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Know the ISTE Standards for Students 1

By Talbot Bielefeldt
June 9, 2014
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Know the ISTE Standards for Students is a series of scenarios encouraging readers to use ISTE's student standards (ISTE StandardsS) to analyze classroom events. ISTE's Research and Evaluation Department looks at each standard's indicators in detail, exploring different versions of the same lesson to determine whether — and how — they meet a standard. Let's start with the first standard in the set.

ISTE Standard for Students 1: Creativity and Innovation

Students demonstrate creative thinking, construct knowledge, and develop innovative products and processes using technology.

If you are observing a classroom, you can use a rubric similar to the one in the table below, which asks you to decide whether each indicator of the standard is absent, addressed or met. Addressed means that students have opportunities to learn about or practice an indicator. Met means that students have opportunities to actually demonstrate the indicator.

Standard 1: Creativity and Innovation Students demonstrate creative thinking, construct knowledge, and develop innovative products and processes using technology. Activity 1: Students use cell phones, tablets or digital cameras to collect examples of geometric shapes used in physical structures. Activity 2: Students use a geometry drawing tool (GeoGebra, to construct polygons with certain characteristics. Activity 3: Relying on their knowledge of polygons and structures, students design stick bridges using prototypes and software with a goal of spanning the greatest distance with the least material.
a. Apply existing knowledge to generate new ideas, products or processes. Absent: There is no generation of new ideas, products or processes. Absent: The students need to recall some geometry, but only to follow directions. Met: Students are given a product to create, but its execution requires them to innovate using mathematics.
b. Create original works as a means of personal or group expression. Absent: There is no creation of original works besides collecting the images. Absent: Again, the students are not invited to create original work. Met: The product is constrained by physics but otherwise can incorporate student invention and aesthetics.
c. Use models and simulations to explore complex systems and issues. Absent: There is no exploration of complexity, only recognition of shapes. Addressed: The students are using tools that can provide lots of information on objects as they are created. Met: Students use and choose their tools.
d. Identify trends and forecast possibilities. Absent: There is nothing open ended about the assignment. Absent: The assignment is treated as a geometry cookbook. Met: Experimentation or trial and error is intrinsic to the assignment.


Math, and all STEM subjects, are not often associated with creativity in most teachers' minds, but every subject offers the opportunity to cultivate this skill in students. The table presents three examples of class activities that use technology to teach geometry concepts as well as the Standard1: Creativity and Innovation indicators that each activity meets or doesn't meet.

There is nothing wrong with Activity 1; it is common in classrooms with access to digital photography. By itself, it might not have anything to do with Standard 1, but a teacher could include all three examples in the same unit. Students could collect images on Monday, review polygons and software on Tuesday, and complete their structures over the rest of the week. Each scenario enriches the experience of the previous one. In that case, the number of standard indicators you see depends on which day you look for them. If you're visiting a classroom as part of a program evaluation, you have to find out where the lesson you observe fits into the overall learning experience.

Note what happens when there are more opportunities to meet a standard: Students have more active engagement, resources and choice. Plenty of lessons go through the motions of creativity and innovation, such as using drill-and-practice simulations, spinning off ideas, or following step-by-step construction procedures. These all may be useful and may address other standards. However, the more the teacher or textbook dictates products and procedures, the less a lesson will address creativity and innovation.

Because meeting the indicators involves a lot of learner responsibility, young children (or any learners encountering a new topic) are unlikely to be able to meet the criteria for most indicators. Teachers can address a student standard by providing age-appropriate learning opportunities. But the standards can only be met by the students themselves. That is why there are separate standards for teachers and administrators.

A version of this column appeared in the August 2013 edition of Learning & Leading with Technology.

Want to learn more ways to incorporate STEM skills into your lessons while meeting the ISTE Standards? Check out ISTE's STEM webinars.