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Know the ISTE Standards for Students, Standard 2: Communication and Collaboration

By Talbot Bielefeldt 8/7/2014

Are your lessons addressing the ISTE Standards for Students? Often that’s up for interpretation. In this second installment of Know the ISTE Standards for Students, we focus on Standard 2, with examples of how an observer or lesson designer might assess the indicators of communication and collaboration.

In each of the classroom activities described in the table below, the teacher assigns students the task of presenting a book report using technology. However, whether or not the lesson addresses Standard 2, including all of its indicators, depends on the choices the teacher makes when giving the assignment.

Standard 2: Communication and collaboration. Students use digital media and environments to communicate and work collaboratively, including at a distance, to support individual learning and contribute to the learning of others. Activity 1: Students are assigned to do an electronic book report in presentation software using a template the teacher posts online for submission through individual student folders. Activity 2: Students work in teams to do a group book report on one aspect of an assigned text, creating a digital slide show from the teacher’s template that they will present to the class. Activity 3: Students work in teams to select a favorite book they will introduce to students in another country using the most appropriate digital media and communication tools.
a. Interact, collaborate and publish with peers, experts or others employing a variety
of digital environments and media.
Absent: The presentation template and online submission are efficient uses of technology, but from what we can tell from the description, the assignment does not involve collaboration or any decisions about communication skills or media. Addresses: The crucial difference from Activity 1 is that this assignment requires the students to collaborate on creating the presentation. Addresses: Not only do the students have to collaborate around a digital medium, they also have to select technology to publish their work to a remote audience.
b. Communicate information and ideas effectively to multiple audiences using a variety of media and formats. Absent: The students do not get to consider issues of either media or audience. In observing an actual lesson, we might find that the teacher incorporated this indicator into the report template or into the activity instructions. Absent: Although this indicator is absent as the lesson is written, in practice, many teachers who give this assignment explicitly require students to convey both their knowledge (for the teacher) and a critique that will be relevant to their peers. Addresses: Besides the media aspects of the project, the students have to consider how to connect with both adults and peers in a different culture.
c. Develop cultural understanding and global awareness by engaging with learners of other cultures. Absent: Obviously, the book might have to do with cultural understanding, but remember this indicator is in the context of communication. The lesson does not engage with learners in other cultures. Absent: Again, the lesson does not engage with learners in other cultures. Addresses: The students have to consider how students in another country will perceive their creation.
d. Contribute to project teams to produce original works or solve problems. Absent: The activity is individual. The template might challenge the students with meaningful problems, but that is covered under another standard. Addresses: The students are working in teams. However, if the template turns out to be very rigid or unengaging, a critical observer might question whether the assignment encourages original work or problem solving. Addresses: Students have at least three explicit collaborative tasks: Selecting the content, selecting the medium and working together to create the presentation.


When you break each standard down into its indicators, you can begin to analyze an assignment or lesson piece by piece. As you can see in the table, indicators under each of the ISTE Standards for Students often have multiple attributes of their own to consider. Standard 2 has two attributes under each indicator:

  • Indicator 2a involves both collaboration and media.
  • Indicator 2b involves not only communication with technology, but also consideration of audience.
  • Indicator 2c involves not just encountering information about other cultures, but some kind of communication with those cultures as well.
  • Indicator 2d is more than just classroom grouping. The teams are convened around creative or problem-based activities.

Identifying an indicator in a lesson or observation often hinges on whether both attributes appear and whether they appear in a way that relates to the particular standard. For instance, presentation software skills are useful, but technology skills as such are already covered under Standard 6: Technology Operations and Concepts. Standard 2 has to do with communication skills.

The indicators are not supposed to be redundant, even though some of their attributes overlap. Some observers mark every indicator that mentions digital tools as addressed if students use any digital tools. But this obscures opportunities for improvement because they are inaccurately recognizing some attributes that are absent. Careful use of the indicators both documents student achievement and identifies ways to improve the learning experience.

Note that none of these indicators is marked as met. That is typical. Independently demonstrating the knowledge and skill described in an indicator is difficult to do outside of a capstone project or work sample.

Talbot Bielefeldt has evaluated educational technology programs since 1995. His company, Clearwater Program Evaluation, provides evaluation services to school districts and universities nationwide. He participated in the development of the ISTE Classroom Observation Tool and offers training in evaluation techniques.

A version of this column appeared in the September/October 2013 edition of Learning & Leading with Technology.
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