The Next Generation of ISTE Standards

Researching the Saugus Iron Works

Years ago, a community called the International Society for Technology in Education  (ISTE) formed to advocate for students. This group came together to take on the role as steward for technology standards for the world of education. Key players in this organization come from every corner of education. Since 1979, ISTE advocates for the seamless integration of technology into education by funding the effort with countless volunteers hours and many annual hours. As time and technology have changed, so have the ISTE standards. They have evolved from being software and hardware specific to ensuring specific uses of technology in education. This change mirrors the shift to a web 2.0 mentality. Wesley Fryer reports for the Interactive Educator. His reporting is an example of countless similar sentiments, “Accessing and using information available online is just the starting point for digital literacy in the 21st century.” He also cites an interesting hockey analogy by the former Maine governor and principal architect of the Maine Technology Learning Initiative, Angus King. “Gretzky was once asked how he was able to score so many goals. He answered that he always skated to where the puck was going to be instead of skating, like everyone else, to where the puck actually was.” When we think of the next generation of ISTE standards, we need to imagine where technology will go and address the standards in that manner.

The next generation of ISTE standards cannot be linked to specific technology, software, or hardware. Technology changes too fast. Too many people have license to create and distribute technology, which is a good thing. New standards need to envelope creativity and collaboration. “Of specific importance is how to manage learning in the digital domain so that we can help students become lifelong learners who develop perceptions, perspectives, and habits of mind that will allow them to navigate the Digital Age creatively and critically – creatically, as I like to call it. (Ohler, p. 6). I don’t know if I like the new portmanteau very well, but I suppose someone has to be thinking of those!

Many of my colleagues, in our google discussion also seem to agree that creativity needs to be a fundamental aspect of the future ISTE standards. If we are preparing students to be successful in the future, it makes sense to look at business and industry to find out what they expect their fresh faces by their water coolers to come prepared with, whether this be literal coolers or virtual. Harvard compiled a list of skills that successful employees of the future will need based on hundreds of interviews of corporate leaders from all industries from around the world. These skills boil down to problem solving, collaboration, flexibility, initiative, communication, analysis and imagination. Doesn’t it make sense to pair our education standards with those of the industries that will be employing our graduates?

For now, it’s not going to be easy to meet the new Alaska Standards and thoroughly embed ISTE standards to ensure our education system produces digitally literate graduates. There are terrific examples of how some schools are getting it done. Ferryway School in Malden, Massachusetts, collaborated on a terrific project researching the Saugus Iron Works. It took a team of educators to accomplish fantastic results. I imagine, they had complete support of the leaders in their school and district to make this happen. The issue of leadership and the critical need of their support will be saved for another discussion.

Fryer, W. (2005, Autumn). The digital face of 21st century curriculum. interactive educator, 1(2), 24-28. Retrieved from

Nichols, J. R. (2013, March 4). How to prepare students for 21st century survival. Retrieved from

Ohler, J. (2010). Digital community, digital citizen. Thousand Oaks, California: Corwin Press.


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