The National Education Association (NEA) has issued a policy statement on digital learning that calls for equity of access to technology for every student and highlights professional development of teachers as an important goal for 21st century teachers.
The NEA said that traditional school models are not capable of meeting the needs of the 21st century student. All students, from pre-K to graduate, need to develop advanced critical thinking and information literacy skills and master new digital tools, stated the NEA.
According to the union, optimal learning environments should neither be totally technology free, nor should they be totally online and devoid of educator and peer interaction. An environment that maximizes student learning will use a "blended" and/or "hybrid" model situated somewhere along a continuum between these two extremes.
NEA said it believes that there is no one perfect integration of technology and traditional forms of delivering education. The face-to-face relationship between student and educator is very important to increase student learning.
According to the statement, the use of technology in education must be defined by educators rather than entities driven by for-profit motives. The effective use of technology will improve student learning, quality of instruction, and education employee effectiveness.
The statement also said that digital learning depends on equity of access to broadband Internet access, software and technical support, as well as hardware maintenance. The NEA also believes that there must be adequate technical support to ensure that digital classrooms function properly and reliably for both educators and students.
Under our current inequitable system of funding, simply moving to a large scale use of technology in pre-k12 and postsecondary education will more likely widen achievement gaps among students than close them. For example, school districts with lower income populations simply will not be able to provide or maintain appropriate and relevant digital tools and resources for their students. We as a nation must address the issues of equity and access in a comprehensive manner in order to see the promise and realize the opportunities that digital learning can provide, NEA said.
The NEA is calling for public school districts and postsecondary institutions to work with certified teachers, qualified education support professionals, faculty and staff to develop comprehensive and thorough digital learning plans that address all the elements of incorporating technology into instructional programs.
All educators should have access to relevant, high-quality, interactive professional development in the integration of digital learning and the use of technology into their instruction and practice. Educators and their local associations need support and assistance in vetting the quality of digital course materials and in developing or accessing trusted digital venues to share best practices and provide support.
As digital learning grows, intellectual property rights are a chief concern. The NEA said education employees should own the copyright to materials that they create in the course of their employment.
There should be an appropriate "teacher's exception" to the "works made for hire" doctrine, pursuant to which works created by education employees in the course of their employment are owned by the employee. This exception should reflect the unique practices and traditions of academia.