Using ISTE standards to transform teaching, learning, and administration

Kids having fun in front of a computer.

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By Chitra Mittha

Posted on 07-26-2021

We live in a digital age where it is necessary to both teach with technology and teach about technology. Educational technologies (EdTech) can provide a wide range of benefits to teachers and students. They can boost creativity and make it easier to develop and deliver adaptive and differentiated instruction. Digitization and automation inside and outside the classroom can reduce or eliminate repetitive tasks and ease workloads. And online sites and forums make it easier to collaborate with other teachers and share resources locally or globally.

But using technology in the classroom can also be challenging and time-consuming for teachers who must learn new tools and determine what works best for a particular class, subject, or age group. The International Society for Technology in Education (ISTE) is an excellent resource and professional development forum that helps teachers and students transform educational experiences with practical guidance and evidence-based learning. This group has developed a detailed set of standards designed to guide students, teachers, and administrators on using technology to innovate, accelerate good practices, and solve tough problems in education.

What are the ISTE technology standards?

ISTE was initially founded in 1979 as the International Council for Computers in Education. ISTE standards were developed to help students, teachers, and administrators navigate the use of technology across all levels of education. The current set of standards was released in 2016, providing a refresh of the 2007 version.

ISTE standards for students

ISTE Standards for Students are designed to help students build skills in seven areas needed to thrive in a dynamic digital environment, in work and in life.

  1. Empowered learner – Use technology as an active part of individual learning goals, customizing their environment, and demonstrating competencies
  2. Digital citizen – Build digital literacy and understand the rights and responsibilities of an online world, so that they can act safely, legally, and ethically
  3. Knowledge constructor – Research digital information sources to understand the world around them and evaluate them for accuracy, bias, relevance, and credibility
  4. Innovative designer – Identify problems, design effective solutions using a variety of tools and technologies, and refine them based on feedback
  5. Computational thinker – Leverage data collection, analysis, and algorithms to break down problems into smaller tasks, and use automation to improve efficiency
  6. Creative communicator – Utilize appropriate digital media platforms, tools, and formats to express their ideas clearly and creatively
  7. Global collaborator – Broaden perspectives and work effectively in teams to achieve common objectives, locally and globally

ISTE standards for teachers

ISTE Standards for Teachers are designed to help teachers prepare their students for our digital world — they focus on the following seven pillars.

  1. Learner – Stay up to date on the uses of technology in education, learn from others in their networks, and evaluate new teaching practices
  2. Leader – Search for opportunities to improve, encourage students to learn with and about technology, and model best practices for colleagues
  3. Citizen – Create a safe, legal, ethical, and positive digital environment for students and make positive contributions to the online world
  4. Collaborator – Make time to work with colleagues, jointly explore new technologies and resources, and engage with others, locally and globally
  5. Designer – Create differentiated learning environments, use innovative technology for learning activities that engage and support students
  6. Facilitator – Support students and model appropriate use of technology that assists them with their learning goals and digital skill development
  7. Analyst – Develop alternative assessment formats that accommodate diverse learners and use data to discuss and direct student progress

ISTE standards for administrators

Administrators and other education leaders are encouraged to build knowledge and behaviors across five key topics to support implementation of ISTE standards within their school/district.

  1. Equity and citizenship – Ensure equitable access to technology and teachers for all students and model appropriate use of technology and online behavior
  2. Visionary planner – Build a strategic plan collaboratively with key stakeholders, clearly communicate status, and continuously evaluate progress
  3. Empowering leader – Foster a culture of collaboration and innovation that enables teachers to build confidence and competency with educational technologies
  4. Systems designer – Develop the necessary infrastructure, tools, and human resources to implement the strategic plan
  5. Connected learner – Stay up to date on educational technologies and encourage continuous professional development (webinars, conferences, etc.) throughout the school or district

Why are the ISTE standards important?

Digital technologies are transforming schools in and out of the classroom and throughout our society. Technology is a powerful enabler for innovation and differentiation, increasing adaptability, reducing costs, and enabling a range of personalized services and accommodations. Because we are exposed to such a wide range of tech, students need to not only learn how to use these tools, but also how they work and the effects they can have on individuals and our society. For example, the how to protect private and confidential information, the long-lasting impact of posting personal information, and the risks of misinformation.

Technology is also a potential problem solver for a range of challenges that educators are facing around the world. Schools can and are using technology to accelerate, amplify, and transform learning. But there are so many options, that national and international guidance, such as the U.S National Education Technology Plan and the ISTE standards, are critical to helping all stakeholders choose the most appropriate tools and use them effectively in and out of the classroom.

What do ISTE standards look like in the classroom

The most important thing to remember about ISTE and other guidelines on education technology is that they are about using technology to teach and learn more effectively, not about teaching the technology. They are also not about trying to make every student and teacher into a coder. While learning coding is part of the standards, the objective is to help students understand the impact of code, algorithms, and machine-based decisions on ourselves and our society.

In the classroom, the focus is on using tools that students are exposed to every day to better understand them, as part of curriculum activities and assessments. For example:

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