Cross-Reference of Online Teaching Standards and the Development of Quality Teachers for 21st Century Learning Environments
Kennedy, Kathryn, Distance Learning
Virtual schooling is a fast-growing option for K-12 students in the United States. As of 2009, 45 states had supplemental online learning programs or full-time programs, and some had both (Watson, Gemin, Ryan, & Wicks, 2009). Offering flexibility of time and place, and guided, individualized, studentcentered instruction (Watson et al., 2009), K-12 online learning suits the needs of many students.
Praised by school administrators in a 2008 public school district survey, online learning is serving individual needs of students and providing a "lifeline" of education to those students who are not able to partake in specific courses that will enable them to become global citizens (Picciano & Seaman, 2009). In that same report, 75% of responding school districts offered online or blended courses (this estimate increased 10% since their 2005-2006 study), 66% had students enrolled in online or blended courses and anticipated these enrollment numbers to increase, and the total number of K-12 students enrolled in online courses was projected at 1,030,000 (this estimate increased 47% since their 2005-2006 study) (Picciano & Seaman, 2009).
In addition to the public school district survey, a recent U.S. Department of Education meta-analysis compiled and analyzed online and blended learning literature. This report found that "classes with online learning (whether taught completely online or blended) on average produce stronger student learning outcomes than do classes with solely face-to-face instruction" (p. 18). The meta-analysis also reported "instruction combining online and face-to-face elements had a larger advantage relative to purely face-to-face instruction than did purely online instruction" (p. xv). As can be seen from these and many other reports, online and blended learning are becoming vital components in education across the United States and around the world. Online learning continues to grow exponentially, and by 2011, estimates show over eight million students will use some form of online learning (whether full-time or supplemental programs) (Greaves Group & Hayes Connection, 2006). As K-12 online learning continues to grow, so does the demand for teachers who are prepared to teach online. To prepare teachers to teach in these new learning environments, standards were created to ensure quality online teacher preparation practices. Many of these standards reference that teachers should be prepared to teach students twenty-first century skills (Partnership, 2009).
Twenty-first century skills center on three overarching topics, including "life and career skills," "learning and innovation skills," and "information, media, and technology skills." Within learning and innovation skills, students need to be able to learn and practice creativity, innovation, critical thinking, problem solving, communication, and collaboration. Under the umbrella of information, media, and technology skills, students need to be able to hone skills pertaining to information literacy, media literacy, and information and computer technology literacy. Encompassing the life and career skills, students will need to exhibit flexibility, adaptability, initiative, self-direction, social and crosscultural skills, productivity, accountability, leadership, and responsibility. Students in the twenty-first century need to have a solid understanding of the core subjects, including English, reading, language arts, world languages, arts, mathematics, economics, science, geography, history, government and civics (Partnership for 21st Century Skills, 2009). In addition, they need to have an understanding of the interdisciplinary application of these content areas when it comes to global awareness, as well as be literate in finance, economics, business, entrepreneurship, civics, and health (Partnership for 21st Century Skills, 2009).
In order to foster these skills in students, teachers need to learn how to cultivate a twenty-first century learning environment. …