Skip to main content

«  View All Posts

Business Education | Career Readiness | Computer Applications | Digital Citizenship

What Are ISTE Standards? (And Why Do They Matter?)

December 20th, 2021 | 21 min. read

Print/Save as PDF

The International Society for Technology in Education (ISTE) is the foremost organization in teaching technology in the classroom.

As a result, the ISTE has more than a dozen quality standards for how students, teachers, administrators, coaches, and computer educators should approach technology in the classroom.

In total, there are 29 ISTE standards that apply to these five groups. 

We’ll cover each of those standards on this page. We’ll also talk about how you can meet those standards for the best possible results.

Video: What Are ISTE Standards?

First, we’ll look at the most important group — students.

Group #1. ISTE Standards for Students


It may sound strange to have ISTE standards for students, but education is a two-way street. Students need to be receptive to an education if they’re actually going to learn.

With that in mind, the ISTE has established seven key standards for students to follow.

ISTE student standards are:

  1. Empowered learner
  2. Digital citizen
  3. Knowledge constructor
  4. Innovative designer
  5. Computational thinker
  6. Creative communicator
  7. Global collaborator

They also cover these standards in a fun music video.

Let’s break these standards down a bit further.

1. Empowered Learner

The empowered learner standard requires students to take an active part in their education.

To fulfill this standard, students need to:

  • Achieve competency in learning goals
  • Demonstrate competency in learning goals

These tenets are fulfilled when students set up individual learning goals and customize their learning environments to achieve those goals.

Then, students get feedback on what they’ve done. That lets them refine their goals and environment to achieve the best results.

Finally, students show that they understand the fundamental principles of modern technology and how to troubleshoot it for common problems. They also show that they can apply these concepts to emerging technologies so they can stay at the forefront of the technology industry.

2. Digital Citizen

ISTE standards require every student to be a good digital citizen.

This means understanding the rights and responsibilities that go along with using modern technology.

Beyond that, it requires students to act ethically, legally, and safely online.

It’s crucial for students to understand how their personal information works online, not to mention who has access to it.

That helps them contextualize the modern world and how it works, particularly when people reference “big data,” “data mining,” and hacking.

By fulfilling these criteria, students can understand the unseen factors that affect their lives every day.

3. Knowledge Constructor

ISTE’s knowledge constructor standard requires students to understand and contextualize information online.

This is important since the Internet has started an age of hyper-information, where it’s all but impossible to keep up with world events using traditional methods.

There’s also a shocking amount of misinformation (intentional or accidental) in the world that makes its way online every day.

As a result, students need to know what reliable information looks like and where they can find it.

By self-qualifying data, reports, and connections, students can better understand what’s happening in the world and how they can fit into it.

Students do this by learning about accuracy, perspective, bias, relevance, reliability, credibility, and conclusion-based reasoning.

In other words, this tenet requires students to learn critical thinking and apply it to 21st Century technology.

4. Innovative Designer

To be an innovative designer, students must understand the basics of problem-solving.

This is similar to what we discussed earlier with troubleshooting, but it takes that principle to the next level.

It also requires students to learn solution design, meaning they have to diagnose problems, prescribe solutions, and even make those solutions with digital tools.

By taking this approach to learning, students acquire a taste for answering open-ended problems, supporting their designs, and refining those designs for the best possible solutions.  

5. Computational Thinker

To be a computational thinker, ISTE says students must be able to create and employ strategies for solving problems that use technology.

This thinking requires students to become familiar with data collection, data analysis, algorithmic thinking, and data representation.

It also encourages students to break problems down into component parts, allowing them to better understand a specific issue.

Finally, students learn about automation and the importance of turning step-by-step tasks into machine-run innovations.

As you can see, computational thinking emphasizes efficiency above almost any other quality.

That’s because efficiency can make or break a career in today’s job market. Students who understand the value of efficiency can succeed better both in and out of the work place.

6. Creative Communicator

A creative communicator expresses themselves clearly and concisely through digital media.

This is important for ISTE students because they’re around digital media all the time. As a result, it’s crucial that they understand how to use that media to its fullest potential.

Students learn about digital tools that can help them communicate, along with creating original materials that visualize their ideas.

Students also must know how to responsibly repurpose digital resources for their own uses with the use of models or simulations.

Most importantly, students must be able to follow through with the final step of publishing and presenting their ideas to the niche audience they want to reach. 

This makes the “creative communicator” requirement pretty open-ended, as each student will probably create a unique idea to communicate.

But when they understand the tools available to them, students can express themselves digitally in ways that are otherwise impossible.

7. Global Collaborator

To become a global collaborator, students have to understand how their perspectives are different from others’ and work together to achieve a common goal.

Students have to know how to do this on two levels:

  1. Locally
  2. Globally

In both scenarios, students work with digital tools to broaden their horizons. They work constructively in teams to achieve mutual interests while maintain a positive, helpful outlook.

They also incorporate their knowledge of digital tools to create new solutions to different issues, both online and offline.

After exhibiting this quality, students achieve compliance with ISTE standards.

They’re ready to learn.

Group #2. ISTE Standards for Teachers


ISTE teacher standards hold technology educators to high requirements.

These standards prepare teachers to teach technology and advanced concepts in the classroom.

It also encourages teachers to communicate with one another for better ideas on how to engage their students.

Overall, ISTE-compliant teachers take an active, innovative role in the education process to help students learn more effectively.

The ISTE standards for teachers are broken into seven roles that a teacher must fulfill. These standards are:

  1. Learner
  2. Leader
  3. Citizen
  4. Collaborator
  5. Designer
  6. Facilitator
  7. Analyst

This is how teachers can adhere to ISTE standards.

1. Learner


To be effective educators, each teacher must also know how to be a learner.

That means teachers have to learn from and with others in their field to utilize the full potential of technology in the classroom.

It also means setting professional goals, pursuing interests in learning networks, and staying up-to-date with research in education.

As learning sciences advance, teachers must advance as well. That way, students constantly get the best education possible for them, and teachers can rest assured knowing they’re preparing their students for a highly-advanced world.

2. Leader

Teachers are leaders, and nowhere is this more appropriate than in the classroom.

To be ISTE compliant, teachers must continually search for opportunities to improve themselves and their classrooms.

They share a vision for the class with their students, and they actively shape that vision as the class continues.

They play to that vision with technology, encouraging their students to use technology to join in the learning process.

Digital content, educational devices, and cutting-edge learning theory are all crucial to a teacher acting as an ISTE-compliant leader.

Most importantly, these teachers are pacesetters for their colleagues, taking the helm on identifying, evaluating, and adopting new technology to improve students’ learning. 

3. Citizen

A good ISTE teacher is also a great citizen.

Chiefly that means teachers regularly inspire students to act responsibly as they participate in the world — especially the digital world.

Part of that requires teachers to help students build and learn empathy, empowering them to put themselves in others’ shoes even online.

That promotes community-building among learners, especially as they become more curious of the digital world and learn digital literacy.

This ISTE standard also requires teachers to teach safe, legal, and ethical use of digital tools. That includes the basics of intellectual property and the rights that go along with it.

Last, teachers help students responsibly manage their personal data to keep it as safe as possible.

Overall, this requirement means teachers act as a role model that demonstrates responsible, intelligent use of digital resources.

4. Collaborator


To become ISTE-approved, a teacher has to demonstrate that they’re a collaborator with both colleagues and students.

“Collaboration” in this context means meeting with those who have an impact on education. So teachers should swap ideas with one another and apply those ideas to their students to enhance the learning experience.

But teachers can also take a place alongside students in a learning capacity. In this context, teachers learn with students as they discover new digital resources, problems, and solutions.

That also requires using online tools to work with (and grade) students as they progress through lessons.

Finally, it requires teachers to show cultural competency when meeting with students, parents, and teachers.

In a nutshell, teachers have to stay up-to-date with all of the important people in their professions — students, parents, and each other.

5. Designer

Becoming a designer requires a teacher to understand and implement learning-oriented environments to accommodate students at different learning levels. 

This means teachers have to understand and implement individualized education plans, or IEPs.

It also means teachers need to know what learning activities work with their students to maximize active and deep learning.

Last, teachers must know how to apply instructional principles to their designs in order to get the best possible results for their students.

All of this requires the use of digital tools. While that may seem like a tall order for a teacher who isn’t tech-savvy, it’s essential as technology becomes a ubiquitous part of students’ lives. 

6. Facilitator

A teacher is considered a facilitator when they actively support student achievements.

To become a facilitator, teachers start by creating a classroom culture that places learning responsibility on the student both individually and together.

Teachers also have to manage the use of technology on digital platforms to ensure students use them for their intended purposes.

Along with that, teachers innovate new learning challenges through design and computational thinking to promote a problem-solving mentality in the classroom.

Finally, teachers consistently nurture, encourage, and promote creativity to promote individuality in the classroom.

All in all, this helps students become self-reliant, critical-thinking individuals who learn how to adapt to wide range problems instead of simply learning how to solve a specific problem.  

7. Analyst

Close-up of businesswoman drawing business graph on whiteboard in the office.jpeg

The final ISTE standard for teachers is called analyst. It requires teachers to learn, understand, and apply data to students’ goals.

Teachers use that data to find alternative ways for students to succeed, ensuring individual students can play to their strengths instead of struggling along a single learning pathway.

Teachers gather this data using formative and summative assessments to figure out how they can better work with individual students or revamp a curriculum for a whole course.

Then, teachers discuss that data with students and parents to encourage self-direction and individuality among learners.

All told, ISTE standards for teachers require that they take an active-yet-restrained role in student learning. The results are adaptive, intelligent students who can adapt to a wide genre of problems instead of solving specific problems with the same solution every time they find it.

Group #3. ISTE Standards for Administrators


For ISTE, it’s not enough to lay out standards for students and teachers.

If a school is going to truly succeed, everyone involved in the educational process needs to be involved — and that applies to administrators as well.

ISTE administrator standards include:

  1. Visionary leadership
  2. Digital age learning culture
  3. Excellence in professional practice
  4. Systemic improvement
  5. Digital citizenship

So how can administrators adhere to these five ISTE standards?

1. Visionary Leadership

The first major quality of an ISTE-approved administrator is visionary leadership.

This level of leadership requires dedication and commitment on a large scale.

Administrators have to conceive and facilitate a crucial goal — their vision — so their school can become a better educational institution.

They also have to take an ongoing role in creating, implementing, and communicating strategic plans that apply to their vision.

Last, administrators have to be evangelists for their schools and any applicable public policy that helps it succeed.

That includes funding, technology, and other supplies that help students learn. 

An ISTE administrator must take the reins of their institution and become an influential leader. Without that influence and vision, they won’t be able to adhere to the remaining ISTE standards. 

2. Digital Age Learning Culture

Next, it’s important for administrators to take part in the digital age learning culture.

This means administrators create a learning culture that encourages student engagement and active learning.

This culture is also based on technology so students get consistent exposure to the digital tools they need to succeed.

Next, administrators have to provide teachers with learning environments that can adapt to a diverse range of needs students may have. This plays a major role in a teacher’s ability to succeed, especially with IEP students.

Administrators also have to implement technology across their curriculum to ensure all teachers (and other administrators) are on the same page in terms of resources and procedures.

Last, administrators that meet this standard will take part in the administrator community on a local, national, and global scale via the use of technology.

In essence, this makes administrators use technology just as much as teachers and students.

That means all three groups are unified in terms of what they’re doing, why they’re doing it, and how well it’s working.

That consistency and communication is exceptionally important, especially for the next standard.

3. Excellence in Professional Practice

To fully adhere to ISTE standards, administrators must exhibit excellent in their professional practice.

This excellence is defined by the amount of time, resources, and access that administrators dedicate to their own growth in tech literacy.

Next, administrators have to initiate and participate in communities that let them refine their professional edge. This allows them to bring modern ideas to their schools to teach more effectively.

It’s also important for administrators to be the model of strong communication in their organizations. This concept pivots on the use of digital tools, especially tools that allow for collaboration.

Last, the best administrators stay up-to-date on emerging trends in technology and education. This keeps them in the loop, and it allows them to invent new ideas to take their schools to the next levels. 

4. Systemic Improvement

To become ISTE compliant, administrators must demonstrate systemic improvement in their organizations. 

First, an administrator has to affect meaningful change that impacts the use of technology in their organization.

They also have to establish metrics, data, and analytic standards to improve education and learning.

From a human resources standpoint, ISTE-compliant administrators must earn and retain highly-talented educators who understand technology, especially when it’s applied to classrooms.

business checklist.jpeg

Along with that, administrators have to establish and maintain strategic partnerships that assist in an organization’s improvement.

Last, they have to establish an infrastructure that’s conducive to technology-assisted learning. That includes everything from structural renovations to utility consistency.

In general, meeting this standard often means going above and beyond for an administrator.

But when someone reaches this standard, an administrator can grow their school by leaps and bounds.

5. Digital Citizenship

The last quality an administrator must exhibit is digital citizenship.

This quality is defined by a deep understanding of the digital age’s underlying social, ethical, and legal issues.

Administrators who want to meet this standard have to ensure access to digital tools for every student, regardless of that student’s grades, background, or school status.

In addition, administrators have to establish policies for the proper use of their institution’s technology to keep students and teachers safe.

The best administrators will also take it upon themselves to lead by example, showcasing ethical and professional use of social technology.

Finally, administrators facilitate cross-cultural and global understanding in their whole organization. That includes global issues, contemporary communications, and media literacy.

Overall, an administrator who wants to meet all ISTE standards is the cream of the crop in education.

They’re attentive, clever, empathetic, and ambitious all at the same time.

That’s not easy — but it improves every student’s learning experience.

In the end, that’s what all administrators shoot to achieve. 

Group #4. ISTE Standards for Technology Coaches


While some educational institutions only set standards for students, teachers, and administrators, ISTE goes a step further.

They also have ISTE standards for technology coaches.

These coaches could have any number of job titles at a school — “tech support,” “IT,” “networking,” and more.

But all technology coaches act as a hybrid of administrators and teachers. They actively participate in a school by acting as a thought leader, but they’re also responsible for instilling values and life skills through the use of technology.

Beyond that, ISTE standards demand that coaches keep up with the latest trends and advancements in education tech.

Coach ISTE standards are:

  1. Visionary leadership
  2. Teaching, learning, and assessments
  3. Digital age learning environments
  4. Professional development and program evaluation
  5. Digital citizenship
  6. Content knowledge and professional growth

So how do these six standards apply to coaches?

1. Visionary Leadership

Visionary leadership is the first major standard for ISTE coaches. It emphasizes a coach’s ability to inspire and share a vision to integrate technology to improve a coaching style.leaders.jpeg

This requires coaches to develop, communicate, and implement their vision to support a positive learning environment.

It’s also important for coaches to evaluate the strategies they have for their coaching style and see where technology fits best.

ISTE coaches should also advocate for technology in schools, partnering with teachers and administrators to make schools as streamlined as possible.

Last, coaches are responsible for the initiation and maintenance of technology processes in the classroom.

Altogether, this places coaches at the forefront of educational technology.

2. Teaching, Learning, and Assessments

To be ISTE-compliant, coaches also have to take part in teaching, learning, and assessments.

First, that requires coaches to implement technology and standards in classrooms alongside teachers.

It also means teachers have to design systems and processes to help students succeed, complete with digital tools.

Technology coaches also show teachers how to engage students in a range of different subjects. That includes instructional strategies, assessment tools, and other digital methods.

Coaches are also responsible for enhancing the overall learning experience for both teachers and students. This requires a lot of critical thinking, problem identification, metacognition, and other processes that are difficult to turn into effective habits.

In a broader sense, ISTE requires coaches to change systems on a dime as needed to fix problems.

They’re also walking models of best practices and learning experiences, using themselves as the example to demonstrate improvements in an organization.

Coaches are the pinnacle of research-based instructional design too, empowering them to enhance all aspects of education with technology.

They’re also the primary resource for how (and why) to use a technology in a certain context. This makes coaches responsible for technological literacy throughout an organization, including students, teachers, and administrators.

Last, coaches collect and analyze data as needed to refine the educational process of their institution.

Altogether, coaches share the same goals as teachers and administrators — to maximize learning.

But their deeper knowledge of information technology makes them responsible for setting up key networks in an institution and training others on how to use them.

3. Digital Age Learning Environments


Coaches are also required to create and support learning environments throughout their organization.

First and foremost, this means coaches have to model effective classroom management through the use of digital tools.

They also maintain and manage those tools so teachers and students can use them on demand.

Coaches have to keep teachers up-to-date with blended learning strategies too, especially when it comes to forging a learning environment that works well.

Then, coaches have to evaluate and facilitate the use of additional technologies to make learning seamless for students. That may include coding, subscribing to new software, or installing new hardware.

Along with that, it’s important for coaches to troubleshoot that equipment to keep it in constant working condition.

They need to get teacher opinions on what will help in the classroom, run those ideas past administrators, and work with both groups to ensure productive conversation.

Last, coaches need to keep up with the global technology community by actively learning themselves. It’s crucial that they keep in touch with other coaches, teachers, and even PTAs (where applicable) to understand how they can improve their own schools.

4. Professional Development and Program Evaluation

It’s imperative for technology coaches to engage in professional development and program evaluation every day to ensure they’re at the forefront of technology in education.

This first means coaches have to assess content, delivery, and digital infrastructure to have the most positive impact on student learning as they possibly can.

They also need to develop and implement professional learning programs that incorporate rich media, enabling students to interact with the resources they use in classrooms.

Third, coaches evaluate the results of each system they establish using data. This requires them to keep tabs on teachers in a helpful context so that they can provide everything students need to learn.

5. Digital Citizenship


Like students, teachers, and administrators, it’s crucial for coaches to demonstrate good digital citizenship in their everyday life.

This means coaches strive for equitable access to technology resources so students learn from the same level playing field.

They also act as role models for healthy, safe, and responsible behavior online.

Last, coaches promote diversity in everything from thought processes to culture, encouraging those around them to participate in global communities and learn from one another.  

6. Content Knowledge and Professional Growth

The last ISTE standard for coaches is to demonstrate their content knowledge and professional growth.

This standard requires coaches to constantly advance their own careers and educational knowledge through emerging technology. It’s especially important that they support students and teachers as they strive for ISTE compliance.

Coaches should also always learn themselves, just like students. This keeps coaches sharp, insightful, and critical in their everyday work.

Last, coaches must reflect and evaluate their professional strengths and weaknesses to act better in their role as an educational supporter.  

With all of these standards fulfilled, technology coaches that are compliant with ISTE standards become the absolute best in digital support.

Without them, teachers, students, and administrators would all fall short of their ambitions.  

Group #5. ISTE Standards for Computer Science Educators


ISTE standards for computer science educators consist of four standards that make educators more tech-conscious, tech-savvy, and tech-literate. 

The ISTE standards for educators in computer science are:

  1. Knowledge of content
  2. Effective teaching and learning strategies
  3. Effective learning environments
  4. Effective professional knowledge and skills

These instructors are responsible for showing students how to responsibly use the computers they’ll encounter throughout the rest of their lives.

Because technology advances at a break-neck pace, these teachers have to keep up with a world where students may actually know more about this subject than them!

That presents a unique set of challenges to computer science educators, especially when it comes to teaching code and the ethical use of computer programming.

Fortunately, ISTE standards help computer science teachers keep up with all of those subjects at the same time.

1. Knowledge of Content

First, computer science educators must demonstrate a deep knowledge of content in their field.

That means they must know how to acquire, represent, and abstract data.ebook.jpg

They also have to design and develop algorithms of their own in a variety of coding environments.

Then, they need to show the operations of those algorithms on digital devices and across entire networks, depending on the exact subject that they teach.

Most importantly, computer science teachers need to understand the breadth and power of their subject. How can it be used to help others? How can it be used to harm?  

As a result, computer science teachers often act as an ethical compass for their students as well.

This places a lot of responsibility on the teachers’ shoulders.

But when these teachers are ISTE-compliant, they can handle that responsibility in spades.

2. Effective Teaching and Learning Strategies

One of the most important ISTE standards for educators is effective teaching and learning strategies.

This standard applies to every teacher, but ISTE brings it up for computer science educators because it needs to be said.

According to the ISTE, computer science educators have to be able to plan and teach relevant lessons using methods that are proven to work.  

That means a lot of different things for a lot of different teachers.

But here, it means that computer science students simply learn what they need to succeed.

3. Effective Learning Environments


Along with teaching methodology, strong computer science teachers need to demonstrate their ability to establish effective learning environments.

This means providing a safe, ethical, and supportive culture in their classroom to encourage all students.

It requires computer science educators to take an active part in designing both physical and digital learning areas.

That also includes elements of digital citizenship, personal responsibility, and problem-solving.

In a nutshell, this ISTE standard is a catchall that underlines the core promise of ISTE standards.

  1. Personal responsibility
  2. Digital literacy
  3. Modern skill-building

Still, there’s one more standard left for computer science educators to fulfill.  

4. Effective Professional Knowledge and Skills

Last, computer science educators need to show effective professional knowledge and skills to be considered ISTE-compliant.

That means educators participate in ongoing professional development to keep themselves relevant in their own field.

This tenet almost goes without saying. Computer science educators who fall behind the rapid pace of technology won’t be effective teachers.

After all, students may hear of technological breakthroughs before educators do.

So if a computer science educator is truly passionate about pedagogy, they’ll keep up with all of the developments in computer science — no matter how rigorous that task may be.

Understand the Teaching Challenges You Face

In this article, you’ve discovered more about the ISTE standards for educators, students, and administrators. With the new insight you’ve gained, you’ll be well on your way to reaching these standards in your computer applications course. 

However, the true importance of these standards is in helping you address the teaching challenges of your classroom. These standards are solutions to problems, after all, and to understand how to use them well, you’ll need to better grasp those problems your classroom is facing. 

To that end, check out this guide to the most common challenges teachers face. This guide goes in-depth into struggles like meeting course standards, keeping students engaged, dealing with changing technology, and more. Once you better understand these problems, you’ll be far better equipped to solve them:

Overcome Your Teaching Challenges