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Invite your students to shape the new ISTE Standards

By Anna Baralt
January 31, 2016
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The ever-changing technology landscape is transforming how students live their lives and communicate with each other and the world around them. Advances in technology are also drastically changing our schools — what we teach, where we teach and how we teach.

As educators, we must consider the contemporary experiences of our students and prepare our 21st century learners for a future that is not yet known. One of the best ways to know our students, understand their wants and needs, and help prepare them for life beyond school is to engage them in reflective, critical thinking about their own learning strategies and processes and what they value most in the classroom.

ISTE is in the process of refreshing the ISTE Standards for Students. Educators from around the world have provided a tremendous amount of feedback since the refresh effort was announced at ISTE 2015. ISTE wants to hear from you, your colleagues and your students on the latest draft of the new standards prior to March 31, 2016. 

What better way to discover if the standards are achievable, interesting and likely to be useful to students than asking students themselves? Engaging students in reflection about the standards is a very simple, straight-forward process. I tried this with my high school students and was amazed at how much I learned from them.

The majority of the students that participated in my feedback session believed standards are important for both students and teachers, and they thought the current draft represented the “entire spectrum of technological use.” They recognize the standards are important because “we are growing up in a digital age.” They also stated that it would be worth simplifying the standards to make them “more accessible.”

They strongly believed teachers have to do more than just “share the standards with us” and “examples of the standards would be useful” to better understand them. Mostly, they appreciated being involved in the process.

ISTE has provided a Student Activity Feedback packet to help you facilitate student forums. The packet contains everything you need to run a session, including goals for the program, notes for leading a session and context for staging. To get your packet, email Sarah Stoeckl.

Not sure how to conduct a session? Here’s how I used the five steps below to engage a group of 20 students in grades 9-12.

1. Warm-up
Use a “quick write” activity to assess student thinking and set the tone for the activities to follow. Ask students to reflect on the following question for three minutes: How does using technology currently facilitate or enhance your learning?

Have students record their answers on a notecard. Students can volunteer to share their answers with the group or turn to a neighbor for a quick share. Collect the notecards when the activity is over.

2.  Introduction to the ISTE Standards for Students
Spend a few minutes providing background about the ISTE Standards and how your school currently uses them:

  • What is ISTE?
  • What are the standards?
  • How long have you been using the standards?
  • How are the standards used?
  • Do teachers use the standards to plan curriculum?
  • Do students use the standards in any way?

If you are not currently using the standards, explain why you are considering them and what the plan is for the future.

3. Review the ISTE Standards for Students draft
Explain that the draft ISTE Standards for Students are designed to transform, amplify or enhance learning through the use of technology and attempt to answer the question: What do students need to know and be able to do to be successful in the future?

Have students take a few minutes to carefully read over the standards on their own. Then review the overarching standard statements as a group, answering any clarifying questions students might have.

4. Break-out groups
Break students into small groups of three to four to dive more deeply into reviewing each standard and its supporting statements. Use the discussion questions provided by ISTE in the feedback packet or come up with some of your own.

Ask one member of each group to serve as a recorder, taking notes on paper or electronically as the group members speak. (If using electronic notes, be sure to have the recorders send them to you.)

5. Reflection
After the groups have reviewed each of the seven standards, have the students complete a final reflection by reviewing their notes and adding additional information regarding the discussion questions. Creating an electronic form through Google Forms makes the collection process simple, especially if you plan on conducting feedback sessions with multiple groups.

If you are working with upper elementary or middle schools students, you will want to modify the lesson to their level. The warm-up activity can take place as a conversation rather than having students record their thoughts on a notecard.

Additionally, rather than providing feedback on all seven standards, break out groups should focus on just one or two standards each. You can even consider facilitating the session as whole group and recording student feedback yourself.

The last step, of course, is to send the results to ISTE by following the directions in the packet. This is, after all, an example of a real-world project and educators are counting on your students to help move education forward.

Anna Baralt is director of educational technology at Shorecrest Preparatory School. She holds a doctorate in curriculum and instruction from the University of Florida. She is currently serving on the ISTE Standards Core Team to refresh the ISTE Standards for Students.

Want to help out? Read the draft of the student standards and fill out this survey to give us your feedback and share the link far and wide. Email Sarah Stoeckl to get a packet to present your own session with students.