With the recent unveiling of the 2016 ISTE Standards for Students, it's a good time for districts, schools and teachers to assess their framework for technology use.
Each district or school is different in its access, approach and support available for technology. In addition, tech changes so rapidly that it’s almost impossible to predict what tools students and teachers will have use of from year to year.
Whether your school is 1:1 or your classrooms share a handful of iPads, the important thing is how students are using the available tech.
The 2016 student standards are “less about what students should know and be able to do and more about who we want our students to become in a world that will reward adaptability amid rapid and ongoing change,” says Carolyn Sykora, senior director of ISTE Standards. “They emphasize empowering the learner to take charge and take advantage of learning that is available at the tips of our fingers. They establish a practice for learning, a foundation for lifelong learning and, ideally, a love of learning.”
Aspirational, to be sure. But how do schools ensure the scaffolding exists for using technology to its fullest potential? ISTE’s Essential Conditions provide a systemwide lens for education technology planning. The 14 conditions are guidelines that help educators make choices about people, policy and resources, as well as provide a framework for implementing the ISTE Standards.
The Essential Conditions can be thought of as a system’s philosophical approach toward education, as well as the logistical necessities that contribute to the successful use of technology in a district. The conditions that apply to a system’s educational philosophy and approach include a shared vision among all stakeholders, empowered leaders at every level, student-centered learning, engaged communities where participants collaborate with each other, and supportive external context at the national, regional and local levels.
The conditions that set up a district’s logistical framework include consistent and adequate funding, implementation planning (following a systematic plan aligned with the shared vision), equitable access for all students and staff, skilled personnel, ongoing professional learning, technical support, curriculum framework, assessment and evaluation, and support policies that guide the appropriate use of technology.
Of course, many of these conditions may seem out of reach for districts struggling with a myriad of priorities. Barry Bachenheimer is director of curriculum instruction and assessment at Pascack Regional High School District, the first district in New Jersey to become a 1:1 laptop district 13 years ago.
Bachenheimer says technology is embedded in daily instruction in his district. “It’s part of the fabric of what we do.”
Still, Bachenheimer’s district struggles with competing needs and district goals. His district uses the Essential Conditions as part of its three-year technology plan to continually reflect on whether their practices and associated tools are best for their students.
Additionally, there are some conditions that individual districts, teachers or administrators feel they have little ability to guide or influence. “I imagine that most districts find it a challenge for equitable funding and involving all stakeholders in all aspects.”
The Essential Conditions are intended to be used in conjunction with ISTE’s online Lead & Transform Diagnostic Tool that can help districts assess what they are doing and identify areas that they are able to influence positively. The tool is free, takes about 15 to 20 minutes to complete and can be used by anyone who has a free ISTE account. The tool generates a free report with data that can guide your tech planning and implementation decisions.
“The Essential Conditions are not a lockstep plan,” says Bachenheimer. “They are a guideline to help districts be reflective of their current state and continue to move toward continual improvement.”