AFT - American Federation of Teachers

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AFT Resolutions

DIGITAL LEARNING IN PREK-12 INSTRUCTION

WHEREAS, the American Federation of Teachers has long been an advocate for providing teachers and students with the highest-quality instructional materials and pedagogy, and adapting new knowledge and tools to support improved instruction; and

WHEREAS, the incorporation of technology into preK–12 teaching and learning is essential to providing all children with a high-quality education relevant to the age in which we live, and presents a powerful opportunity to ensure that technology in schools both enhances teaching and learning and reduces educational inequality; and

WHEREAS, technology in its many forms holds tremendous promise as a tool to dramatically enhance teaching and learning by empowering teachers to augment and differentiate instruction, engage students, and provide additional delivery routes for the academic and social supports students need, but digital resources alone cannot replace adult-student interactions, which are important for all students; and

WHEREAS, digital learning can take place using a "blended" approach where technology supplements traditional, face-to-face instruction conducted mostly in brick-and-mortar schools, enhancing learning by providing courses not available at the school, providing extra supports for struggling students and providing opportunities for students to extend their learning beyond the traditional textbook; and

WHEREAS, digital learning can also be delivered "virtually," where students spend the majority of their school day online, interacting with their coursework, teachers and peers through technology; and

WHEREAS, while virtual learning may be the best option for a small number of students unable to attend physical schools for a variety of reasons, blended learning offers the best option for a majority of students—providing them a physical meeting place where some teaching and learning is conducted face to face in classrooms and where other courses, activities or projects are offered online in a computer lab or customized learning space; and

WHEREAS, schools serving disadvantaged and minority students often have less access to high-speed equipment, communication technology, and technical and administrative support, limiting the potential of technology for enhancing complex thinking and advanced achievement; and

WHEREAS, while bringing technology into classrooms opens up vast opportunities for students, it also creates increased challenges for teachers as instruction becomes more personalized; and

WHEREAS, the introduction of technology must rest on sound educational policies, prudent fiscal decisions and careful oversight to ensure positive results from the use of digital resources, and should not be arbitrarily imposed on students or educators; and

WHEREAS, too often school districts purchase and implement digital programs and resources without having the proper policies in place regarding privacy safeguards, access protections, professional development for users, quality-assurance mechanisms and evaluation procedures; and

WHEREAS, one of the best predictors of successful implementation of technology is high-quality, relevant professional development, but too often districts and schools introduce technology without adequate professional development for teachers and paraprofessionals to ensure effective and appropriate use of digital resources; and

WHEREAS, the education technology industry is a multibillion-dollar enterprise that often uses aggressive marketing and lobbying techniques that overstate the educational effectiveness of technology and understate its implementation costs; and

WHEREAS, the failure of state and local agencies to provide oversight of digital learning has led to waste, fraud and abuse; and

WHEREAS, the introduction and passage of legislation requiring students to take online courses to graduate from high school is increasing, and the promotion of virtual schools as an unproven alternative to failing schools is growing despite evidence of high dropout rates and no significant improvement in student achievement; and

WHEREAS, virtual schools present unique governance and accountability challenges to states and local districts; and

WHEREAS, research shows that teachers are integral to the success or failure of technology use, but too often technology is purchased and introduced without input from teachers; and

WHEREAS, no technology purchase or partnership should replace teachers altogether or move teaching responsibilities to other institutions or to less-qualified instructors; and

WHEREAS, the integration of technology in our schools and classrooms is a complex issue with a limited but growing evidence base that requires educators, union leaders and policymakers to remain current about the latest research and innovations:

RESOLVED, that:

  • Technology should be integrated into education with the primary purpose of improving teaching and learning, and digital tools must always enhance, not replace, the learning relationship between educators and their students.
  • Budget considerations must not be the driver for enrolling students in online instruction.
  • Savings realized from effective technology integration for administrative support or instructional uses should be reinvested in teaching and learning.
  • The vast majority of digital learning should use a "blended" approach where technology enriches traditional, face-to-face instruction by enhancing learning opportunities beyond the traditional textbook, providing courses not available at the school, providing extra supports for struggling students and offering opportunities for students to extend their learning.
  • School districts should develop policies regarding: (1) safeguards for ensuring data privacy, (2) an open and transparent process for purchasing technology, (3) requirements for professional development of teachers in the integration of technology, (4) accountability mechanisms for technology providers, and (5) processes for evaluating the effectiveness of digital programs and services.
  • The American Federation of Teachers will partner with other national organizations to develop or endorse criteria for high-quality online student learning experiences and related educator professional development, as well as highlight examples of effective district, union and school collaboration.
  • The AFT will produce a white paper exploring the promise and potential of technology integration in education, highlighting effective examples, linking to essential research, and examining implications for students, educators and administrators (including collective bargaining implications); and

Access to Technology
RESOLVED, that:

  • The AFT will advocate for greater investment in and more effective use of technology in high-poverty schools and districts.
  • School districts should implement policies and procedures that strike a balance between access to Internet sites and safeguarding children, and should work with teachers and their unions to develop and disseminate clear and detailed "acceptable use policies" that protect teachers and students; and

Virtual Schools
RESOLVED, that:

  • State law and district policy should ensure accountability and transparency for digital education providers so the public has access to information about revenue and expenditures, student demographics, student achievement and staff qualifications.
  • Virtual schools should not be viewed as a replacement for any brick-and-mortar school, including a struggling school, whose students should be afforded all the opportunities of a high-quality blended education program that provides access to the best tools and resources for students and staff.
  • States and districts should ensure oversight and, if warranted, closure of virtual schools where attrition rates are high and achievement is low.
  • States should regulate preK–12 nonprofit and for-profit providers to ensure that vital funds are not being taken from the communities they are meant to serve.
  • Online courses should be developed and taught by state-certified teachers who know the standards and requirements students are expected to meet; and

Teacher Professional Development
RESOLVED, that:

  • School districts should negotiate with local unions to ensure teachers are receiving the appropriate professional development, supports, resources and working conditions for teaching with technology in both blended and virtual environments.
  • School staff also should have ongoing training—with initial training, follow-up, technical support and dependable equipment—on how to use the hardware, software and Web-based tools they will be expected to use in their schools and classrooms.
  • As we move to Common Core State Standards implementation, teachers should have safe, free online platforms for sharing resources, ideas and best practices to support standards-based instruction; and

Union-District Collaboration on Technology Implementation in preK–12 Instruction
RESOLVED, that:

  • Teacher input must be integral to policies and procedures regarding implementing digital learning, including involvement in designing, reviewing and approving virtual learning programs such as those related to curriculum, professional development and instructional resources.
  • AFT locals should work with districts to create committees to develop policy regarding technology and to inform the selection and implementation of digital learning tools and programs, including technology-based teacher evaluation tools.
  • The impact of new technologies on teachers' workloads and on the criteria by which they will be evaluated must be recognized, and collectively bargained or collaboratively decided, in agreements setting working conditions.
  • To ensure that students have access to the best blended and virtual learning experiences, programs should:

    • Support teachers in incorporating technology pedagogy into instruction and give them strategies to foster interaction, teach concepts and assess student learning;
    • Employ online instructors who are certified in the content area and the state where the students are enrolled; and
    • Ensure that teachers and students have the necessary hardware, software, Internet access and support needed to deliver and use technology successfully

(2012)