I recently submitted my portfolio to complete ISTE's Educator Certification course. One of the components of that submission, a reflection on how the ISTE Standards have impacted our work, was an opportunity for a walk down memory lane...
ISTE Standards - Looking Back
The ISTE Standards have supported both my work and the work of my team in influencing and supporting educators throughout this past decade. I begin by setting some context to illustrate how the standards have supported our work and to describe how the work has changed. I first became familiar with the NETS, as they were called then, in 2009. At that time we were partnering with Alan November to design and implement our Future is Now initiative, and the NETS-s related very well to our efforts to shift mindsets and change practice. This description of the Future is Now was shared in 2010 with the other 19 Education Service Centers in Texas:
The Future is Now Classroom:
The Future is Now had a transformative impact on the participating campuses – teacher attitudes and practices, student levels of engagement and ownership of learning, technical staff willingness to open firewalls and support BYOD – feedback was quite positive.
The Future is Now was heavily influenced by the NETS and represented at least three significant shifts in the way we delivered professional development. First was a shift in focus related to technology. Until that time we had primarily provided training on applications, with some training on how to apply the technology to the classroom. With the Future is Now we began focusing on a variety of web-based tools addressing specific purposes - collaboration, research, creation, and communication.
The second shift was the inclusion of students as co-learners along with their teachers in the professional development sessions. Being introduced to the same tools and concepts as their teachers helped the students hold their teachers accountable to implement what they had learned, and helped teachers realize they did not have to be the experts in everything - they had students for support. More importantly it allowed the teachers to model the role of learner.
The third shift was to an extended model of PD with a significant coaching element. Much of the professional development we delivered prior to this project was of the ‘one and done’ nature, with little or no follow up. The Future is Now was a commitment for the school year, with three separate days of training followed and supported by individual coaching, and culminating in collaborative student projects that were presented at a showcase event.
After the second year we determined that while the program as designed was effective, it was not easily scalable in a region with nearly 1000 campuses. Our focus shifted from a direct delivery model to one of capacity building as we began designing the Digital Fluency Academy. The standards are evident in the components of the Digital Fluency Academy as seen in this description from our 2012 catalog:
Digital Fluency Academy – 30 Hours
Since that time there have been more than 450 graduates of the Digital Fluency Academy. A couple of shifts that evolved over that time are that we began looking at tools not only from the perspective of how well they addressed specific needs or purposes, but how well they contributed to learning. A second shift is that Digital Citizenship is no longer a stand-alone “teach piece.” It is modeled and infused within the entire DFA.
ISTE Standards Today
The release of the updated Standards for Students coincided with the beginning of a research project conducted by our R&D staff to examine the effectiveness of the Digital Fluency Academy. Among the findings of the research were that as a result of participation in the academy there was a statistically significant increase in the use of technology in the classroom by participants, there was statistically significant growth in the levels of the use of technology as measured against the SAMR Framework, and that 90% of the participants reported sharing their learning with others.
This past summer we began a redesign process to refresh the DFA and to intentionally align the content with the new Standards for Educators. Following are the objectives for participants in the resulting Digital Fluency Institute:
~ Experience the types of learning that should happen in the classroom
~ Learn to explore and apply strategies that leverage technology for learning
~ Share your learning and contribute to the advancement of innovation in education
~ Reflect as part of the learning process in a variety of media
~ Design experiences that promote ownership of learning for yourself and others
~ Advocate for a culture of collaboration, continuous learning, and positive contributions
In addition to aligning the Digital Fluency Institute with the standards, we promote awareness and integration of the standards with our various constituencies, including superintendents, district administrators, and all the educators in our professional learning networks. The standards have not resulted in a sudden change in our own practice because they have been embedded into it for some time. They have validated what we have been doing, and provide a continuing focus for moving forward.
My goal is to continue to model and promote the use of technology to enhance, extend, and amplify learning. The context of life and learning is an increasingly digital environment. I believe that our operational definition of digital fluency as “the aptitude to effectively and ethically interpret information, discover meaning, design content, construct knowledge, and communicate ideas in a digitally connected world” remains valid and is in alignment with the standards. Digital fluency for all learners continues to be an aspirational goal.
On a personal note, my oldest grandson began kindergarten this year. I have a highly personal interest in working to see that his class - the class of 2030 - and all of the preceding classes between now and then produce graduates who know how to think critically, whose curiosity is stimulated, who have the creative and collaborative skills needed to adapt to a continually changing world, and who have the character to make it a better place. I believe the ISTE Standards support that vision, and I am fortunate to work with a team that has the skills and the desire to help bring it to fruition.