Delegates to the National Education Association's convention have approved a new policy statement on digital learning that addresses some of the hot topics in the field, including new tools, online learning, and the qualifications and roles of educators.
It is the union's first attempt to update its policies in this area in 11 years. And in a sense, it outlines the NEA's best hopes and worst fears about the exploding digital-learning movement and all it encompasses.
For instance, the statement says that optimal learning environments "should neither be totally technology free, nor should they be totally online and devoid of educator interaction." While there is no one best approach, it continues, each student should receive the appropriate blend of face-to-face and technology-facilitated learning, as determined by professional educators.
The statement is fairly dense, but here are some of the important highlights. Among other things, the statement says:
- That the use of technology must be "defined by educators rather than entities driven for for-profit motives."
- Equity of access to broadband Internet and hardware is a prerequisite to meet all students' needs, and technology is a tool that "assists and enhances the learning process," but is not "the driver" of digital-learning plans.
- Teachers must have professional development to effectively use technology.
- Teachers should own the copyright to materials they create digitally (this is a gray area in online lesson-sharing sites).
- Technology should not be used to replace educational employees or limit their employment.
- Teachers of online learning should be fully qualified, certified, and licensed.
The policy was drafted by a committee headed by Paul Toner, president of the Massachusetts Teachers Association, and Christy Levings, a member of the NEA's executive committee.