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Standards refresh puts focus on student-directed learning

By Carolyn Sykora
March 29, 2016
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Today’s 5-year-olds will graduate from high school in 2028. It seems a long way off and it feels nearly impossible to plan now for the future these kinders face. That said, stakeholders in dozens of countries have joined with ISTE to take up that challenge as we embarked on an effort to update the ISTE Standards for Students.

These standards have evolved over time – from focusing on learning how to use technology to using technology to learn. They have served the field in many ways: Classroom teachers use them for lesson planning, school and district leaders use them to guide their school improvement plans, universities use them in their teacher preparation programs and ministries of education codify them in their national policy documents. In the U.S., more than 30 states have adopted, adapted or embedded the standards that were first established in 2007.

Much has changed since then. More students than ever have devices in their hands throughout the day. More schools have reliable and robust infrastructure to support digital learning. And teachers are redesigning learning activities to leverage learning with technology.
Envisioning the promise technology holds for deep, authentic learning, thousands of individuals have been inspired to participate in the ISTE Standards refresh process that launched at ISTE 2015.

Through the lens of future innovations in learning environments, digital resources and delivery systems, over the past 10 months, ISTE led educators through discussions where they predicted how learning would be transformed. These educators deliberated and debated the skills and knowledge that would prepare students for the world of work, and they distilled key concepts to be prioritized in the 2016 ISTE Standards for Students.  

The sheer volume of public comment demonstrated a keen interest among educators in how the standards can support them. ISTE called on educators, researchers and advisers to help analyze the data, categorize and curate priority skills and establish the draft framework for the refreshed standards.

These questions helped to distinguish skills that would be included in the standards: Does technology amplify that skill? Which learning concepts are best amplified by technology?

Self-directed learning has emerged as an organizing theme in the 2016 standards. Did this become a focal point because the U.S. Department of Education focused on personalization in the National Education Technology Plan? Was it that most of us recognize how technology has made personalization possible in other areas of our lives? Or is it that we now have a better understanding that our children’s future prospects depend on them being adaptable, lifelong learners?

For whatever reason, crowdsourcing the standards pushed this theme front and center. According to the federal Office of Educational Technology, personalization is “instruction that is paced to learning needs and tailored to both learning preferences and specific interests of different learners. In an environment that is fully personalized, the learning objectives and content as well as the method and pace may all vary.”

The new standards are intended to prepare for the transition to personalization where students have more meaningful control and greater choice in their learning.

The new standards will be updated again long before today’s kindergartners graduate, but let’s throw our cap into the air for the class of 2028 for inspiring us to refresh the standards today!

The 2016 ISTE Standards for Students will be released at ISTE 2016 in Denver with resources to help educators understand, implement and adopt them.

Carolyn Sykora is ISTE's senior director for ISTE Standards.