Kristin Harrington
STANDARDS SPOTLIGHT: Tools to support the ISTE Standards for Educators

The ISTE Standards for Educators challenge teachers to become leaders, creators and facilitators of dynamic or transformative student learning. What I love most about the new standards is that they view educators as professionals who drive global change and continually reflect on their practice. 

Great teachers understand the need to develop a network for support, resources and collaborative planning. They reach beyond their classroom walls to build a global network of educators in similar positions who have shared interests and who challenge their beliefs and ideas. 
This article dives into a few of the ISTE Standards for Educators and the tools to support deepening your professional practice.

Building your global network

The ISTE Standards for Educators offer a blueprint for building a global network. The Learner standard asks teachers to “pursue professional interests by creating and actively participating in local and global learning networks.” The Collaborator standard elaborates on this, encouraging teachers to “dedicate time to collaborate with both colleagues and students to improve practice, discover and share resources and ideas, and solve problems.”

When I started my career, teachers were just beginning to share ideas and resources in online forums. This type of collaboration eventually moved to social media sites such as Twitter, blogs and newer tools like Voxer and SnapChat. 

Educators who embraced those tools quickly realized the many advantages of using social media tools to collaborate. You can jump on anytime of day or night, your network is global and the tools are free. 

If you’re just getting started, here are just a few of the tools and resources you can use to build a global network:

Give Twitter a try. If you haven’t used Twitter, or only use it to follow celebrities, you might be skeptical about its power as a source for professional learning. Don’t be. Every day, educators tweet thousands of fresh ideas and resources, collaborate on projects and support each other.
The trick is to learn how to use hashtags to find the information you’re looking for so you can ignore what you don’t need. 

Whether you’re interested in #PBL, #STEM or any other education topic, you can
search the hashtag and find information on Twitter.

Don’t like tweeting but want to find out what others are talking about? Join or follow an education Twitter chat, which is essentially a real-time discussion about a specific topic occurring during a set time. Participants use a unique hashtag so others can easily follow the chat. 

You’ll find a Twitter chat, or ed chat, for almost any subject area (#SciChat, #SSchat); job role (#CPChat); or education topic (#Spedchat, #digcit chat). Find a calendar of educational Twitter chats at participate.com/chats. 

If you really love the tweets of a specific account, person or group of people, you can create a “list” of specific users. Still want to follow Kim K. and Beyonce? You can create a private list only you can see. 

Check out Voxer. If a lack of time is the reason you aren’t networking with other educators, Voxer may be the tool for you. Voxer is a walkie-talkie app that educators use to have conversations about shared interests. 

There are Voxer groups for podcasting in the classroom, makerspaces, edtech coaching and many other topics. You have the option of talking or typing, and you can listen while driving to and from work. 
Although not totally private, Voxer is a lot less public than Twitter, making it a great forum for asking questions about things you’re struggling with in your classroom or school. 

Don’t overlook edcamps. If you prefer face-to-face collaboration, edcamps may be your style of networking. These “unconferences” are organized by teachers and are offered in cities all over the world, with sessions chosen based on what participants want to learn or share that day. 
Edcamps usually take place on Saturdays and include enthusiastic and innovative educators who are excited about sharing ideas and leave inspired to make changes in their classrooms. They also offer a great way to strengthen relationships with educators you collaborate with online. 

Visit edcamp.org to find locations in your area. If you don’t see one near you, consider gathering some colleagues to host an edcamp of your own. 

Using Twitter and Voxer as well as attending edcamps has transformed my career by providing me with fresh ideas, inspiration and lifelong friends. And the more than 20 ISTE Professional Learning Networks will help you collaborate on the edtech topics you’re interested in and connect with like-minded educators. 

By breaking out of the bubble of your classroom or school, you’re able to truly understand what’s happening in education around the world and make the best decisions for your students. 

Making the most of the Leader standard 

While the ISTE Standards for Educators’ Learner standard focuses on developing a global network, the Leader standard encourages educators to model for colleagues the identification, exploration, evaluation, curation and adoption of new digital resources and tools for learning. 
If you’ve done any kind of search for classroom resources recently, you know there’s no shortage of educational information and products online. And that’s part of the problem. Evaluating learning materials can be overwhelming, time-consuming and frustrating. With a little organization and direction, however, you can find quality resources quickly and easily. 
Here are a few resources to help you start locating and curating resources: 

Find Feedly. Full disclosure: I’m not an organized person. I was the student who had her desk dumped weekly and had to carefully open my locker so papers wouldn’t cascade out. 
Technology has saved me, and Feedly is one of my favorite tools for organizing and curating online content. With Feedly, you can add any blogs, online magazines or topics that you want to follow, creating a daily feed from all the sites you add. 

You can categorize the sites and save your favorite posts for later, making it easy to stay up to date on educational trends. And everything stays in one place, ready for you to view when it’s convenient for you. 

Leverage your network. Now that you’ve established a network online, this is probably your most valuable resource for finding quality information and tools. Want to know what works for classroom management in a middle school classroom? Ask the question on Voxer or in an edcamp session. Need a resource for communicating with parents? Ask your Twitter friends what they use. My edupals have saved me many times, finding just the right answer to a question or the perfect resource for my classroom or to help a teacher.

Staying current with the learning sciences

ISTE Educator Standard 1.c. encourages teachers to stay current with research that supports improved student learning outcomes, including findings from the learning sciences. It’s no secret that teachers are under scrutiny and constantly evaluated based on choices they make in the classroom. Staying current with research and conducting action research in our classrooms empowers us to not only make the right decisions, but provides evidence to show why we made those decisions.

Here are a few resources to stay up on the learning sciences:

Go to Google Scholar. Google Scholar allows you to narrow your Google search results to journals and other scientific research, making it easier to find articles and educational studies. The searches often link to paid databases, so this is something to consider if you’re looking for free resources. 

Get decision-making help with the NMC Horizon Report. The New Media Consortium (NMC) publishes annual reports discussing current and future trends in education. Similar to Gartner’s Hype Cycles, the NMC Horizon Report offers important information to help educators make decisions about purchases and initiatives in their classrooms and schools. Currently, there’s a Horizon report for K-12 education, higher education, libraries and museums. 

Visit the Office of Educational Technology’s website. The U.S. Department of Education visits schools across the country to determine what’s working and what isn’t. Its website, tech.ed.gov, contains a wealth of research and publications that will help you effectively improve learning with technology in your classroom.  

Read a report on ESSA and the future. The Center for Digital Education produced the “ESSA, Ed Tech, and the Future of Education” report in early 2017 about current practices and the future of Universal Design for Learning (UDL), blended learning, project-based learning and other educational topics. 

By expanding your global network and curated resources, you’re better equipped to begin exploring the other ISTE Standards for Educators. When you’re ready to tackle Standard 5, Designer, by designing differentiated authentic learning opportunities, or to further develop your skills in facilitating authentic tasks with Standard 6, Facilitator, the work will be easier if you reach beyond your classroom walls and remember that you don’t need to do it alone.

Kristin Harrington is a digital support colleague for Flagler County Public Schools in Florida. She’s on the PLN leadership team for the ISTE Learning Spaces Network and is co-moderator of the Twitter chat #fledchat.

Like