Winston Churchill once said, “The most important thing about education is appetite.”
I have been in education for over 15 years. I recall my first teaching job…. I prescribed to the traditional command and practice model and moved in an almost automatic fashion though out the day. I recall reading this quote from Mr. Churchill and telling myself, “I want to have an appetite for teaching and I want my students to have an appetite for learning.” What I came to realize is that I, as a teacher, do not have to fit a specific mold, and neither do students. Access to quality education does not have to be limited to the brick and mortar environment. Access to quality education should not be a luxury to a few, it should be accessible to all. I made the leap out of public education and entered the expanding world of virtual learning. I have never looked back. Through-out my time working with online learners and teachers, one focus keeps my appetite strong. That focus is Mindfulness. In specific, in the online learning environment we need to be mindful about engagement and motivation. There is no secret to engagement in the online learning environment, we mush use the same tactics as in the face to face. We need to connect with our students, let them know we value their ideas, and use methods to insert ourselves as individuals through the online medium.
There are many misconceptions of online learning. The University of Arizona online research states some of these misconceptions: Courses are too easy, instructors are not “real” faculty, no peer or instructor interaction, courses require less time, diplomas are not as well respected. These are all fallacies as they would relate to a respected online learning institution. The school, teacher and support staff must work to operate the online classroom just like the face to face. No, motivation or interaction technique should be reduced in the online learning environment. In fact, teachers actually work much harder to ensure that the personalization of a course is met because personalization can have a direct impact on student performance. The Journal of Scholarship of Teaching and Learning (Vol 10, No.2 , June 2010, p1-13) published a study that showed online classes can be just as effective as the face to face environment as long as the there is a strong instructor presence, course collaboration and communication between students.
The future is online learning. According to National Center or Education Excellence, between 200 and 2014 online enrollment grew from 4.6 million nationally to 5.8 million. At this rate of growth online learning will be come a house hold normalcy for our students.
As we acknowledge growth in online education and the need to be motivating and engaging for our students lets bring back Mindfulness. Online teachers do not just sit behind a computer each day. An effective online teachers reaches into the screen to engage his/her students using various modalities. Weather it is group video meetings, individual studenm meetings, video recordings of lectures, student video responses, classroom collaboration on discussion boards, or virual group projects the teacher is always striving to make the atmosphere engaging and motivating for the student. The teacher is always creating an appetite for their students. This is mindful teaching in the online environment.