The National Education Association (NEA) this week released a position paper on blended learning – and its conclusions are positive. The largest teachers union in the country announced it supports blended learning programs. It notes that “technology in the educational process improves learning opportunities for students, quality of instruction, effectiveness of education employees, and provides opportunities to reduce educational inequities.”
At a time when it seems much of the media coverage around online learning is determined to paint the educational landscape as a fierce battle between the traditional teacher and digital technology, NEA’s position on blended learning is heartening. It acknowledges the promise of technology to provide “instruction that best meets the educational needs of the student.” It notes that “early evidence suggests that a blended instructional approach can result in learning outcome gains and increased enrollment retention.” And it reaffirms the importance of qualified, licensed teachers in the blended learning environment.
Of course, iNACOL has always believed teachers to be the most critical, irreplaceable part of the digital classroom. High quality online and blended learning programs require excellent, effective teachers. The promise of online learning means that students can access these teachers no matter where they live – overcoming geographical boundaries and physical limitations.
Online learning also helps teachers do their jobs better. It allows them to access powerful tools and data to personalize learning for each of their students and helps to focus resources on students who need the most help.
Of course, teachers using online tools need proper professional development and training to harness their power, and our nation’s pre-service education programs as well as school districts looking to embrace digital learning programs must be prepared to provide it.
We welcome the NEA’s new position on blended learning. On the whole, this position is a major step forward in continuing positive and productive discussions with policymakers and leaders in the field about the transforming K-12 landscape. We are witnessing a revolution in educational and professional opportunities in the field and want to celebrate the teacher’s role and voice in making this transformation a reality.