Blended learning, in which students learn at least in part through online delivery of instructional content, has grown in popularity in K-12 classrooms across the country. Proponents see it as a way to personalize learning, boost student engagement, and narrow the "digital divide."
But as the Los Angeles Unified School District's iPad debacle illustrates, efforts to implement blended learning and put mobile devices such as tablet computers into the hands of students are full of pitfalls. Insufficient traning and professional development, and too little attention paid to a school system's IT infrastructure and security can doom classroom technology initiatives, resulting in an expensive fail. (To say nothing about the potential for corruption in the bidding around these contracts.) The Los Angeles situation makes clear that blended learning and related initiatives require teachers who are knowledgeable in the use and management of classroom technology.
Teachers across the country hold certifications in a range of specializations, so why not offer a certification in instructional technology? The Arthur Vining Davis Foundations recently awarded a $200,000 grant to a nationally known nonprofit to develop just such a program. Davis funded Common Sense Media to develop and test a national certification program in educational technology for high school teachers. The program will offer online training for high school teachers on effectively integrating technology into their instruction.
In addition to technology integration, other instructional modules will emphasize teaching students to think critically and participate safely and responsibly in the digital world. This is a "sweet spot" for Common Sense Media, which advocates safe and responsible Internet usage through its Digital Citizenship program.
Overall, Common Sense Media plans to develop between 8 and 10 instructional modules, each offering about 10 hours of instruction for high school teachers to become certified in educational technology.
The program aligns perfectly with A.V. Davis' funding interests. The Florida-based funder looks for projects with national potential. It also limits its K-12 education funding to high school projects.
The growth and popularity of blended learning programs, combined with the recognition by school officials that these costly initiatives must be carefully planned and properly implemented, means many opportunities exist for similar programs to better prepare K-12 teachers to bring digital learning to their students.