Teachers in our neck of the woods tend to use the state standards to guide their lesson planning—and for good reason. The state tests that we take align to these standards, much like they do in other states that have adopted the Common Core standards. There are so many of these standards, we tend to stop there and not look any further when it comes to breaking them down.
I think this is a great disservice to our teachers and our students. If you are a teacher and have not dug into the ISTE standards, you are missing out. It isn’t that these standards are better, but they do offer a different approach. Many of the Common Core standards are about demonstrating knowledge at a lower, more basic level. On the other hand, the ISTE standards focus more on an overall concept of learning, including personalized learning, digital citizenship, and constructing knowledge, just to name a few.
Looking at the Standards
If you haven’t seen the standards themselves, here is a quick rundown of a few of them. This is a synopsis that doesn’t do them justice, but might be enough to encourage you to take a closer look if you never have.
ISTE Standard 1: Empowering the Learner
“Students leverage technology to take an active role in choosing, achieving, and demonstrating competency in their learning goals, informed by the learning sciences.”
What does this mean? Students should be able to direct and personalize their learning. They should have tools, especially technology tools, that offer them multiple ways to show they have learned something. The standard assumes that students are familiar with the learning sciences or ways they can go about learning information. In a nutshell, we must teach students how to use tools to demonstrate learning.
How does it impact the classroom? Very simply, student choice. It goes a little deeper than that, but at the very essence of this standard is the ability for students to direct their own learning. In order to do this, students must have knowledge of both how they learn and how they can prove that they have learned.
Key Phrase: Leverage technology. So much of student technology use is out of novelty (this is cool!) or out of convenience (this is faster!). Students can use technology to their advantage if they truly understand the power behind its use.
ISTE Standard 2: Digital Citizen
“Students recognize the rights, responsibilities, and opportunities of living, learning, and working in an interconnected digital world, and they act and model in ways that are safe, legal, and ethical.”
What does this mean? There is a lot here. To summarize, students need the skills to be moral citizens who display empathy. We have always tried to incorporate this into learning (character education programs), and we are now weaving it into their digital lives. Just as we don’t want manners and respect to end when a student exits the building at the end of the day, we hope that students are model digital citizens both in and out of school.
How does it impact my classroom? More than all the others put together if you teach fifth grade or higher. The digital world is the real world for our students today, and without the skills to navigate it and thrive in it, they will have struggles. As schools, we should try to help our students with this because it is the right thing to do.
Key Phrase: Model. Our goal isn’t just to not be a cyberbully, but to excel in the digital world. We want great, model citizens who will help to shape their future and our world. This high expectation helps us all strive to get better.
ISTE Standard 3: Knowledge Constructor
“Students critically curate a variety of resources using digital tools to construct knowledge, produce creative artifacts, and make meaningful learning experiences for themselves and others.”
What does this mean? The concept of students constructing knowledge is one that plays too small of a role in many classrooms. By placing students in a situation where they can create and construct knowledge for themselves, we can deepen learning and critical thinking.
How does it impact my classroom? How often do teachers consider using digital tools to construct knowledge? It sounds like a good idea, but if we just focus on Common Core standards, it seems like an impossible task. Take an afternoon and try it; explore what it might look like to put this into practice.
Key Phrase: Construct. How can we help students make connections and build their own learning through the use of technology?
Watch for the second part of Linking the ISTE Standards to Learning, which will dive into the other ISTE standards. Be sure to subscribe to the Educator blog so you don’t miss it!