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Learning Library Blog 4 things we (re)learned from the ISTE Standards for Educators
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4 things we (re)learned from the ISTE Standards for Educators

By Mia Morrison
June 24, 2017
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As Apple Distinguished Educators (ADEs), we were among thousands of education professionals who weighed in during the past year on the refresh of what would become the ISTE Standards for Educators. This effort to refresh the standards, which were last updated in 2008, invited educators from around the world to help determine the focus and language of the new standards.  

The Educator Standards, which were released last month at ISTE 2017, embrace a new organizational hierarchy that categorize seven standards into two themes: empowered professional and learning catalyst. Both categories represent important facets of our craft that are inextricably intertwined. Throughout the seven standards, teachers are encouraged to consider the impact of their work inside their classrooms and in the global community.

When a group of ADEs met in Dallas to give feedback on the draft standards, our team teased out four concepts embedded in the standards. We explored how they relate to the empowered professional and learning catalyst themes and examined their impact on learning and teaching. We believe these four concepts sum up important behaviors of educator professional growth and development:

1. Model lifelong learning. Educators must continually grow and develop as students ourselves to actively participate in today’s dynamic, global community. Just as we expect our students to progress beyond their comfort zones, we must also push ourselves to keep current in an ever-shifting and dynamic educational environment. By searching for opportunities, inspiring others and contributing both near and far, it is increasingly more critical to embrace facets of instructional design and leadership. 

The Educator Standards state, “Educators continually improve their practice by learning from and with others and exploring proven and promising practices that leverage technology to improve student learning.”

The demand for resources such as the Apple Teacher program and communities like Common Sense Educator illustrates that educators are hungry to find their people. Earning the Common Sense badge is an indication that an educator embraces a culture of digital learning and understands digital citizenship.

2. Extend outside the classroom. Hand-in-hand with learners, we must tread safely yet with purpose onto a global stage. As we lead our students, we must embrace this charge ourselves. In rural areas especially, educators must connect with diverse experiences and networks to usher students into the digital age. It is our duty to model and navigate new channels for and with our students.

The Educator Standards instruct us to “create experiences for learners to make positive, socially responsible contributions and exhibit empathetic behavior online that build relationships and community.” 

Beginning with a simple image, students in a Student Lens course explore various methods of expression. They learn about themselves and investigate new perspectives as they grow into media journalists, eventually reporting out beyond our local sphere.

3. Let students take the lead. Modeling the essential component of “lifelong learner” opens the door, but encouraging students to take action works on the next level. Let students find their place on whatever stage leverages their strengths and moves them toward their goals by letting them lead and own their educational path.

The Educator Standards expect teachers to “support student achievement of the ISTE Standards for Students by fostering a culture of ownership, managing digital learning strategies, creating opportunities of challenge and nurturing creativity.”

During Hour of Code elementary student teams guide and assist district administrative staff in exploring challenges found on The reciprocity of learning cultivates a level of student empowerment that honors diversity and ownership.

4. Share out — because everyone is a leader. Technology frees educators from the bounds of time zones, geography and economic standing, and it erases the isolation of teaching. As architects and developers of the future, we must dare to expose ourselves and share our trials, successes and failures. Everyone has something to contribute to a global audience. 

The Learning Catalyst Standard within the ISTE Educator Standards advises educators to “dedicate time to collaborate with both colleagues and students to improve practice, discover and share resources and ideas, and solve problems.”

Joining an edchat can inspire fresh, creative perspectives and allow educators to share exciting discoveries and resources with others around the world. Knowing that so many others are there for support, edchats inspire educators to challenge themselves and take risks.

This circles back to our first point — modeling life-long learning. There are others both behind and in front of you — no matter where you are on the continuum. Sharing out is a responsibility we must all embrace as active participants in a global community. Everyone has the capacity and obligation to be a leader as we usher our students and colleagues in new directions of growth and professionalism.

The ISTE Standards for Educators offers a framework from which we can assess, reflect and aspire. The two themes deepen our understanding and relationship with our professional selves, guide us in empowering students and direct us to reach out to others around the globe.

We are encouraged and inspired to continually refer back to the standards to help remind and gently nudge us toward these goals. 


Mia Morrison teaches and works with faculty at Foxcroft Academy in Maine as the instructional technology specialist in a 1:1 iPad environment. She also teaches undergraduate and graduate courses at the University of Maine in the College of Education and facilitates PD through the Maine Educators Consortium. All her courses emphasize incorporation of tech tools and digital resources to promote curiosity, customize the learning experience and inspire learner ownership and growth. Mia was named an Apple Distinguished Educator in 2013.

Sarah Petersen, also an Apple Distinguished Educator, is a  K-12 educational technology specialist and IT collaborator for the Anchorage School District. Sarah wears a variety of hats. In addition to designing and delivering PD, she also works closely with district leadership, schools and IT to create a bridge in implementing technology. She strives to encourage as many teachers and students as possible to connect, collaborate and create using technology.