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Teacher empowerment reflected in new Educator Standards

By Sarah-Jane Thomas
June 14, 2017
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I recently had the pleasure of working on a team to refresh the ISTE Standards for Teachers, now known as the ISTE Standards for Educators. This team consisted of educators from many different roles, including perspectives from early childhood education, K-12 and higher education.

We spoke at length about framing the new standards to integrate seamlessly with the ISTE Standards for Students, emphasizing the power that teachers have individually and collectively to transform education. Several themes emerged, including teacher empowerment of professional learning, equity, transparency and active learning.

Teacher empowerment of professional learning

Just as we advocate for choice in learning for our students, the same can be said of teachers. As professionals, we should be able to choose the professional learning path that will work best for our students. The new Learner standard encompasses all of these traits by recognizing our professionalism and encouraging us to set learning goals for ourselves.  

Teachers are also encouraged to contribute to the field by sharing our experiences. This is where building a professional learning network (PLN), comprised of other educators around the world, comes into play. PLNs are powerful tools to bring out the best in each of us.


Equity in education is multifaceted, encompassing the quantity and quality of resources available to students. While some think of equity in the context of devices, there is much more involved. For example, students deserve equitable learning opportunities. Creativity in schools should not be limited to the more affluent districts. All learners deserve high-quality teachers who are motivated to grow professionally for the good of their students.

The new Educator Standards address equity in several areas, notably under the Leader, Collaborator, Designer and Facilitator standards.

As Leaders, teachers are charged to “advocate for equitable access to educational technology, digital content and learning opportunities to meet the diverse needs of all students.” As Collaborators, we use the power of our networks to provide high-quality authentic learning experiences to prepare students for an increasingly global world. We meet the diverse needs of students through designing personalized learning experiences. Finally, as Facilitators, we nurture the creativity that all of our students bring to the table.


One often-overlooked aspect of equity is the need to engage all stakeholders in our students’ education. Many of the new standards focus on transparency, with the aspiration of partnering with parents and community members. There is also an increased focus in acknowledging the voices of the most important stakeholders of all, the learners themselves.

Transparency emerges as a theme in the Leader, Collaborator and Analyst standards. As Leaders, we must involve all stakeholders to make the best educational decisions for students, together. The Collaborator standard addresses the need to demonstrate cultural competency while communicating with students, parents and colleagues. All students and their families bring a wealth of cultural resources to our schools and classrooms that should be respected, appreciated and embraced. Finally, the Analyst standard focuses on using assessment data of all kinds, including those allowing for student creativity, to help guide students on their individual and collective learning journeys.

Active learning

Relevance and authenticity are two things our learners crave. Many of our students aspire to create content, as opposed to passively consuming. Several ISTE standards promote student choice and voice in the classroom.  

As Leaders, we aspire to help cultivate the creativity and inquiry of our learners. Through Citizenship, we model and promote responsible contributions to our connected digital world, opening learning beyond the walls of our schools. As Collaborators, we learn alongside our students and colleagues, working together to fuel learning.

The new ISTE Standards for Educators are aspirational and set a tone for what many of us hope to be. Not only do they support the ISTE Standards for Students, there are also connections with other frameworks, such as the National Education Technology Plan (NETP), Future Ready and many more.

Around the world, many educators have been buzzing about this rollout and what it means for the field. We, as educators, have so much power, both individually and collectively, that the new ISTE Standards for Educators have beautifully reflected.

Sarah Thomas is a regional technology coordinator in Prince George’s County public schools and a doctoral candidate in education at George Mason University. she is also the founder of the #edumatch movement, a project that empowers educators to make global connections across common areas of interest.