In “Short Circuited: The Challenge Facing the Online Learning Revolution in California” our friends at the Pacific Research Institute tell the story of online learning in California.
It goes on to address push-back from teacher unions and how the potential of online learning is only limited by the regulations we place on it.
The film points out that sometimes the interests of teachers and students do not coincide, and in those cases student interests should come first. This is absolutely true.
But the digital learning revolution is not one of those cases.
Embracing online learning is good for students. It opens up countless options for families, providing access to courses otherwise unavailable to every student. As Getting Smart author Tom Vander Ark has said, with online learning there is no reason why every student shouldn’t have access to every Advanced Placement course. It also allows students to learn at their own pace while getting support from qualified teachers. Online learning equalizes opportunity and has the potential to reach society’s most vulnerable. And these are just a few benefits.
But these advantages don’t occur at the expense of teachers. Indeed, online learning benefits teachers, too.
As Governor Bob Wise explained at the Washington Online Learning Symposium, digital learning takes teaching to a level of professionalism teachers have been asking for. Instead of the “sage on the stage” or “guide on the side,” with online learning teachers become “educational designers.”
For decades, teachers have faced the daunting task of educating a room of students that typically have only one thing in common: their age. The average classroom is made up of students with a variety of learning styles, learning levels, interests, temperaments, and more. Today every student is expected to graduate college and career ready, making a teacher’s job more demanding than ever.
The only way for teachers to meet that demand is to update the way we do school. Enter the educational designer. Using online tools (that are increasingly affordable), today’s teacher can build a unique program catered to the needs of each student. Instead of diminishing the importance of teachers, online learning enhances it by giving them the tools to meet individual student needs in ways that were previously impossible.
This is National School Choice Week, and digital learning is one of the most promising choices on the menu. Pacific Research Council rightly notes that teacher unions have pushed back against online learning. But there is no reason why teachers, students, and families can’t join together to advocate for more digital learning options. Those who oppose them are opposing what’s good for students and what’s good for teachers.