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A new framework for digital age leadership

By Sarah Stoeckl
June 19, 2018
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Individual teachers have been using technology to transform education for decades. But to scale those transformations and meet the learning needs of all students requires education leaders who are visionary, adaptable and thoughtful about managing change, and who model lifelong learning.

The question of how to move from pockets of educator innovation – often inspired and supported by the ISTE Standards for Students and for Educators – to systems-wide change drove the initial thinking
behind the new ISTE Standards for Education Leaders (formerly the ISTE Standards for Administrators), officially released at ISTE 2018 in Chicago.

The process to update the standards started at the previous year’s conference with open feedback from stakeholders, including a Stakeholder Advisory Council made up of thought leaders in the field of education, education and leadership organizations, and individuals passionate about education and technology. ISTE’s Technical Working Group then reviewed the feedback and helped create a framework for leadership that would serve well into future.

That’s where the hard questions that would guide the creation of the new standards emerged: How can and should an administrator inspire and empower everyone in the system? What does effective change in the digital age look like and how do you communicate it? How can and should digital tools be used to advocate for equity and drive citizenship? What must a leader consider and plan for throughout their technological and learning systems? How can a leader leverage digital tools to extend and model their own ongoing learning?

We sought input on these questions from educators worldwide and, in the end, 1,313 leaders and educators from all 50 states and 36 countries were involved. Participants included school and district administrators, teachers, tech coaches, tech coordinators and higher education faculty.

And we’re proud of what emerged from this highly collaborative effort. 

First and foremost, the new ISTE Standards for Education Leaders support the implementation of ISTE’s Student and Educator Standards, and provide a framework for guiding digital age learning.
And as with the Student and Educator Standards, these new standards identify specific personas for education leaders: Equity and Citizenship Advocate. Visionary Planner. Empowering Leader. Systems Designer. Connected Leader.

These standards are all about the knowledge and behaviors that are required for leaders to make student learning possible and for teachers to be empowered. And they’re focused on some of the most timely, yet enduring, topics in education today – equity in both access to technology and usage for learning, the new lens on digital citizenship, visioneering, empowerment, team and systems building, and professional growth. The ISTE Standards for Education Leaders reflect a more modern dispersed leadership model, moving away from the hierarchical models of the past.

In total, the standards point to a leader’s responsibilities in solving for equity, leading and participating in digital citizenship, creating a strategic plan, building a culture of empowerment, striving for continuous improvement and committing to lifelong learning.
Check out the ISTE Standards for Education Leaders at and take a few minutes to explore the digital unpacking of each indicator. Then stay tuned for additional resources to help you adopt and implement the standards.

Sarah Stoeckl was formerly a senior project manager for ISTE who helped lead the refresh of the ISTE Administrator Standards.