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Nine o’clock  Sunday morning a notification goes off on my cell phone.  Amy, my wife, picks up my phone to see what the buzz was about while I was readying breakfast for our 3 children. Was it an emergency? Was it an invite for an outing during the day? Was it Grandma asking us to attend church with here?  NO,  a work colleague had sent our building staff a survey to take by Wednesday to plan a parent engagement night for our school.  Amy threw my phone down on the table with disgust:”Why is your work ALWAYS budding into family time?”  A teacher working at 9 AM on a Sunday morning? Yes, this is the teacher’s life. So much work that even the day of rest gets compromised to check things off the to do list.

Teachers are overload with work, left with little time to check things off their “to do” lists. Often when teachers find time they use it for much needed unwinding and family time than to dive into new needed tasks. Teachers show up for their days early and work late into the evenings focusing on lessons plans and feedback. We worry about our students and spend time focused on relationships. Our jobs are full of activity and stress. Kaye Wiggins writes that teaching is one of the top three stressful careers.

There is this SUPERTEACHER myth advocated by education reformers that many believe. If teachers just gave more time, students will achieve. How much time can educators give? Most educators have families that they need to have time to support.  Educators are overloaded! It would be great if education was like many other professions, where time was flexible and work stayed at work.

To reform education, one might start by unloading the teachers, so they can FOCUS on their jobs of educating students.


5 Popular Trends in Online Higher Education


*Guest Blog Post by Ethan Miller

5 Popular Trends in Online Higher Education

I understood the importance of education at a very young age. My father ensured that he made me realize that how privileged I was to attend schools and to have an opportunity to pursue college education. My father had to give up his higher education dreams as his family couldn’t afford to send him half away across the country for college. And the circumstances were such that he couldn’t leave his remote town either. He was a self-made man and it was his emphasis on education that has got me so far in life.

When I think of it, I believe that my father would have loved to be growing up in present times as education is easily accessible to everyone irrespective of their financial situation and geographic location. With the advancement of internet and technology, not just our teaching methods have transformed but also our classrooms have been transported online. Thanks to e-learning, education is available just a click away to anyone who wants it. Online Learning industry is growing rapidly, and more and more students are preferring to opt for online courses as it allows them to experience classroom learning by sitting at home.

While some might argue that it can’t match the conventional teaching practices, I think it’s biggest advantage is that it gives education opportunities to students in the remotest parts of the world. Many colleges and universities have started offering online courses.  While the world is still skeptical about e-learning and is trying to figure out how online higher education works, I bring you 5 popular trends in online education that underlines the effectiveness of online programs:


  • Gamification: One of the emerging trends in online higher Education (also my personal favorite) is gamification, which taps on the competitive nature of students and attempts to make learning a fun filled experience. Education based videogames have already proved to be useful in helping school students learn concepts of math, history and geography etc. Gamification has transformed my ESL classrooms as students spend more time in fun reward-based projects than writing long often boring essays. Taking a cue from MineCraftEdu, many colleges have started to gamify their online courses through video games, simulators and online activities that help students to understand the concepts by applying them in practical situations. Few online MBA courses provide their online students with a simulator platform that allows them to run a company and justify their decisions in front of virtual board members. The primary idea of gamification is adding fun elements to dry subject topics in order to improve the level of student understanding.    


  • Synchronous Instruction: One of the drawbacks of online education is said to be the lack of classroom experience and socializing with other students. The growing trend of Synchronous Instruction in online learning can put an end to this problem. Synchronous Instruction transports the whole classroom experience online by allowing students to interact with professors and other students through live video streaming, podcasts etc. Also known as real-time instruction, it facilitates face to face discussion between professors and students. It makes the students feel involved in the subject, take part in discussions, ask questions and get instant feedback. Few online college courses have started to use Synchronous Instruction for creating mock drills and simulating real life experiences like pitching ideas to the clients by hiring actors to play as clients in order to help the online students gain hands on experience before they go out in the real world.     


  • Asynchronous Instruction: Considered to be the anti-thesis of synchronous instruction, asynchronous learning is considered to be the torchbearer of personalized learning in online education. Asynchronous instruction involves professors sharing lessons, study material, notes, presentations etc. through email and other doc sharing platforms that can be accessed by students at their convenience. It allows students to study and learn at their own pace, something that is considered almost impossible in synchronous instruction and conventional classroom setup. Students, who are shy or introvert, enjoy asynchronous learning as it gives them chance to manage the pace of learning as well as gives them a platform to discuss their problems and shortcomings with professors in private. It also helps the professors to gauge a student’s understanding of the subject with ease. Asynchronous Instruction has been there since the advent of online education, but it is popular even today thanks to its scope of personalized learning.  


  • Competency-Based Learning: Inspired from project-based learning that has become popular in schools these days, competency-based learning seems to be a trend that is catching up in e-learning community. In competency-based learning, students’ understanding is not measured by tests or exams but through practical application of the concepts in a project. Irrespective of the field of study, many online college courses have embraced competency-based learning that requires students to complete a project in order to demonstrate their competency on a particular topic. This helps students to think out of the box and understand the practical application of concepts of a subject. If the students fail to demonstrate their competency and fall short in their projects, then the end goal is revised and student continues to learn until they have mastered all the competencies.  It focuses on mastering a topic rather than abstract learning, allowing students to set the pace of their learning. This makes competency-based learning a new pioneer in online personalized learning.


  • Social Media Learning: Understanding the influence of social media on student community, Social Media Learning is an emerging branch of online education that taps the fun, addictive potential of social media.  From creating Facebook groups for online discussion of subject topics to using blogging tools for submitting assignments, Social Media Learning is catching up in popularity. Professors in many universities are sharing their instructional videos in Facebook and YouTube and are facilitating an online flipped classroom where students share their understanding of the topic, and engage in discussion through video live streaming sessions. Coupled with synchronous or asynchronous instruction, Social Media Learning can be the next big thing in e-learning industry.

With the advent of these useful e-learning trends, and hopefully many more to come in next few years, I can positively say that online learning is here to stay!

  • Ethan is a dedicated private ESL teacher who also works as an online tutor at various education portals. Apart from his passion for teaching, Ethan loves to write and holds a degree in creative writing. When he is not teaching or writing his book, Ethan loves to blog and is a huge fan of educational technology. You can follow Ethan on FacebookTwitter and check out his blog on WordPress.

We’re talking about Bathrooms?


Why are we wasting so much energy talking about bathrooms. In April, I wrote about the impact of the LGBTQ debate has on our students. The debate has raged on and is now spreading to more states. Today the federal government is stepping in to protect transgendered youth. I am sure this is just the start of a long public battle that will cause more damage than allowing students to go into bathrooms of the gender they identify.

Here in Michigan, bathrooms are taking center stage as Detroit Public Schools are in shambles and Flint has pipes full of lead. Fear and hate are energizing vocal activists. Some feel it is un-Christian to allow transgender students to go in the bathroom they identify with. Hmm… The Bible I read focused on love an acceptance.

What happens when a person who looks like a man has to go into the girls restroom, because he was born a girl? or vice versa? Bathrooms might need a bit of a redesign, putting doors on all stalls is long over due anyway. Really think about it, what do others see when you go to the bathroom? It is creepy to think anyone is looking, because only creeps look. People are mostly concerned about locker rooms. Hate to break it to them but students today don’t shower at school and most of them don’t change clothing either. Just ask coaches and gym teachers.

It is time to stop all the HATE and solve real problems in the world.

Teacher Certification Matters


Would you go to an non-certified doctor? Lawyer? Dentist? Probably not, those are all professionals that have a high degree of schooling. How about have an non-certified nurse or mechanic? No again. We value our health and our cars. Here is Michigan our legislators are considering allowing Non-certified teachers with HB 5384. Is this something we should be even considering? Do we value our students learning as much as our health and our cars? Teachers are professionals with a high degree of much needed education.

Not everyone is cut out to be a teacher! Legislators say they want the best and brightest teaching our youth, this bill shows that is just lip service to the voting masses. Teacher certification matters, just like licensing and  certifications in all other fields. Teachers need to have skills to work in the classroom. In fact Michigan recently changed the teachers certification test making it harder for candidates to pass. Now they just want to put anyone with a pulse in front of our students? Certified teachers aren’t what created the mismanagement in Detroit which has lead to its financial problems. It has been corruption by management.

Why is having certified teachers so important? Teaching is an art that requires certain skills. Without these skills teachers will fail and quickly leave the classroom, creating a steady flow of teachers out of the classroom. Teachers need to be masters of content while also understand how to manage a classroom. The teaching channel presents a great list of 8 essential skills for new teachers. These skills are keys to ALL teacher certification programs .

Certified teachers know:

How to teach

What to teach.

How to differentiate.

How to motivate.

How to integrate technology.

How to address every students needs.

How to manage a classroom.

How to connect to parents and community.

That relationships are key to success.

That flexibility and adaptability are needed.

Their students are more than a test score.

It takes training to learn these skills. Even our most skill profession, medicine, makes error. Currently the 3rd leading cause of death in the US is medical error!  Does this mean we should start allowing non-certified people practice medicine? NO, time to fine tune training to help reduce errors.

It is time to TELL Lansing to stop devaluing the education profession and OUR KIDS EDUCATION. We need certified teachers in EVERY classroom. HB 5384 is a step backwards in time. It is not good for our students, our schools or our communities! Don’t we value today’s youth enough to know this is a bad move!

The Myths of School of Choice


Is school of choice good for education and our students? With roughly 7% of Michigan students participating in school of choice program, how is it impacting schools? How does it help students? These are questions the state board of education and education researchers. School of choice may have benefits but many think tanks and so called education reformers are using it so that for profit charter schools can enter the market place taking money meant for students and placing it in the hands of corporations. School of choice is having a unstabilizing impact on most schools budgets. Here are a few myths around school of choice that need to be addressed.

  1. School of choice improves schools: The idea prompted by most proponents of choice is that with choice schools will improve because they are competing for the students. It is sold as a win for schools and students. This is a pure business idea and schools are NOT businesses. Sure schools compete: but not to create better school but to MARKET their school so more students chose THEM. This has forced many districts to hire marketing firms, purchase advertising and divert funds meant for the classroom to attract student. Students equal funding form the state. Many schools create fancy names to SELL the idea that they are better. Names like Leadership Academy or University School draw more attention than the traditional public school named after a president (or local leader). Schools with better test scores market them to attract students but socioeconomics is the leading reason scores are better.
  2. Choice will improve students test scores:  Educational researchers here in Michigan have recently looked at this issue and found NO connection of choice to test score gains. Families might pick a school based on test scores, but that doesn’t mean it will improve their students performance. Students don’t grow just by being with students who perform better, they have to improve their efforts. Parents also need to remember test scores don’t make a school better.
  3. Parents know how to chose a school: Parents often make choices based upon hearsay and marketing tactics. Parents often share negative experience more than positive stories. One negative school experience can greatly impact a school. Even if 100’s of parents have had positive educational experiences with the school. Parents often feel that grades and test scores make a quality school. In reality best schools are created by a community culture built on positive relationships. Parents choose schools for many reason, but often the primary reason is not academic.
  4.  School choices create stability for student: School of choice often creates an unstable learning atmosphere for students. Students who chose to attend a school outside their district often chose to move again later. This unstable, inconsistent learning environment can harm students.
  5. Choice = Different: Often times parents feel that choice will mean they are choosing a different educational process. This occasionally is the case but most of the time they are choosing the same education plan. Many districts attend the same trainings and use the same curriculum materials to teach.

Advocates of choice argue it is parents money, so they should choose what is best for them. That works for business but not in our current educational system. For school of choice really to work, districts and charters need to work together. Offer true choice differences in programing. Then counselors could work with families, taking stock to students learning styles and educational goals to assist students with the choice.

As school of choice works now: The best scoring schools and best marketing programs win. This takes funding away from students and learning. IT NEEDS to end.

LGBTQ law debates and our students 


As many teachers deal with difficult issues that this year’s primary election has sprung on them, another major headline is seeping into our schools. How society responds will shape generations to come. LGBTQ rights are taking center stage since HB2 in North Carolina was passed. Artists like Bruce Springsteen, Pearl Jam and Jimmy Buffet are making statements or canceling shows in response to this discriminatory law.

Our students are watching, looking at their role models to follow their lead on this issue. In school we teach students to except everybody, celebrate our differences and respect others choices. Do we mean it? Our students will know by how we lead in this important conversation. Being LGBTQ is not a choice! It is genetics. How are schools going to lead in making LGBTQ students feel comfortable and accepted?

This issue hits home for me. My uncle Stewart Hazelton was transgendered. I didn’t really know it when he was alive. Fifteen years ago he divorced his wife, grew his hair out and started going by the name Stacey. Since I lived 500 miles away it had little direct impact on me, until I visited him one Thanksgiving and we talked one night. I realized how lonely and confused he was with his life. I knew he was self medicating his depression with alcohol but not the full story. Then one night I received a phone call from my grandmother, my uncle passed away 10 years ago. I travel to his house to help during the time of mourning. Then I realized his struggle. He passed of a heart attack due to all the hormones his was taking for his transition. He just wanted to feel normal as a female.

My Uncle Circa 1963

I wish, Stacey had talked more about his struggle. A few years latter, as my wife watched the Karadashians, I noticed Bruce was going through the same changes Stewart did a few years before. Our society needs to create an environment of love, not hate. Educators need to make sure we make our classrooms excepting of ALL students. It is sad that so many wait years to show who they really are meant to be in life.

Right now the argument is making all feel safe in the bathrooms. I think the answer lies in our schools. Most of our elementary schools have individual bathrooms. Why can’t we have more? We already have family restrooms, why not just call them private restrooms. Fear is not the way to approach this issue. We should not be afraid of LGBTQ individuals, in fact they are the ones that are scared. They are not perverts as hate mongers  want to portray them. All states need to create policies that model the same values we desire in our schools: ACCEPTANCE for ALL!