Empowered Learner July 2017

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July 2017 Volume one Issue one A quarterly magazine

4 about us

5 iste in action

A new lens on digital citizenship

6 member voices

Teacher empowerment reflected in new Educator Standards

8 interview

ISTE CEO Richard Culatta

15 global focus

Digital Technologies: Australia's answer to discipline-based computer education

26 cover

When AI comes to school

16 feature

Anywhere, anytime school

23 what works

Epic LEGO wall allows anytime tinkering

33 standards spotlight Innovative Designer standard

opens the door to students’ imaginative, creative energy

38 member profile

PLN Leader Marialice Curran

41 take action

Empowering new voices to speak for edtech

44 community voices

What are your favorite sites for student research?



executive editor Julie Phillips Randles

contributors Paula Don Nicole Krueger Gail Marshall Jennifer Snelling

The International Society for Technology in Education (ISTE®) is the premier nonprofit member organization serving educators and education leaders committed to empowering connected learners in a connected world. ISTE serves more than 100,000 education stakeholders throughout the world. ISTE’s innovative offerings include the widely adopted ISTE Standards for learning, teaching and leading in the digital age and a robust suite of professional learning resources, including webinars, online courses, consulting services for schools and districts, books and peer-reviewed journals and publications — as well as the ISTE Conference & Expo — the world’s most comprehensive edtech event. For additional information, please visit iste.org and isteconference.org.

art director Sharon Adlis

Our vision. The vision of ISTE is a world where all learners thrive, achieve and contribute.

director of editorial content Diana Fingal

iste president Mila Thomas Fuller, Ed.D. Assistant Director of Online Learning University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign College of Education iste past president Kecia Ray, Ed.D. Executive Director Center for Digital Education iste chief marketing officer Tracee Aliotti empowered learner advisory panel Trina Davis, associate professor, Texas A&M University, College of Education, College Station, Texas Patricia Brown, instructional technology specialist, Ladue School District, St. Louis, Missouri

Our mission. As the creator and steward of the definitive education technology standards, ISTE’s mission is to empower learners to flourish in a connected world by cultivating a passionate professional learning community, linking educators and partners, leveraging knowledge and expertise, advocating for strategic policies and continually improving learning and teaching. Subscriptions. ISTE members receive Empowered Learner each quarter as a membership benefit. Nonmembers can subscribe to Empowered Learner for $49 per year. To subscribe, please visit iste.org/EmpoweredLearner or contact our customer service department by emailing iste@iste.org or calling 800.336.5191. About Empowered Learner. Empowered Learner ISSN 2573-1807 (print) is published quarterly by the International Society for Technology in Education, 1530 Wilson Boulevard, Arlington, VA 22209, USA. Periodicals postage paid at Portland, Oregon, and at additional mailing office. Send address changes to the ISTE membership department at 621 SW Morrison Street, Suite 800, Portland, OR 97205, USA. Copyright 2017 ISTE. All rights reserved. The contents of this publication may not be reproduced by any means, in whole or in part, without the prior written consent of the publisher. Published July 2017.

Ben Smith, educational technology program specialist, Lincoln Intermediate Unit 12, York, Pennsylvania



Michael Graffin, STEM makerspace and robotics teacher, Iona Presentation Primary School, Perth, Australia

For information on advertising in future issues of Empowered Learner, please email advertise@iste.org.

Adam Phyall, director of technology and media services, Newton County School System, Covington, Georgia

Stay connected iste.org


photo by s te v e smith

Carolyn Sykora on a refreshed definition of digital citizenship.

A new lens on digital citizenship Carolyn Sykora Senior Director, ISTE Standards

Last year’s refresh of the ISTE Standards for Students engaged thousands of educators and elicited many thought-provoking and enlightening conversations. Among the most interesting was the conversation around retooling the Digital Citizen standard. There was near unanimity that digital citizenship remain a key component in the ISTE Standards for Students because it was top of mind for parents, teachers and school leaders. During the refresh process, a new definition of digital citizenship began to emerge – one that was positive and proactive and spoke to students use of technology to make the world a better place. Participants recognized students were doing many good deeds using digital tools like crowd funding to raise money or using social media to mobilize action for causes they cared about. Hence a new definition of “digital citizen” has emerged, with a stronger emphasis on the citizen component: “Digital citizens are PK-12 learners who proactively approach their digital access, participation, and associated rights, accountability and opportunities with empathy, ethics, and a sense of individual, social and civic responsibility.” ISTE’s updated Digital Citizen standard is designed to optimize the digital opportunities available to today’s students. The

three components of the standard address: the student’s digital self (the combination of his online persona and digital record), the student as a digital agent (civic and social responsibility) and the student’s digital interactions (communications and collaborations). The new Digital Citizen standard is a guide for teachers in preparing students to be civic-minded in the digital world, including aspects like developing good judgment and inspiring inventive thinking. Today, students can influence societal norms and manage the effects of digital innovations in society. This level of engagement looks different in different classrooms and with children of different ages. Consider how an elementary teacher might empower his students to establish “Friend Tips” for using classroom online collaboration tools. In a high school career and technical education (CTE) course on the Internet of Things (IoT), a teachable moment may be to consider the tradeoffs of the convenience of sensors with the privacy issues they bring. Taking it further, lessons might brainstorm and engineer sensors into products like an IoT electronic thermometer. With new technologies constantly on the horizon, it’s important to build the

capacity of students to be thoughtful and responsible digital citizens. The new ISTE Standards for Educators challenge us to work with students to establish and reinforce social norms and develop sound judgment. The new standards empower students and build strong citizenship muscles so they are equipped and practiced to face dilemmas online and capitalize on opportunities to make a difference. As part of the Digital Learning Pathways series (istestanardspd.org), ISTE and the Metiri Group have developed a digital citizen course to support the implementation of this important standard in the classroom. Teachers will fully understand this key standard thanks to vignettes of the digital citizen in action, research-based instructional strategies for building the capacity of the digital citizen, rubrics to assess the progress of the digital citizen and online assessments included in the course. Cheryl Lemke, president and CEO of the Metiri Group, also contributed to this column.

Join the ISTE Standards Community: iste.org/ standardscommunity.




photo by mat t roth

Sarah Thomas talks about what teacher empowerment looks like.

Teacher empowerment reflected in new Educator Standards By Sarah Thomas

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. Â



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

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 highquality 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. Transparency

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.

sively 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 count y public schools and a doctoral candidate in education at george mason universit y. she is also the founder of the #edumatch movement, a projec t that empowers educators to make global connections across common areas of interest.


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Active learning

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INTERVIEW Richard Culatta aims to harness the power of ISTE members.

Richard Culatta ISTE CEO shares his vision for ISTE, previews coming attractions By Julie Phillips Randles



ISTE CEO Richard Culatta’s passion for innovation goes back to one of his first jobs when he was putting his degrees in Spanish teaching and educational psychology to work as the director of operations for a school in rural Guatemala. Seeking new ways to bridge generations-old poverty cycles, he developed a plan to use technology to bring new learning opportunities to the students in Chimaltenango, Guatemala. There are pictures of Culatta hanging from power lines in a shirt and tie (he had just finished teaching), pulling cables across the street to connect the school to a makeshift satellite dish – an adventure that led to the first school in the area having access to the internet. And that, in a nutshell, is his approach: roll up the sleeves and get to work. Prior to joining ISTE, Culatta, a longtime ISTE member, served as the chief innovation officer for the state of Rhode Island and the director of the Office of Educational Technology at the U.S. Department of Education. He was also an education policy adviser to U.S. Sen. Patty Murray. During his stint at the Education Department’s Office of Educational Technology, he was at the helm of numerous efforts to expand connectivity to schools across the country, promoted personalized learning and developed the National Education Technology Plan. He also pioneered new ways to involve educators in the process of designing education policy and informing the priorities of the Department of Education. In his most recent role, Culatta focused on developing partnerships to improve opportunities for students, including launching a program to make Rhode Island the first state to offer computer science in every K-12 school. But Culatta began his career in the classroom. After a short time teaching high school, he was called to help redesign the technology component of the teacher preparation program at Brigham Young University. There he prepared preservice teachers to use technology to support student learning. Since then, he has coached educators and national leaders around the world on using technology as a tool to reimagine learning.

photo by james jones

Richard Culatta says ISTE is a network of phenomenal educators designing the future of learning.




We sat down with him to discuss his professional and personal experiences, and his vision for ISTE:

“I worry that too many digital citizenship conversations focus on what not to do, and that’s not very compelling. It’s much more compelling to talk about what we should be doing and how we could be using tech tools to make our communites and the world around us a better place.”

You blogged about your decision to speak Spanish at home even though you and your wife are not native Spanish speakers. Tell us about how that came about.

My wife and I learned Spanish as a second language. I was a high school Spanish teacher for a bit, and we both taught in schools in Latin America, and we decided we wanted our kids to have the benefit of speaking two languages. We read a lot about it, and we wondered if two non-native speakers could pull it off. We decided to give it a try, and somehow it worked. All four of our kids have entered school with Spanish as their first language, which we view as a badge of success. As they get older, their dominant language quickly becomes English, but we still try to speak Spanish at home as much as possible. And we periodically pack them up over summer break and travel to a Spanish-speaking country to enroll them in school for a bit so they can be immersed in the language. It’s rewarding when we see them translating for other kids or adults. What’s your family’s approach to raising good digital citizens?

We try to talk very openly about the impact we have on other people in digital spaces. We talk about what it looks like when you see people treating other people unfairly online and what our role should be in those situations. We have conversations about how people can easily be lulled into saying things in a digital space they would never say face to face. We talk about the things we choose to share with other people online and why. But we try to talk about more than just what not to do online. Being a good digital citizen is also about actively using technology for good purposes. I worry that too many digital citizenship conversations focus on



what not to do, and that’s not very compelling. It’s much more compelling to talk about what we should be doing and how we could be using tech tools to make our communities and the world around us a better place. So in addition to helping our kids recognize the things to watch out for, we encourage them to be leaders in the digital space to encourage other people to use that medium to do good. You’ve discussed your underlying philosophy about ISTE as a membership organization and mentioned that membership is what makes ISTE unique among edtech organizations. Can you tell us more about that?

There are a lot of great education events each year. But events, by their very nature, are ethereal. No matter how great the event is, it ends after a few days. ISTE provides the ongoing engagement for educators in between events. It hosts the network for us to connect and engage during the entire year, no matter where you are in the world. That’s very powerful. Moving forward, we will be thinking about how to use the ISTE network in the most impactful way. For example, I believe that the members of ISTE nationally and internationally can become a powerful platform for problem-solving, for addressing tough issues in education. Whether it’s rating and reviewing education apps, developing best practices for using technology that can be shared more broadly, or doing live or virtual presentations to share knowledge, there are many new opportunities that we’ll be looking to bring to take advantage of our talented members. Tell us about your first ISTE conference. How many ISTE conferences have you attended over the years?

I’ve gone to so many ISTE conferences over the years that it’s hard for me to remember the first one. I started going back when it was

still NECC (the National Educational Computing Conference). In fact, just the other day I was moving things out of my closet and came across an old NECC volunteer T-shirt I got when I was a new teacher. As I transitioned between varying job roles, I always stayed connected to ISTE to have a group of peers and mentors that I wouldn’t lose as my career changed. A lot of times, professional networks are tied to specific jobs – the school you work at, the place you live – and when you transition to a new role that network dissipates. It was great for me as I transitioned from different roles in the education space to have the consistency of always being part of the broader ISTE network no matter where I worked. Years ago, your title at Third Rail Games, an educational games company, was Chief Impatience Officer. You’ve also previously discussed the idea of “thoughtful impatience.” What do you mean by that?

It’s true, I am frustrated by the pace at which we find solutions for challenges in education. I am proud to know many others who share this sense of urgency to improve the lives of the students and teachers we serve, but we can still do better. This is especially true when we consider how much is at stake for those who have the potential to benefit from the solutions we come up with. We can’t become complacent. There are so many great things that are happening in education, but it takes too long to get new tools and opportunities in the hands of students and teachers. And it takes way too long to identify which systems and approaches are effective and which aren’t. So the idea of thoughtful impatience isn’t to make quick decisions without appropriate data. But it’s figuring out how to accelerate the process of getting the right solutions to the right educators and learners much faster. Often, the best way to find the right answer to a tough problem is to just get

Culatta speaks with Sandra Paul from Sayreville Public Schools at an edtech summit in Baltimore, Maryland.

moving. Along the way, you’ll find many of your assumptions were wrong and need to be adjusted. But you will come to answers that you never would have considered if you’d spent all the time planning instead of doing. This approach is known formally as “bias to action.” Start moving forward, taking small steps, and carefully measuring the results. Then quickly make adjustments and take the next step based on what you’re learning. That’s the idea of thoughtful impatience. You were the director of the Office of Educational Technology at the U.S. Department of Education, and more recently the chief innovation officer for the state of Rhode Island. What excites you about your new role as CEO at ISTE?

First and foremost, it’s an organization that I love and that I’ve been a proud member of for years. I love the fact that ISTE is laserfocused on serving teachers and education leaders. I love the diversity of membership – across K-12 and higher ed and from over 130 countries. That’s very exciting to me. I’m a people person. I like engaging with smart people and ISTE’s a whole collection of very smart people doing important work. The other reason I’m excited to join ISTE is that, moving forward, almost every part of the education ecosystem will require some element of technology to enable it.

“ I love the fact that ISTE is laser-focused on serving teachers and education leaders. I love the diversity of membership – across K-12 and higher ed and from over 130 countries. That’s very exciting to me.”




When we think about next-generation learning environments, they are supported by technology. When we think about new forms of assessment, they are enabled by technology. If we think about teacher professional development or rethink how we prepare new teachers to be successful in a very quickly changing field, largely the solutions are going to involve the smart use of technology. When we think about equity, or new learning models, or even the design of new buildings, in every case technology is an enabler. That makes ISTE a critical partner for designing just about every aspect of the education system, because whatever the topic, technology is a core component that enables it all to happen. I love the way our work and our members can cut across these multiple siloed issues in a way that other education organizations may not be able to.

You’re a big advocate of personalized learning and even presented a TED Talk on the subject. What do you think is the biggest barrier to getting educators, schools and districts to adopt personalized learning?

I think there are two main barriers. First, while everyone generally agrees with the concept of personalized learning in the abstract, we need common agreement on what it looks like in practice. Some people hear personalized learning and they think of a kid sitting in front of a computer using adaptive software. That’s not what I think of. I think of learning experiences that are tailored to individual student needs – meaning that the pace of learning can adapt and the approach to learning can adapt. The student has autonomy to make decisions about their learning and use technology to

Culatta and Rhode Island Gov. Gina Raimondo demo video games designed by students from ACE Academy, one of the first schools in Rhode Island to offer computer science to students.



help them become explorers, creators and designers. But if we’re not on the same page about what we mean by personalized learning, it’s very hard to implement. One of the projects my team led when I was in Rhode Island was developing a common statewide vision for personalized learning. The second barrier is that we are just starting to see the creation of the tech tools we need to manage personalized learning. Personalized learning requires tech to manage students moving at different paces, visualize student progress in real time and recommend learning activities based on individual student progress. Without tools to support personalized learning, it can become an exponential burden on teachers. The tools to help manage that process are just becoming available.

Because of the changes that were made several years ago, E-Rate has had a great impact on closing connectivity gaps at school and will continue to do so. Where we need to focus our attention now is improving connectivity gaps at home. That’s something that I was hopeful the FCC would do; they have the levers to do it. But it looks like that may not be on their agenda now, and that’s disheartening. While it is clearly the FCC’s responsibility to ensure equitable access, if they choose to be asleep at the wheel, we will have to look for other creative solutions as a country to make sure students and their families have connectivity at home. While you were at the U.S. Department of Education, your team launched the GoOpen initiative. How did the education department get involved with #GoOpen? Why were they offering increased support for open-licensed resources?

The reason we made open licensing of educational materials a priority was because we heard loud and clear from teachers that they wanted more flexibility in the types of learning materials they could use with their students. I remember when I was teaching, there were times when I would adapt and modify some of the materials we had because they weren’t right for what my students needed. I was told that I had broken international copyright law and I better not adapt any materials again! As an educator, that’s a problem because I was hired to be able to provide the right materials to my students based on their needs. While there are certainly cost savings involved with using open-licensed resources instead of traditional textbooks – I’d love to see the $8 billion we spend on copyrighted textbooks go back to schools to use in other

ways – my real interest in supporting #GoOpen was to empower teachers to jointly create, adapt and reshare content so that it could be much more tailored to the needs of individual students in specific schools. Teachers are the best curriculum designers we have and they should be empowered to adapt and adjust the materials as needed to support their students. If licensing doesn’t allow for that, it’s a problem. What’s the biggest takeaway from your time at the Department of Education and how will it influence your work at ISTE?

The biggest takeaway is how many incredibly smart, dedicated, creative people are working to improve our K-12 and higher ed systems every day. I feel very honored to have had a unique national and international view of some amazing work happening. I felt then, as I do now, that we need to do a much better job of telling the story of all the things that are going incredibly right with education around the world – even as we seek to improve. At the Department of Education, I led the creation of a story archive where we’d go around and capture stories of educators, and in some cases students, that were finding incredibly creative ways to address tough problems and share those more broadly. Another key takeaway from my time at the education department was the value of neutral conveners. When I think about the role the Office of Ed Tech played in leading the ConnectED work around connectivity, or the Future Ready work around preparing future school leaders, what made magic happen was our ability to bring people to the table and build partnerships across organizations. We absolutely did not have all of the answers on my team, yet we got so much done because we were a trusted broker of expertise between dedicated individuals and organizations. That’s a lesson that I won’t quickly forget, and one I’ll continue to use at ISTE.

photo by james jones

In the past few years, the FCC made great gains in bringing connectivity to more students through E-Rate. What are the biggest challenges that lie ahead?

“ I feel very honored to have had a unique national and inter national view of some amazing work happening. I felt then, as I do now, that we need to do a much better job of telling the story of all the things that are going incredibly right with education around the world – even as we seek to improve.” Follow @isteconnects on Twitter.



Empowering students today to create the world of tomorrow. Teaching is about creating, innovating and cultivating curiosity. Find teaching resources to inspire your students to achieve more—online and in person at ISTE 2017. Join the online Microsoft Educator Community at aka.ms/educatorcommunity Learn more about Microsoft Education at www.microsoft.com/education Experience what’s next in Microsoft booth 1700 and session rooms 221A and 221B #MicrosoftEDU 14


GLOBAL FOCUS Jason Zagami on the need to reframe computer education.

Digital Technologies: Australia’s answer to discipline-based computer education By Jason Zagami

Globally, computer education is a focus of many national strategies as awareness grows of the impact of automation and technology. Australia took the opportunity when developing a national curriculum to reframe computer education away from a subset of design and technology to become a distinct discipline – a mandated subject for every child, taught through a 10- to 13-year developmental curriculum. Named Digital Technologies, to differentiate it from information and communication technology (ICT) skill development, the focus is on computational, design and systems thinking, supported by using ICT such as programming languages, robotics and digital systems to create new digital solutions to problems and opportunities. Seymour Papert’s computational thinking develops a dialogue between learner and computer, reframing student understanding of digital technologies and their interaction with programmable technologies. Systems thinking explores this interrelated nature of technology with the world, futures thinking considers the implication of these interactions, and design thinking structures the creation of solutions and innovations. Digital Technologies supports projectbased learning where students explore their interests in solving real-world problems while developing a complex understanding of digital technologies and the capacity to think about the world, and problems, in unique ways. Coupled with strong interest in learning environments, makerspaces and STEM integration, many Australian schools are developing innovative approaches to teaching Digital Technologies.

The challenge is to upskill every specialist computer education teacher to what was expected of senior computer science, and every primary school teacher in the teaching of thinking skills and ICT they’ve never had the opportunity to learn or see modeled during their education, but Australian teachers are engaging positively. To systematically support these reforms, deployments of computer interface, robotics and electronics kits and online professional development programs are occurring in some states. Nationally, the government is supporting a massive open online course (MOOC) and a responsive online coding tutorial system, as well as a national resource repository to gather and share approaches. This need for professional development has redefined Australian ISTE affiliates, coordinated by the Australian Council for Computers in Education (ACCE), to supporting all Australian teachers, not just computer education or ICT specialists. Computer education in the first 11 years of Australian school education now has a firm foundation on which to develop as a discipline, but challenges remain. Female participation in computing remains worryingly low in senior computing, and the hope is that the normalization of computer education throughout schooling will resolve the imbalance. There is also a growing need for reform of the senior computing curriculum. Not every Australian high school currently teaches high-level computing, and we now have a very large pipeline of interested students. They are coming with a complex range of thinking skills, having completed

dozens of computing projects culminating in database-driven websites, artificial intelligence engines and relational information systems, and a comprehensive ICT skill set, including object-oriented programming. Australian students are going to demand much more from our senior computing courses than the current curricula offers, and our next challenge is to meet this expectation, but that is a nice challenge to have.

jason zagami, ph.d., is a lecturer at griffith universit y in queensl and, austr alia, and immediate past president of acce.

Become a member of your local affiliate: iste.org/affiliates.






Anywhere, anytime school Online learning helps schools overcome distance, weather, even war

By Jennifer Snelling ISTE members are familiar with online learning. After all, various combinations of online learning, mobile learning and traditional classroom learning – known as blended learning – are found in almost every school these days, if not every classroom. Whether it involves using Khan Academy to explain a mathematical concept while the teacher walks around offering individual support, having a class work on Starfall for online reading instruction while small groups work directly with the teacher, or sharing a recorded lesson with athletes who will miss class for the big game, online learning has become commonplace. There are many reasons online learning has become so integrated into our classrooms. In one study, 59 percent of teachers who use blended learning say their students are more motivated to learn, and 32 percent say they take more ownership of their own learning. Three in four districts that implement blended learning cite increased student engagement as their primary goal. Some districts employ online learning as a way to serve students who would otherwise not be able to attend school. In rural areas, in schools where resources are scarce, in the event of weather-related school closures, and even during war when it’s unsafe for students to attend school, these districts use online learning to make the impossible, possible. EMPOWERED LEARNER


Anywhere, anytime school

It’s a matter of leveraging the nimble nature of online learning to overcome obstacles, rather than let learning languish. Getting creative to solve a problem

Also, keep in mind that the teacher doesn’t have to be the only source of information. Ask students to add resources they find, incorporate feedback from students and update regularly.



In rural east Texas 10 years ago, Arp Independent School District had 10 Apple 2E computers. The district wanted to update the computers and get online access, but was unable to get a contractor from Houston or Dallas to install the needed underground infrastructure. The district formed a consortium with 27 other rural districts, SUPERNet, and applied for a $250,000 grant to update its infrastructure. Now Arp has more than 1,500 devices and high bandwidth for a population of just more than 800 students. “We didn’t accept the fact that we were small, poor and insignificant,” says ISTE member and Arp’s IT Director Joy Rousseau. The innovation has allowed for collaboration across districts, including a Virtual High School that allows students from within the consortium access to a wider variety of classes, including Spanish, sign language, psychology, business management courses and many AP courses. All of this became possible because Rousseau and the district made a decision to support online learning. In a small district, Rousseau says, you only have one English teacher who may teach English I, II, III and IV. If there isn’t room for a student in that class, the student is out of luck. Or the student has to take that class instead of taking an elective that may only be offered once. Rousseau noticed that much of teaching effort was being wasted because the kids weren’t ready to learn what was being taught. In this part of Texas, being able to remediate or accelerate the lesson was important. Rousseau started putting her lessons online so that kids could review the lesson or skip

ahead to the next one at their own pace. Eventually, she got everyone to do the same. And there are other benefits. Athletes who must skip classes for games can easily find the missed lecture online. Parents don’t have to call a friend to ask for the week’s spelling words or an assignment because it all lives online. If a student needs help with math homework, it’s there, too, for review by the students as well as the parents. Of course, getting an entire course prepped for online access requires some work. Rousseau advises teachers to keep it short, 3- to 4-minute videos on a single concept. Show the steps, add the resources and provide lots of hands-on practice. While students watch, walk around and help address any issues that arise. Also, keep in mind that the teacher doesn’t have to be the only source of information. Ask students to add resources they find, incorporate feedback from students and update regularly. Much like students, teachers and administrators should expect to keep growing when it comes to technology. “There is no comfort zone in technology. It is truly lifelong learning. Rural schools have an awful time getting outside their norm,” says Rousseau. “But if you have a team to help you negotiate change, you’re not standing at the bottom of the mountain all by yourself.” Outsmarting the weather

This year was a particularly harsh winter in much of the country – just the kind of challenge that gets people to problem-solve creatively. That’s what happened three years ago when Pascack Hills Valley Regional High School District in Montvale, New Jersey, decided it was time to give virtual school a try. In February 2014, a snowstorm blanketed New Jersey and the district directed

its 2,000 students to log on to their laptops and receive instruction online. While the state education department did not count it as one of the official 180 instruction days because state law requires school facilities to be open, the district considered the experiment worth repeating. While working on legislation that would count virtual school days as official instruction days, Pascack practiced by holding two more virtual school days, for a total of three. The district opened the school buildings on a non-inclement weather day, but gave teachers and students the option of coming in or working from home. Most of the students stayed home, but in total the attendance was 97 percent, better than a normal school day. The schools operated the schedule as it would on a regular day. Teachers were given the option of running a videoconference at the scheduled time or giving kids an assignment to do from home on their own time. Physical education teachers sent kids outside to shovel snow and measure their heart rate. Social studies teachers used the time to have a live debate on student rights in China. If the district wants the board to count the virtual days as part of their 180 required

days, the district will have to prove it can provide meaningful instruction outside the confines of the brick-and-mortar school. “It was a mix of innovative and traditional,” says Barry Bachenheimer, curriculum director for the district and an ISTE member. “One thing that was helpful is that teachers were already using these skills in the classroom, so they didn’t have to do much different for the virtual day.” For the time being, Pascack has no more virtual days planned unless New Jersey changes the law to count them as part of the 180-day requirement. For districts considering virtual days as a way to avoid missed school due to weather, Bachenheimer has some advice. First, check with your Legislature to find out what the law is. If you already have permission, you will want to set up your plan of action and institute a trial run first. This can even be done on a regular school day. Use devices in the classroom and run the day as if the students were at home. He suggests “blizzard bags” with resources and supplies students might need if they’re unable to attend school the next day. Every student in the Pascack district is issued a MacBook Air and 99 percent of

“There is no comfort zone in technology. It is truly lifelong learning.”



Anywhere, anytime school

the time, but when there is an extenuating circumstance like this, it can really work.” In times of war

Virtual days could also come in handy when there’s an outbreak of illness at the school or an issue with a building.



the district’s students have internet access at home, important to the success of such a project. The state’s requirement that the building be open during virtual days is to accommodate the 1 percent without access. Going forward, says Bachenheimer, the district would consider loaning students WiFi dongles to enable cell services on their school-issued computers. The district also didn’t have to contend with power outages on any of its virtual days. If it had, says Bachenheimer, students would have been allowed extra time to complete learning activities. Students may rather be sledding and building snowmen, but when the snow days start to pile up and the school year is extended into mid-summer, virtual school starts to seem like a good opportunity. Virtual days could also come in handy when there’s an outbreak of illness at the school or an issue with a building. “I see it as a continuum,” Bachenheimer told the NJ Spotlight. “I wouldn’t want it all

A few years ago when the U.S. was preparing to strike and remove Bashar al-Assad from power in Syria, the students at International College in Beirut, Lebanon, were told it was unsafe to attend school and to participate from home through the school’s learning management system, Moodle, instead. ISTE member Mahmud Shihab, head of educational technology at International College in Beirut, says staff were prepared for the disruption because school had been called off before due to unsafe conditions. During the Arab Spring, there were widespread demonstrations and the government disconnected the internet for the whole country, he says. Many international schools in the Middle East, including International College, started hosting their learning management systems in the cloud with a domain name that was not country related so they would have access no matter where they were. “Since 2010, everyone is on Moodle because we don’t know when the disruption can happen,” says Shihab. “It’s an emergency plan, but we use it on a daily basis so we are always ready.” The school holds regular practice days, known as “fire drills,” where the kids stay at home and the teachers come to school. Teachers are also required to have their class information on Moodle. The school provides laptops for teachers, and all the students and parents at the International College have smartphones and connectivity at home. Provided there is electricity and an internet connection, they will have access. “Sometimes in war, you forget about learning, the first thing you think about is

surviving,” says Shihab. “I’m all for readiness, but sometimes it’s an issue of survival.” The potential applications abound

Marissa Young, fourth grade teacher at Pontiac Elementary School in South Carolina and winner of ISTE’s Emerging Leader Award in 2016, points out that online learning can be a real benefit to homebound students or those who are traveling extensively during the school year. Young cites one student from a military family who had to miss a week of school. She connected with him through Google Docs so he could access his station work and she could see his assessments and provide feedback. When he came back, he was right where everyone else was. Like Rousseau, Young warns that teachers have to be prepared to do bulk planning upfront. She recommends find a buddy to do it with you or splitting it with a team of other teachers. Young especially appreciates the differentiation that online learning provides. “Those high-flyers may need a project like

making a video to teach another student,” she says. There is so much available with technology, she says, the problem is not what is possible, it’s making sure they have access. “Across the nation and globally, that’s the piece we have to figure out – how to make this possible for everyone,” she says. “As long as you have access to a device and have a connection, technology can definitely transform.” Online learning is a spectrum and there are many different ways to make it effective. The applications are as numerous as the students who use them and, while we can all learn from each other, it’s best not to try to replicate exactly what another school is doing. The place to start, says ISTE member Michele Eaton, director of virtual and blended learning at MSD of Wayne Township in Indianapolis, is to start with the learning objective. “Teachers need to think about what role a student should have in a classroom, the student agency, what it is students should be autonomous over. How does that change the

role of the teacher?” she says. “At that point, find or create the online content to achieve those goals.” It’s especially important that the curriculum director and the technology director have mutual respect and a good working relationship. “There’s this fear that curriculum people have with nerdy technology people and tech people don’t understand the curriculum vocabulary,” she says. “More than a device, technology is a means to an end to a learning objective that prepares kids for whatever is to come.” In these cases, technology can ensure students have access to school, no matter the situation. jennifer snelling is a freel ancer who writes for a variet y of publications and institutions, including the universit y of oregon. as a mother to elementary and middle school-aged children, she’s a frequent cl assroom volunteer and is active in oregon schools.




This is YOUR magazine. And when we say “your” – we mean your member magazine because you are an ISTE member. Whether you’re a longtime member or just joined when you attended ISTE 2017 in San Antonio, be sure to take advantage of all the benefits to learn and connect. ISTE membership includes: • Ongoing professional development through free webinars, articles and other resources developed by experts and based on the ISTE Standards, plus a free ISTE ebook. • Connections to like-minded educators via more than 20 Professional Learning Networks (PLNs). • A subscription to Empowered Learner, our member magazine. • Professional growth, networking, recognition, leadership and volunteer opportunities. • Discounts on ISTE resources, PD courses and conference registration.

Are you making the most of your ISTE membership? Learn more at iste.org/benefits. 22


WHAT WORKS A glimpse at some edtech success stories.

Epic LEGO wall allows anytime tinkering By Nicole Krueger

What if making wasn’t something students did only at certain times of the day? What if, instead, it was built into the fabric of their lives — or even the very walls of their school? Employees at innovative companies like Google use tinkering to recharge their creativity throughout the workday. Just a few quick moments of making at the office LEGO wall, even in passing, is often enough to hit the reset button. When librarian Diana Rendina decided to create a makerspace at Stewart Middle Magnet School in Tampa, Florida, her students were emphatic about having a dedicated space that would always be available to them. So she adapted Google’s idea, designing an epic LEGO wall where students can stop by and build any time during the school day. “I decided if it’s good enough for Google, it’s good enough for my students,” says Rendina, author of the upcoming ISTE book Reimagining Library Spaces: Transform Your Space on Any Budget. “I wanted it to be the focal point of the makerspace, something that sets the tone that this is a place for creativity.” The wall has been a smashing success. Kids walk into the library and beeline for it. Even if they don’t have much time, they can easily pop in, create and leave with minimal muss and fuss. But the story doesn’t end there. Rendina, an ardent blogger, posted a tutorial to help other educators adapt the idea for their makerspaces. Since then, dozens of educators have used her tutorial to build their own LEGO walls. Why does it work? IT SPANS ALL AGES. Schools of all grade levels, from elementary to high school, have successfully incorporated the idea. Tinkering has no age limit – as Google’s employees can attest.

IT CAN GO ANYWHERE. Since LEGO walls take up minimal real estate, any educator can find the space for one. Some teachers have put up mini-walls outside their classroom doors, while other schools have converted entire hallways. IT’S INFINITELY ADAPTABLE. Inspired by Rendina’s tutorial, educators have added LEGO walls onto the ends of their library bookshelves or even the front of the checkout desk. One school made a portable LEGO wall out of a broken smartboard. “It’s really neat to see how people have made it their own,” Rendina says.

Students explore near space with balloons In the past few years, elementary students from Cherry Creek School District in Colorado have launched all sorts of things into space. They’ve sent up marshmallows to see if they would explode (they didn’t) and sunflower seeds to see if EMPOWERED LEARNER



the radiation would make them grow into sevenfoot-tall Hulk plants (it didn’t). They’ve even collected bacteria from above the jet stream to see if it’s the same as the bacteria on their playground (it wasn’t). Their hypotheses don’t always pan out, but students who participate in the district’s unique STEMfocused after-school program are learning fathoms while exploring near space with balloons. “Our students get to be part of something that seems almost impossible,” says Keli Kinsella, a STEM and innovation coach for the district. “They’re participating in a project that is bigger than themselves. They’re seeing themselves through the eyes of engineers and scientists, and they’re becoming those individuals. It taps into their curiosity and wonder.” Elementary STEM and Innovation Coordinator Jon Pierce got the idea for launching balloons into near space after watching Felix Baumgartner complete a record-breaking jump from a helium-filled balloon more than 128,000 feet above the ground in 2012. “I wondered what it would be like for students to send something to that altitude,” he says. “It became a pretty common experiment among hobbyists and MIT grads, but it wasn’t common among schools.” He pulled together a core team to plan and pilot the project. To show proof of concept, he needed to recruit elementary schools from all areas of the district. After a year of planning and working with students to prepare for the pilot launch, more than 600 students and parents gathered on the football field to send seven balloons the size of smart cars into near space, where they would reach an altitude of about 118,000 feet. “It was the first time ever that seven balloons were launched simultaneously,” he says. “If you launch one balloon, you have to fill out forms and get cleared through the FAA. If you send up seven, it’s like an obstacle course for 747s. We had to speak with air traffic control to clear the air space.” Based on participation alone, the program has been a smashing success. By the second year, the



district had more than doubled its launches. In year three, they sent up nearly two dozen balloons. This year, more than 30 schools are participating in the program for a total of 32 launches, says STEM and Innovation Coach Adrian Neibauer. Why does it work? IT’S DESIGNED AS AN AFTER-SCHOOL PROGRAM. To get schools on board, Pierce knew the program would need to happen outside of school hours. Teachers helped sketch out a series of lab activities to introduce key science and engineering concepts while building up to the launch, but they kept the curriculum flexible. By the third year, half the schools had moved the program into the classroom, and some made it the capstone project to their weather unit. THE WHOLE COMMUNITY GETS INVOLVED. Pierce’s team provides models, coaching and logistical support for schools that participate in the program, but they rely on the enthusiasm of teachers, parents and community members to keep it going. That’s what makes the program both sustainable and scalable. STUDENTS CRAFT THEIR OWN EXPERIMENTS. While the wow factor of space gets students excited about STEM, the program is also firmly grounded in real-world science. After exploring concepts like buoyancy and drag within micro-experiments, students then design their own experiments, make predictions based on their observations, and build prototypes for their launch payload. “The data we’re collecting is so rich and relevant, we’re getting asked by high schools for our data,” Neibauer says. “We’re launching so many balloons over the course of a year that we now have good data set that real scientists can use.” nicole krueger is a freel ance writer and former newspaper reporter. she writes about education technology and the transformation of learning.

Find more strategies that work: iste.org/explore.

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WHEN AI COMES TO SCHOOL Artificial intelligence has infiltrated our lives. Can it improve learning? By Nicole Krueger When third grade teacher Brad Upshaw brought an Amazon Echo into his classroom, students spotted it immediately. Like reporters at a press conference, they swarmed the device and began shouting out questions. “It was plugged in behind my interactive whiteboard,” says the teacher at Los Angeles Unified School District’s Vanalden Avenue Elementary School “It was barely visible under the screen, and students did not know that I had brought it.” Their swiftness in recognizing the artificial intelligence (AI) device – and their fearlessness in interacting with it – were eyeopening. Kids, he believes, are ready for AI. “As it is, whenever the students or myself get stuck needing something answered in class during the day, the students simply sug-

gest, ‘Just ask Siri,’” he says. “I have no doubt that this year’s students, and all that follow, will have no barriers to interacting with AI.” In a way, the AI revolution crept up when most of us weren’t looking. For decades, researchers have been extolling the potential feats of artificial intelligence, but the technology wasn’t there yet. Now it suddenly is. We can talk to our devices and get our questions answered. We have smart homes, smart cars, smart appliances and smart speakers. Algorithms predict what we’ll like, anticipate our behavior and even diagnose our medical conditions – all with frightening accuracy. Artificial intelligence has already infiltrated our lives. It just doesn’t look like we expected.

From schools, however, it remains strangely absent. Machine learning (the technology that allows AI to grow smarter) has enriched nearly every industry, but almost none of those advances have significantly improved education, points out Barbara Kurshan, executive director of Academic Innovation at the University of Pennsylvania. Today’s students can expect to interact with AI both on the job and in their home lives. Yet aside from some isolated experimentation, momentum for AI in the classroom seems to have largely faded. But not for long. In the next year or two, AI is going to explode into K-12 schools, predicts Hall Davidson, senior director of Discovery Education and a member of the ISTE Board of Directors. EMPOWERED LEARNER



“Whether you’re doing it now or not, it absolutely is going to be coming,” Davidson says. “We don’t want educators to be taken by surprise.” Talking to the walls

“ We’re entering a world where conversation with machines is going to be both enlightening and more efficient in many areas.”



Devices like the Echo or the Google Home have launched us into a sci-fi reality where the fastest way to get answers is to simply ask the room. As voice recognition technologies like Siri and Alexa get smarter, looking up information the old way – by launching a web browser and typing in a search term – will soon seem clunky, archaic and unreasonably slow. Davidson sees the potential of voicerecognition AI to support students in reaching higher levels of learning and thinking. By asking intelligent questions and thinking out loud, students can use these devices to gain new insights and propel their explorations. “We’re entering a world where conversation with machines is going to be both enlightening and more efficient in many areas,” he says. “I think it really should be part of the school environment when they walk in the door. We want people to be able turn to the wall and ask questions, and just have it spit out they answer so they can go on with their thinking.” Decades ago, early AI researchers described a technology called a lifelong learning companion that would follow students year after year, getting to know their interests, skills and learning habits and responding with questions or feedback to keep them engaged. It’s coming – but will students be ready to leverage AI as empowered learners? Harnessing the power of Siri to solve problems, build knowledge and guide their own learning prepares them for this future while helping them meet the ISTE Standards for Students.

The ability to interact effectively with voice-activated AI may even become a necessary job skill for many students. A doctor, for example, could find substantial value in conversing with a device that has read every article on a particular medical subject. “A doctor can’t read all that themselves. There’s just no time to do it,” Davidson says. “You can’t replace a doctor with AI, but it would be nice to have somebody sitting there who has read every article in every journal. “If we want kids to be innovative and really master that world, we might as well start them now.” Is AI the new TA?

The best way to teach students how to interact with artificial intelligence is, of course, to model it. Experts describe a not-too-distant future in which teachers will work side by side with AI assistants that will augment their human expertise with real-time, datadriven learning recommendations. One of machine learning’s greatest potential impacts on education is its ability to multiply the intelligence at the teacher’s disposal. “The classroom typically has one intelligence – one teacher – managing 30 kids,” says Lehigh University professor Scott Garrigan, who presented a session on “What to Expect From Artificial Intelligence in K-12” at ISTE 2017. “AI is the first technology that can make the kinds of judgments that we used to need teachers to make. With AI, you have multiple intelligences in the room and multiple sources of judgment.” Adaptive learning programs like Khan Academy allow educators to achieve new levels of personalized learning by using algorithms to assess a student’s knowledge

level, identify gaps and adjust the instruction accordingly. Through a combination of voice recognition and eye tracking, AI can identify who is doing or saying what in a group activity and pinpoint which learners are focusing on which learning resources at any given time. It can make inferences about a student’s learning patterns, interests, emotional state and more – and then it can make decisions based on them. Perhaps even more critically, it can give educators deeper insight into the learning process. Pearson, an education publishing and assessment service, calls artificial intelligence “a powerful tool to open up what is sometimes called the ‘black box of learning,’ giving us deeper, and more finegrained understandings of how learning actually happens.” For example, AI can track the micro-steps students go through to learn a specific subject, such as physics, to help teachers design more effective lesson plans. So far, adaptive learning has been used primarily as a one-on-one tutor. Research suggests these types of intelligent tutoring systems (ITS) can achieve “remarkable increases in student learning over traditional classroom instruction in the real world,” helping students achieve greater competency in a shorter amount of time, says Bill

Ferster, author of Teaching Machines: Learning from the Intersection of Education and Technology. In one study, students using an ITS reached the same level of competency in 20-25 hours of instruction as students who spent more than four years in traditional training. Similarly, researchers found that students who used an algebra I tutor performed 85 percent better on assessments of complex problem-solving skills. In another review, intelligent tutoring systems were associated with higher outcome scores across a wide range of learning conditions. “There’s no question; the research is strong that if designed properly, these intelligent systems can teach kids better and faster than almost any other technique,” Ferster says. That doesn’t mean AI will replace teachers. Like any other technology, it’s only as good as the person using it, and classrooms will always need human brains to orchestrate meaningful learning experiences. But intelligent software can automate a lot of the tasks only teachers used to be able to do, like grading, assessments and classroom management. It can even make decisions about how to arrange student groups to optimize collaborative learning.

“ There’s no question; the research is strong that if designed properly, these intelligent systems can teach kids better and faster than almost any other technique.”




“ AI can make decisions on data so the teacher doesn’t become a bottleneck to the kids’ learning.”



“A teacher has their hands full and cannot meet the needs of every kid in every individual way,” Garrigan says. “AI can make decisions on data so the teacher doesn’t become a bottleneck to the kids’ learning.” Opening the door for AI

What will AI in the classroom ultimately look like? No one knows yet. Right now, “it looks like nothing,” Davidson says. “As we are looking at it now, any integration at all would be a success.” There are obstacles, of course. Parents and teachers alike are often wary of AI in the classroom – it’s only natural, given that the World Economic Forum predicts automation will eliminate at least 5 million jobs worldwide by 2020. Those who do support

it face more practical barriers, like basic classroom design. Since most of the adaptive learning programs available today are designed for one-on-one tutoring, they don’t translate well into the typical classroom environment where one teacher is engaging 30 or more kids at once. “You’ve got an architecture problem in the relationship between students, the teacher and the classroom,” Ferster says. “It’s a challenge for classrooms to use these new technologies because they’re not set up for the whole class. That’s an impediment to any kind of progress.” Adaptive learning makes the most sense in flipped or blended learning environments, where students routinely work independently on connected devices. As

more classrooms transition to these models, we may start to see these technologies applied on a larger scale. Until then, Davidson encourages teachers to start small. With all of the iPhones entering classrooms these days, it’s not hard to weave Siri into a lesson. And it only costs $49 to get a classroom Echo, provided you can get it past your school’s filters to connect to the internet. (That’s one problem Upshaw ran into when hooking up his Echo.) At minimum, teachers can use emerging technologies to teach students how to be savvy consumers of information by experimenting with asking different types of questions exploring the limits of current artificial intelligence. “What we really want is for kids to understand the power of this tool and find ways to use it that we wouldn’t have thought of,” Davidson says. But, he adds, it’s also

important to show them that AI devices “are fools and can be fooled.” Although they’ll get smarter as more people use them, AI apps like Siri or Alexa are still easy to stump. The ability to ask intelligent questions will make a difference in the quality of answers students get back. “A good teacher asks very good questions,” Upshaw says. “The important task for K-12 teachers is to guide students to forming the essential questions for their learning. I’m looking forward to this new partnership between the curious young mind and the interactive databases available.”

“ What we really want is for kids to understand the power of this tool and find ways to use it that we wouldn’t have thought of.”

nicole krueger is a freel ance writer and former newspaper reporter. she writes about education technology and the transformation of learning.



5 surprising facts about AI 1. As of 2015, three in five smartphone users had embraced intelligent voice assistants such as Siri, achieving a tipping point in the adoption of voice-recognition AI, according to MindMeld, a California-based software company. More than half of users rely on them daily or weekly. 2. By 2018, digital assistants will be able to “mimic human conversations, with both listening and speaking, a sense of history, in-the-moment context, tone and the ability to respond,” says Heather Pemberton Levy, vice president of content and publishing for Gartner in New York City. 3. They’ll also make decisions for you. Gartner predicts 40 percent of interactions with virtual assistants will involve pulling data from the cloud – including Facebook, Google and Amazon – and using it to predict your needs and desires. 4. Voice-assistant software is the No. 1 AI app in workplaces, outnumbering big data in overall popularity. Nearly one-third of corporate executives name apps like Siri, Google Assistant and Alexa as the most-used AI tech on the job. 5. Eighty-five percent of customer interactions will be managed without a human by 2020, enabling around-the clock customer support.



STANDARDS SPOTLIGHT Educator Paula Don shares what the ISTE Standards for Students look like in the classroom.

Innovative Designer standard opens the door to students’ imaginative, creative energy By Paula Don

“The world no longer cares how much you know; the world cares about what you can do with what you know.” – Tony Wagner, Innovation Education Fellow, Harvard, 2012 When ISTE released the new Student Standards last year, educators were given a blueprint for a classroom that goes beyond technology in education and facilitates the learning experience that technology enables. The ISTE Standards for Students (iste. org/2016standards) take the focus off the

“next new thing” and put it squarely on the practices we want our students to engage in. The seven standards describe these practices as: Empowered Learner, Digital Citizen, Knowledge Constructor, Innovative Designer, Computational Thinker, Creative Communicator and Global Collaborator. One of those standards, Innovative Designer, challenges us to take some risks and, in doing so, open up the imaginative and creative energy in our students, which is the oxygen of our profession. In allowing students to take on various roles, we encourage them to explore new skills and characteris-

tics that may awaken interests and strengths they didn’t know they had. Let’s take a look at the four indicators under this standard and explore ways educators can address them in their classrooms and schools: 1. Know and use a deliberate design process for generating ideas, testing theories, creating innovative artifacts or solving authentic problems.

According to Stanford University’s d.school, the design process consists of five basic actions: empathize, define, ideate, prototype and test. Students are masters at thinking beyond the obvious. When we let them generate ideas and test their theories, they engage in an iterative and reflective practice. This results in innovative products that show what they have learned. By allowing them to focus their creativity and divergent thinking on problems that have meaning to them, they take ownership, feel a sense of accomplishment and pride, and activate their sense of empathy in identifying their problem. This innovation is happening all over the world. For example, in 2012, 14-year-old Deepika Kurup from of New Hampshire won the Discovery Education 3M Young Scientist Challenge. After seeing children in India drinking dirty water from a stagnant EMPOWERED LEARNER



Level Up Village offers online courses that connect students with peers from around the world in confronting shared challenges.



pool, Kurup decided “to find a solution to the global water crisis.� She then developed a solar-powered water purification system that runs without electricity. Kurup’s idea was sparked by empathy, which is the first step in students taking on their role as Innovative Designers. But how do you develop empathy in students? By exposing students to people from different backgrounds. One resource that does this is Level Up Village, which earned an ISTE Seal of Alignment for Proficiency. Level Up Village offers online courses that connect students with peers from around the world in confronting shared challenges. Students have opportunities to collaborate on solutions, gain global

awareness, and become teachers and learners with others with similar interests. While not using technology as a tool for design, this online community and learning platform provides a learning space for students to engage in the design process. Level Up Courses aligns to three of the four Innovative Designer indicators in how it guides students through the design process by having them identify the problem, collaborate on solutions, and analyze constraints and risks. 2. Select and use digital tools to plan and manage a design process that considers design constraints and calculated risks.


Managing the design process is a complex exercise that starts well before the students begin to create their prototypes and test their designs. Students benefit from exploring their solutions from a variety of perspectives. The second indicator uses some key verbs in helping us understand. Planning is similar to the free-write stage in the writer’s process. It needs to take into account all of the variables that might impact the design. Helping students to recognize constraints and risks anchors the design in real-world contexts. Being able to identify possible problems allows them to think beyond the answer, and they begin to think about their own thinking. Planning can happen with conceptmapping, flowcharts and process maps. Using Google Draw or other online map-

ping programs will help students visualize their solutions, invite feedback and look for points where problems, risks or errors may occur. This is a very important part of the process. 3. Develop, test and refine prototypes as part of a cyclical design process.

This indicator highlights the importance of accepting mistakes as opportunities to make something better, refine a design and expose the impacts and variables that cannot be controlled. When teaching writing, we facilitate a process that includes drafting, revising and publishing in an iterative cycle. When designing in the physical 3D space, we can help students apply the same value of idea, prototype, test, revise, repeat.

When designing in the physical 3D space, we can help students apply the same value of idea, prototype, test, revise, repeat.




Transforming our classrooms into learning spaces where students are able to explore the unknown, follow their curiosities and interests, and awaken hidden talents can be intimidating and chaotic.

Autodesk’s Tinkercad, a free online 3D design program, allows students to test and refine their ideas using 3D modeling and printing software and introduces students to engineering design projects to help them continue to hone their design skills. Makerspaces and Genius Hours are two ways to bring the design process to your classroom. (You can find articles about how to implement them in your classroom in the resource list below). 4. Exhibit a tolerance for ambiguity, perseverance and the capacity to work with open-ended problems.

The final indicator highlights the components that are valuable skills when taking

on any challenge our students will meet as lifelong learners. Transforming our classrooms into learning spaces where students are able to explore the unknown, follow their curiosities and interests, and awaken hidden talents can be intimidating and chaotic. Allowing our students to work with open-ended problems – those with more than one answer – and stick with it to the end (even if the end is not an end) is a perfect bookend to the role of Innovative Designer. How do we create this learning space? There are many ways to do it without technology at the center, but for classrooms that have access to 3D printers, students are able to take their solutions from the theoretical

EMPOWERING EDUCATORS WORLDWIDE Introducing the ISTE Standards for Educators

If you’re ready to guide your students to become empowered learners, the ISTE Standards for Educators are here to help. These new standards aim to deepen your educational practice, promote collaboration with peers around the globe and challenge you to release the reins and let students take control of their learning. Check out the new Educator Standards at iste.org/StandardsForEducators and use them to guide your professional learning goals today!




to the practical, create their artifacts and test them in real life. Tinkercad has a robust library of projects that give students practice with a variety of shapes through guided practice. It also encourages students to “tinker” and create new models that can then be sent to a 3D printer. Tinkercad earned an ISTE Seal of Alignment for the Innovative Designer standard at the readiness level because it provides valuable opportunities for students to be exposed and practice foundation skills for design and solving real-world problems. When we provide learning opportunities for our students that teach empathy, we help them connect with the diversity that is around us. When we give them the tools and

skills to solve shared problems, we empower them to take an active role in their communities and recognize and build upon their inner strength and creativity. Resources

• 8 questions to ask before creating a makerspace: bit.ly/2nogUcU • Student-run genius bar: The facilitator’s guide: bit.ly/2828xFK • 6 Tips for Getting Started with Genius Hour: edut.to/2k9rwti • Seal of Alignment resources aligned to the ISTE Standards: bit.ly/1P3IGEH

iste member paul a don is the director of gifted and talented programs for the school distric t of phil adelphia, having served previously as a director of educational technology.



MEMBER PROFILE Marialice Curran empowers students to take positive action.

Marialice Curran She’s passionate about amplifying student voice By Gail Marshall



An ambassador for student voice, Marialice B.F.X. Curran is the founder of the Digital Citizenship Institute and the Digital Citizenship Summit who has made it her mission to put students at the center of the global conversation about digital media. Curran’s career began as a middle school teacher and principal. “I love it any time I have an opportunity to amplify student voice,” she says. “We learn so much more when we give students and our own children the opportunity to work side by side with us.” She later became an associate professor in the School of Education at the University of Saint Joseph in West Hartford, Connecticut, and credits her students of all ages – as well as her son – with helping her see that creating positive change requires a positive perspective. As a new mother, she saw the need to help students learn how to humanize the person next to them, around the world and across the screen. In fall 2011, while working as a college professor, she created the positive culture she wanted to be a part of, connecting college freshman in Connecticut with high school juniors in Birmingham, Alabama, to collaborate on the iCitizen project with the idea that “one person has the ability to make a difference.”

That one person, she says, becomes many and over time creates what so many have said can’t be done – empowered students who take positive action both on and offline. Today, she and her 10-year-old son, Curran Dee, are doubly committed to teaching the power of positive social media. After accompanying her on a string of talks about digital citizenship, her son surveyed the speakers and noticed that all of them were in high school or adults. “Why am I the youngest kid here?” he asked his mom. “Why does everybody wait until high school to talk to kids? Elementary kids have a lot to say, why aren’t they asking us?” From a kid’s mouth to Mom’s ears. This is was just the beginning of DigCitKids, a digital citizenship program for kids by kids that the fourth grader started last year. The dynamic duo now travels around the world modeling the positive digital citizenship message. They speak about the need to practice empathy and a willingness to listen to and learn about others’ stories, to see and feel our shared humanity. Curran’s energy and optimism comes largely because she had to fight back against a learning disability and early messages from others that she wasn’t cut out for success in school. She went



photos by jane shauck

Marialice Curran says we should ask ourselves daily how we can work together to use technology to help others through positive digital and in-person experiences.


“ We need you; we need your voice to be part of a movement to learn together how we can use tech for good.”



on to prove the naysayers wrong and got a Ph.D. from Boston College. That taught her to focus on what people can do, rather than what they cannot do. Those who know her will say that her enthusiasm is contagious, and it’s part of what makes her a speaker and trainer in high demand near and far. “Everybody has a story. Everyone has gifts and talents and it is our responsibility to bring those out. Take the time to understand, to learn with and create with your students. Ask yourself every day: How can we work together to use technology to help others through positive digital and in-person experiences?” On a recent morning, her top-of-mind activities were global: She is teaming up with minor league baseball to do a Digital Citizenship Summit for the community. She is traveling to Nigeria in July with her son to speak. In September, there are Summits in Australia and Ireland, and in October, Kenya and Mexico. The annual national Digital Citizenship Summit with be in Utah, a two-day event with a student showcase.

Her goal is to connect people. “Everybody has a story, they just need an invitation to tell it,” she says. “We need you; we need your voice to be part of a movement to learn together how we can use tech for good.” Her hope now is that people of all ages will join this conversation and movement to think and act differently. gail marshall is a writer and editor for the fresno bee, a major metropolitan newspaper in california. she also owns and oper ates a freelance business, marshall arts communications consultants.


photo by l aur a wilcox

Susan Meyer wants to ensure edtech gets the support it needs.

Empowering new voices to speak for edtech Susan Meyer Communications Specialist TCEA, an ISTE affiliate

Supporting technology in education is incredibly important to give students the skills they need to thrive in an increasingly technologydriven world. This support has to happen far beyond the walls of the classroom or school, and even the boundaries of the district. Advocacy at the state and local levels are a vital component in ensuring that technology in education receives the backing necessary to meet the growing needs of digital age learners. This advocacy can’t just come from trained lobbyists. The voices of educators working in the field are an invaluable addition to the cause. Last February, as part of the 2017 Texas Computer Education Association (TCEA) Convention & Exposition, 60 educators participated in Educational Technology Day at the Capitol. These educators went to the Texas State Capitol to meet one on one with 51 representatives. In the meetings, they had the opportunity to put a face with a name and get a better understanding of who is representing their interests at the state level. David Myers, a teacher at Carthage Junior High School, described the event as “eye-opening.” He met with both his representative and someone from his senator’s office. “People ask you to write letters and phone calls, but I always thought there’s no way that will make any kind of difference,” said Myers. But watching administrative assistants in the representative’s office tallying letters and phone calls on particular bills gave him new appreciation and respect for the process and his role in it. He says he has already written three letters to his representatives since returning home. Educational Technology Day helped educators like Myers develop more confidence in reaching out to their representatives. During their visits, they also had the chance to exercise their advo-

cacy muscles by lending their support to bills before the Legislature, including some that support technology in education. Three of these bills concern increasing access to computer science education; two provide weighted funding for districts with more students enrolled in computer science classes; and the third provides funding to increase the number of teachers certified to teach computer science. Decisions on these bills and others made inside the walls of the Capitol will have far-reaching implications in classrooms throughout the state. Hearing directly from their constituents – and specifically from educators who are passionate about technology education and who see its results firsthand – has an impact on how lawmakers vote and the support that they lend to different bills. Even if you can’t visit representatives in your state in person, you can still write or call their offices to offer your support on relevant bills. Do some research, keep abreast of the issues affecting edtech, then look up the representatives in your area and encourage them to stand up for edtech funding. By advocating for edtech, you’re pursuing one more way to transform education for your students. Learn more about how to lend your voice to edtech policy at iste.org/advocacy.



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COMMUNITY VOICES ISTE members share a few of their favorite things.

What are your favorite sites for student research? Wolfram Alpha (wolframalpha.com) This site is useful for students 12 and older to investigate and find data to support a project they are working on. Working in an IB school, our grade 5 students have a big project, the “Exhibition.” Wolfram Alpha allows them to browse for relevant and accurate content to illustrate their work. Students can either search from a topics list or by entering keywords or a question. It helps them develop research skills and focus on what they really need for their project instead of being overwhelmed by a simple Google Search. Fanny Passeport, tech integrator Mercedes-Benz International School, Pune, India

Wikimedia Commons (commons. wikimedia.org), Creative Commons (creativecommons.org) As a digital literacy teacher, I teach responsible use of creative materials from the internet. Learning about copyright, public domain and Creative Commons licenses is key. And while I do teach about the filters they can use on Google or Bing search engines, I find that Wikimedia Commons and Creative Commons both make it much easier for students to find and understand licenses on images. I use these sites for grades 9-12. Alyssa Tormala, digital literacy teacher St. Mary’s Academy, Portland, Oregon

Elementary Links (weldelementarylinks.weebly.com) This site was created for use by students and staff for safe, quick links to information. So much time is wasted by trying to filter through all the returns on a Google search. This site allows users to narrow topics to content areas and be assured that sites are kid-friendly. This site is for K-5 students. There is also a link to another site for grades 6-12. Denise Blevins, retired educator Greeley, Colorado



Class Dojo (classdojo.com) Smithsonian Learning Lab (learninglab.si.edu) Smithsonian Learning Lab has hundreds of historical artifacts, art and other resources on various topics that can be saved into collections for further study. It is free and is designed for use in education. This site is great for K-12 in all content areas. Mary Mehsikomer, technology integration development and outreach facilitator TIES, Minneapolis, Minnesota

From growth mindset, to perseverance, to empathy, ClassDojo’s Big Ideas Series has helped increase my students motivation naturally. I simply play the videos for my students without providing any background information and ask for them to share their thoughts. After watching, they are able to point out the positive takeaways from the videos and can’t wait to watch the next video. I can immediately recognize the maturity of the children and their increase in motivation. I’ve also received positive feedback from parents at home who were so happy to see the shift in their children’s mindset. Nam Ngo Thanh, fifth grade teacher Vietnam Australia International School, Ho Chi Minh City, Vietnam

ABC-Clio (abc-clio.com); Global Issues in Context (solutions.cengage.com/InContext/Global-Issues/) These are reputable databases that my school subscribes to. I often have my students use these sources to help them hone the skills needed in order to navigate scholarly articles. Additionally, these sources work in conjunction with our “Ravens OneSearch” feature on the Ravenscroft Library/Technology Center webpage. Wes Brown, sixth grade teacher Ravenscroft School, Raleigh, North Carolina

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