to students and they must demonstrate what they have learned through various assessments. They know that their instructor or professor is an expert in the particular subject area for their class. This method of instruction is the same style that is used in primary education and it is teacher-centered. As technology has brought new possibilities for the field of education a new format developed – online courses and online degrees. At first traditional educators taught these courses but over time that has changed, especially as adjuncts filled a majority of the instructional roles. Now with online degree programs and online schools having been fully established in the education field, a new type of educator was also emerging.

Evolution to Modern Teaching

With the growth of online learning came the need for hiring a large volume of instructors. Some online universities have classes that begin weekly and others offer courses starting monthly. Hiring adjuncts was the answer and the majority of jobs teaching undergraduate students have been filled by instructors holding a master’s degree in the subject field they were teaching. Over time the number of instructors qualified to teach online has grown substantially and now many adjunct positions require a doctorate degree. What has contributed to the increased pool of available online instructors is the fluctuation in enrollment numbers, the limited number of full-time online instructor positions, and the increase in degree specializations – especially those related to online teaching. There are also many online schools that offer online teaching specializations and those students who complete their master’s degree are added to the pool. It is estimated that at present there are nearly two million adjunct online instructors teaching online courses.

The requirements for teaching online also may include continuing education. Most online universities require some form of annual professional development. Those universities generally offer workshops and training courses as a means of fulfilling this requirement. Publishing scholarly journals can be used to help meet the professional development requirements but most schools do not require it. These modern teachers are also different from a college professor by the manner in which they are allowed to present themselves in the classroom. An online instructor is often called a facilitator and rarely is this position referred to as a professor – although some instructors will refer to themselves as a professor to establish their position in the learning process. Many online universities tell their instructors to use their first name as a means of creating a casual and approachable image – even if the instructor has a doctorate degree.

An Example of a Modern Educator

Within the field of online education there is a significant difference among educator types. There are those with a master’s degree who can teach undergraduate courses and there are those with doctorate degrees who can teach both undergraduate and graduate students. For those schools that offer doctoral degree programs, an expectation for instructors to be published in a manner similar to that of a college professor may still be in place. But there is a need for a new standard. If traditional methods of learning do not apply to online education, then traditional instructor qualifications should also not apply to online educators. Now is the time for a new instructional category, one that is referred to as a Modern Educator.

My work as an educator has evolved from traditional college teaching to that of online teaching and now I have become a Modern Educator. Instead of spending months (or possibly longer) trying to become published in a scholarly journal, I publish online articles. Instead of my work being available only to those who have access to and read scholarly journals, I now have an opportunity to reach a broader audience. My work is available as soon as I write and publish it, and more importantly – I understand how to use social media. I am connected to an international basis of educators, universities, and students through the use of social media.

Through social media it is possible to share ideas and resources, along with online articles, blog posts, and other intellectual contributions. This also applies to transformation of the publishing process. Instead of waiting to find a publisher and go through the traditional publishing route, I have self-published e-books. This has allowed me to become highly engaged in the field of education and it has redefined what it means to be a college instructor. Becoming a Modern Educator indicates what online instructors should be involved with and online schools developing as a requirement for their professional development.

Steps to Becoming a Modern Educator

Whether you have a master’s degree or doctorate degree, if you teach online courses you need professional development. But this should be more than taking a workshop – it needs to involve making an intellectual contribution. In addition, the work of a Modern Educator also needs to be involved in some form of social or professional networking. Here are some steps you can take and strategies you can use to become a Modern Educator.

#1. Write a Blog – This provides a platform to share your expertise and summarize your knowledge. As you continue to conduct research for your areas of professional interest and you can include what you have learned through your blog posts. There are numerous free resources that will allow you to create and share your blog, such as Word Press.

#2. Write Online Articles – Instead of taking the time required to write and submit articles to scholarly journals, which can always be an option for you, find a resource that allows you to publish online articles. The articles you write, which are based upon your knowledge and experience, will allow you to reach a broader audience, refine your writing skills, and establish yourself as a subject matter expert. I utilize Ezine Articles, which is an article marketing database.

#3. Use Social Networking – Every online educator needs to learn how to establish their presence via technology. It only makes sense that if you work in a technology-enabled environment you should also know how to be engaged in online communities. LinkedIn provides a means of professional networking, finding groups that match your interest, and even finding online jobs. Twitter can connect you to an international base of educators, students, and universities – providing a place to share resources.

#4. Develop a Website -If you find that you are highly ambitious and want to develop more than a blog you could also build your own website. This would be a place for you to house resources that you have created, which could be shared with educators and students. There are free webhosting services available and others that charge a small fee.

#5. Write E-Books – The field of publishing has changed and now authors are taking back control by making their books available in an e-book format. Kindle and Nook devices are the most popular devices. Kobo is another device that is gaining popularity because it can be used on mobile devices such as Blackberry. You will likely need to hire someone to format the book, sign up for an account to distribute your e-book, and once it is ready you can have it available in a relatively short amount of time.

Maintaining a Modern Educator Status

A Modern Educator is someone who does more than teach online classes. They are active in the field of education and their chosen subject matter. They know how to teach using technological tools and engage in a virtual community of other educators through social media. The Modern Educator is also conducting research and making intellectual contributions through technological means. The work they publish is done through technologically-enabled resources and made immediately available for their intended audience. They know how to use social media to promote their work and share resources with other educators and students.

It is time now for the Modern Educator mentality to become the standard for online learning. Instruction has adapted in format from traditional to online, and so too must the instructor. It is also important that online schools and hiring specialists recognize the new Modern Educator. This is someone who has likely taught for several institutions because of fluctuating enrollments and staff changes; however, what matters most is their ongoing professional development and intellectual contributions. The most desirable candidate for an online teaching position is someone with more than extensive work as an online educator. It is someone who can also utilize technological tools as a means of publishing their work and connecting with other educators. A Modern Educator is the new college professor and the one most prepared for teaching through the use of technology.

Promote a Healthy Diet for Your Children at Home and at School

Children are likely to eat the same as their parents. As parents, you can be a positive role model for healthy eating. By purchasing and preparing nutritious balanced meals, you can establish a healthy diet at home.

A healthy environment at home is a good start, but the kids take most of their meals at school. By sending your kids to school with nutritious lunches and encouraging healthy choices for school events, you can also help to create a healthy nutritional environment in schools.

The offering healthy foods at school improves student learning. Research shows that children who have a healthy diet are:

• more willing to learn;
• more likely to achieve better results at school;
• less likely to have chronic diseases such as heart disease, diabetes and certain types of cancer.

The government is working with schools, educators and parents to encourage healthy eating at school. In April 2008, the Act on Healthy Food for Healthy Schools was passed to make schools healthier learning environments. By working together and making all our part, we can help our children to make healthier choices.

Create a healthier school environment

The idea supporting the Act on Healthy Food for Healthy Schools is to help children make healthier food choices. This means that healthy and tasty foods should be made available to children in schools.

In September 2011, the Ontario schools will implement the policy on food and beverages in schools. It provides guidance on the types of foods that can be sold in school cafeterias, vending machines and at school events. Policy helps schools determine which foods they can or can not sell.

Your children need YOU

Wherever possible, try to participate in the school life of your child, making sure that the foods offered in the school are healthy. Make your voice heard. Here are some ideas:

• Talk to your child and tell him why healthy foods are important in school and why some food he could buy during the previous school year are no longer available.
• Prepare lunches and healthy snacks to school with your child.
• Join a parent / teacher committee to help make good decisions on proposed school food.
• Opt for healthy recipes at bake sales and fundraisers with the proposed ideas Bake it Up!(English only).

What can you do to encourage healthy eating?

The Policy on food and beverages in schools covers only food sold at school. It does not apply to meals from home. Does this mean that you should not put anything in any lunch box for your child? No, especially if you encourage healthy eating! It is important to be consistent and to provide healthy meals for your children at home and at school. This will allow them to learn to make healthy choices for food.

At the grocery store:

Choose products from the four food groups of Canada’s Food Guide.

Go shopping with your children to teach them to make good choices. They can learn the value of food, provenance and revenue opportunities.

Teach your children to read food labels. Watch these videos on nutrition labeling with your children.

During the preparation of lunch:

Involve your children in the selection and preparation of food. When children are involved in meal preparation, they are more likely to consume.

Get creative! Use cookie cutters to make sandwiches fun shapes, make fruit kebabs and pastries offer whole grain low fat. Read the FAQ Prepare lunches and healthy snacks for students for more ideas.

During the meal:

Eat together as often as possible. Children who eat with their parents (at least four times per week) tend to eat more fruits and vegetables, have a higher fiber intake, eat less fried foods and drink less soda.

They are also less prone to being overweight or obese.

Be a good role model. When you make healthy food choices for yourself, you teach your children to eat healthily.

In conclusion:

Promote healthy eating by helping to feed your children at school and at home. Bring the kids to the grocery store, prepare healthy meals and encourage healthy activities in school. As a model for your children, you must teach them healthy eating habits that will last a lifetime.

The Impact of Technology in the Classroom

How has the use of technology impacted teaching and learning in the PK-16 classroom?When is comes to behaviorism technology has made it even easier. It used to be just like Pavlov’s dog, when the student does something right they get praised verbally or with a good grade versus a treat or a scratch behind the ear. Shaping behavior is important and we need to ensure there is a baseline. Technology almost guarantees that specific learning will take place as the objectives are determined by the teacher. Teachers can set specific goals and the students will know what they need to do to get there. Benjamin Bloom first came up with the idea that the student will succeed in learning the task if they are given a specific time to do it. Technology allows for you to more easily chunk lessons into specific times. Students will perform better, especially when they succeed and get the praise of the teacher. Although the stimulus is provided by the teacher, it will do no good if the students do not receive it equally. (Snowman & Biehler, 2003)
Other ways computers assist is that they offer the ability for repetition and feedback to the student. Teachers can also incorporate the appropriate enforcer’s to the lesson whether it is text, video or audio. The student does the task right they can get a smiley face , text telling them they are “Correct” or audio saying “Good Job!”. (Parkay & Stanford 2004)Social Learning is learning occurs when students learn from each other whether it be through modeling, imitation or observing within the social context. How can you do that with technology? Normally the students work on their own computer, but you can have them do a group project. When students do a project together they will observe how other groups are proceeding and imitate them if it is working well. The teacher usually also models what they are requiring the students to accomplish. Even when working individually the students will assist each other as one knows more than another.There are cognitive factors in social learning as well as behaviorism. There is a clear line between learning by observation and student imitation. The cognitive process maintains that the attention of the student is the critical factor in the learning process. The expectations and consequences that are reinforced will bring about similar future behavior. (Ornstien & Lasley 2000)
Cognitive learning is learning that occurs when a learner process information. This is similar to behaviorism but the student has more input to accomplish how they reach the planned outcome. The teacher can model a project but the student may have other information that will aid them in accomplishing the outcome. An example would be how I instructed my students how to set up an Excel spreadsheet. I had them set up a basic spreadsheet showing how much their parents spent on them in a month. This was relevant to the students and caught their interest. They went beyond the initial project and had boarders, colors, etc. on their spreadsheets. The students who did this were praised aloud and the other students wanted to know what they did and how. This tied in the social learning as well as the behaviorism theory (Didn’t even realize it at the time).When is comes to designing and developing lessons to incorporate technology the constructionist have the nod. Seymour Papert of the MIT Media Lab stated,”Constructionism holds that children learn best when they are in the active role of the designer and constructor.” When the student is actively involved they have the buy-in to the success of the project or assignment. The students will be more apt to complete and learn more from it when they have some ownership. The students in turn will share their new found information when doing the assignment with the other students allowing for the constructionist learning. This form of teaching eliminates the grade and goes more with a go, no go process. Teachers assess the students by the completion of the assignment or lack of completion. This is better because of students being able to play a greater role in the process and assessing their own progress.We teach ourselves how to learn. This is the constructivism theory on how we learn. With technology this couldn’t be truer. Most students have a basic understanding of the computer. They can download songs, play games and set up Myspace web page. What they can not do is build a spreadsheet or power point presentation. The teacher will give them a basic understanding but the students will learn from trial and error and construct their own learning.History of the computer use in the classroom started off slow. Saloman and Globerson (1987) suggested that underachievement in schools is because of the lower expectations on the part of the teachers, parents, and society. That was because the teachers themselves really hadn’t been exposed to the marvels of what a computer and the associated software could do for them. The Commodore 64, Apple II along with the Macintosh began their strong emergence in the early 80′s. Software programmers had a vision about the computer and how it could be used in the classroom. They developed software that teachers could use along with their instruction. Apple began teaching the teachers and Macintosh soon followed suit. This was the beginning of incorporating the use of computers in the classroom. (Jonassen 2000)Using computers in the classroom allows for all the learning theories to come to fruition. A computer allows for the cognitive process to bloom and brings about the social learning as well. When a student is given an assignment or project on the computer they will strive to complete it. The different things they learn they will share with other students especially if they think it is the bomb, cool or whack. On the flip side it can inhibit learning if the student is completely computer illiterate as frustration sets in as they cannot proceed as well as others. The computer also allows the teacher to develop lessons for all the multiple intelligences.With the advances computers and programs are taking on a daily basis, it is allowing for more interaction in the classroom(s). It is even allowing students from different schools to interact. Technology also allows for time to be better utilized, the outcomes of the objectives to be more easily determined and goals easy to implement and automate.