Now the Real Education Begins

That’s essentially what my doctoral program chair said about earning a PhD. Sure, you’ve achieved a certain level of academic status. But, it’s really just the metaphorical starting point. You get the real education over a lifetime of study and effort.

I just finished reading an article in Quill, the Society of Professional Journalists‘ magazine. Titled “Landing the Education Gig,” it doesn’t have anything to do with a PhD.

It does have a lot to do with getting an education, though.

According to this article, those of us who have spent years as professional journalists cannot expect to let our experience speak for itself anymore when trying to make the switch into full-time (or even part-time) teaching. Journalism has changed so radically during the past few years that, to a certain degree, much of what many older professionals know has become dated.

Colleges and universities are still looking for pros who can bring an understanding of professional ethics and solid writing techniques with them. But these schools also are increasingly looking for people who can teach search-engine optimization (SEO) techniques, web design, multi-platform distribution, and using social media tools such as Blogger, Facebook and Twitter.

For many of us (myself included), these are things that require extra education. And if we don’t make the effort to get up to speed, we’re dooming ourselves (and our students, I might add).

I’m not in a bad spot with some of this stuff, thankfully. I learned a whole lot of new things last semester simply by teaching the New Media class. I had to prep like mad, of course, and deciding to go without a textbook provided a little extra push. I’m comfortable with social media. But I have significant weaknesses in some areas that I really need to address.

One of the first places I’m going to go to for help is Poynter’s News University. It has been a few years since I last used one of their online training courses, but I think the time is right to dive back in. I take this personally. I want my students to be competitive when they enter the job market, and I want to know that I’ve done all that I can to prepare them.

An important part of being an educator, I believe, is remembering to educate yourself.

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