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ISTE CEO: Shaping the future is in our DNA

By Richard Culatta
September 25, 2019
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I recently came across the T-shirt I was given when I volunteered at the 30th ISTE conference. In case you’re wondering, it still fits, as does the role ISTE has played in helping me stay ahead of important innovations in education.

ISTE has always been about seeing the future and helping shape that future in a way that’s most helpful for students and teachers.

That’s been true for 40 years now, and as we look forward to the next decade, that role will remain unchanged. We’re focused on the same critical education issues: equity, sup- porting teachers, preparing students for the future and improving the quality of digital learning tools.

And while our focus remains the same, how we go about achieving these goals must continue to evolve in our rapidly changing world. As we celebrate ISTE’s 40th anniversary, let’s take a minute to look at how our work will unfold over the next decade.

Championing equity

ISTE’s always been a champion for equity in education. Ten years ago that largely meant ensuring students and teachers had access to technology. It was about providing that basic connection.

Moving forward, it will be about making sure we’re using the tech we have in ways that close achievement gaps, ensure accessibility and teach all students how to be active learners. It’s also about ensuring our own ISTE community reflects the diverse range of educator voices and viewpoints.

Supporting teachers

Supporting teachers is another area where our role has been consistent. Over the last decade, that meant creating in-person and virtual networks of early innovators who were among the first to use technology in their schools.

Today and into the future it means making sure every teacher is prepared to thrive in tech-enabled classrooms. That’s why we made ISTE Certification for Educators available to all teachers, not just ISTE members. It’s also why ISTE is working closely with higher ed institutions to ensure that new teachers arrive fully prepared to use technology effectively in their classrooms from day one.

Preparing students

When it comes to students, ISTE has always been future focused. Ten years ago that meant making sure students knew how to find and use the great online resources that were available to them.

Over the next 10 years it will be about helping them use tech not to passively receive information but to create, design and solve problems. They’ll need to know how to harness AI and computational thinking skills to be workforce-ready. And they’ll need to understand how to be effective digital citizens, using tech in a balanced way that positively impacts the world around them.

Improving quality of digital tools

ISTE has long worked with tech developers and solution providers to help them build better tools for learning. In the last decade, that meant creating opportunities for interaction between educators and product developers to ensure educator feedback was included in product design. It also included creating our Seal of Alignment program to recognize products that are aligned to the ISTE Standards.

In the next 10 years, this focus will be expanded to meet the rising bar for tech tool quality. We’ll be working more closely with solution providers to not only align to the ISTE Standards, but also to embed solid principles of the learning sciences, interoperability and accessibility standards so educators are confident in the quality of tools and app options.

Forty years of work to help shape the future of education is worth celebrating, but our work is far from done. ISTE is evolving and, with the expertise of our passionate members and partners, is working hard to tackle the greatest challenges in education.

Because shaping the future is in our DNA.

Richard Culatta is ISTE’s CEO.