Letter: Online schooling can be effective

In this April 13, 2020, photo, Kelly Dighero, a 3rd grade teacher at Phoebe Hearst Elementary School, gives a thumbs-up during her first online meeting with students and parents on the front lawn of her home in Sacramento, Calif. Monday was the first day of the Sacramento Unified School District's "Distance Learning" program. (AP Photo/Rich Pedroncelli)

The last few months of the 2020 school year were chaotic, especially for parents, teachers and students who were thrown into the digital learning space without any warning, in what can only be called “crisis schooling.”

Educators worked hard with the resources at their disposal to provide a quality experience for our children. Our educators are everyday superheroes, whether they are creating engaging learning environments online or in the classroom.

At a recent Salt Lake School Board meeting, school board member Michael Nemelka said online learning doesn’t work and went so far as to say, “Online teaching is just a lazy way of attempting to teach children.”

Mr. Nemelka is wrong. His comment makes it clear that he does not understand digital learning and perhaps he doesn’t understand his role as a school board member.

As national leaders in digital education, we have invested significant time and resources building effective educational pathways online. Our teachers work tirelessly to develop and implement pedagogically sound instruction, identify gaps in student knowledge and provide individualized and targeted interventions, employ data to determine how best to help students find success and leverage technology's promise to improve education.

This preparation provides a foundation for a tremendously successful education. Daily comments from our students and parents overwhelmingly confirm that this educational model is working for them. And, importantly, they communicate how appreciative they are for the time, energy and passion their teachers put into their digital education.

There is no question that successful digital learning requires a different approach and mindset. However, just because the online setting looks different from a traditional classroom does not mean that online educators are not effective.

What teachers need from the school board is not criticism, but the support and resources to help them really consider, develop, and implement thoughtful learning programs whether online, in-person, or a combination of the two.

DeLaina Tonks, principal, Mountain Heights Academy

Laura Belnap, director, Utah Online School

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