The NEA Spells Out Support for Blended Learning

“We know that when teachers ‘blend’ thoroughly evaluated technological resources with rigorous and directed instruction, students are more interested and motivated to learn. With this kind of teacher-focused instruction, students will be well-prepared to contribute to society, make ethical choices, and better compete in a 21st century global economy.” —NEA President Dennis Van Roekel 
This quote kicks off a recent NEA Policy Brief on blended learning. It’s a pretty good statement, although when I think of personal digital learning, I think it as student-focused not teacher-focused.
The statement of support draws heavily on The Rise of Blended Learning from Innosight Institute.
The policy recommendations are mostly right and include:

  • Ensure students have access to and instruction in technology, as well as the responsible and ethical use of technology, especially in places where they are not otherwise available.
  • Develop an acceptable use policy (AUP) to address the appropriate use of the Internet, for example, parental permission, proper citation and compliance with copyright laws, and privacy and information protection.
  • Design, implement, and evaluate technology- powered programs and interventions to ensure that students progress seamlessly through our P-16 education system and emerge prepared for college and careers.

They call for more federal, state, and local resources and that’s just not going to happen.  Marguerite Roza calls this the Deficit Decade.  As Bob Wise and the Alliance team point out in the Online Learning Imperative, blended learning is a way to rethink how schools work so that we have a chance to do better with less. States and districts need to build a three year transition that phases in improved student access and supports teacher development.
Here’s the critical point the NEA missed–blended learning has the potential to improve working conditions and career opportunities for teachers.  Teaching in differentiated teams will mean more support for new teachers and more pay and responsibility for lead teachers (see Extending the Reach of Excellent Teachers to More Students from Public Impact).  There is also an expanding variety of full and part time roles for learning professionals–specialists can now work anywhere, anytime they want. (See 10 reasons that teachers love blended learning.)
I appreciate the NEA addressing the subject.  Blended learning holds great promise for students and teachers.

Tom Vander Ark

Tom Vander Ark is the CEO of Getting Smart. He has written or co-authored more than 50 books and papers including Getting Smart, Smart Cities, Smart Parents, Better Together, The Power of Place and Difference Making. He served as a public school superintendent and the first Executive Director of Education for the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation.

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