Reflections from ISTE – Reasons for Hope

So I don’t regularly go to ISTE Conference because it does not “count” for me as a faculty member at an R1 Education School – and honestly, by the time I get to June, I am out of travel money or living in Italy (@OUinArezzo)

However, this year, I was invited to participate in some of the standards work for administrators and it was “driveable” (I took the train.) It was in San Antonio.

ISTE – the International Society for Technology in Education is a professional organization known for releasing standards for students, educators,and administrators (maybe leaders in the future) and these standards are used widely to align curriculum (we use it in our program) and for Accreditation – CAEP (formerly NCATE)

But one criticism of the organization has been that it has not in the past served the needs of higher education and now I see that the new CEO seems to get it and is showing Higher Education some Love!

The New CEO is Richard Culatta – who formerly was at the Office of Educational Technology at the Department of Education.  He left January 20th- but in December and January his team released a a supplement to the National ED Tech Plan for Higher education  and for teacher education  At ISTE I could see those ideas and addressing these groups beginning to take shape. They have in fact hired Joseph South from Office of Ed Tech as a consultant as well.

So there were a few things that I picked up as themes.

  1. Applicability of Tech Standards to larger audience – ISTE is trying to hard to make their standards even more general.   This may been as a bad thing, but honestly they are no longer teacher standards but educator standards  These standards are general enough that I believe that they could be applied to Faculty as well in higher education.  There is talk of maybe an addendum about research and other roles, but I feel pretty good about using them as is.   There was talk that Adminstrator standards may be Leader standards and I love that.. it would be very aspirational for some and could focus on more than the tech but instead the PD and team building more.

2. Equity – I swear i have never gotten as consistent a message about equity being a goal at a conference in a long time. There were several strands and it was a clear focus of the the keynotes and their messages.   Even in the Editorial board meeting the message was loud and clear.  I have heard some people have been critical of this – but honestly, I see a shift and I think we need to give this organization time to make some moves and see what they do.  I believe their efforts are in the right place and I know that that I had many conversations about equity and diversity and I was not even looking for that strand.  My only criticism is that the cost of the conference and lodging is a huge barrier towards equity and i look forward to seeing what programs they may put in place to address that obvious concern. (although they did not block the #NotAtISTE or the #PasstheScopeEdu guys at all)

3).  Higher Education – during the conference, I attended a standing room only meeting for Higher Educators that was attended by ISTE staff.  In addition, I was invited to a focus group for higher educators.  In the past, I felt my involvement in ISTE was  a throwaway but I got a clear message that they are interested in us as a group.

Their leadership is new, and they are starting to address issues that I think they should. Honestly, my ears are perked up.   I was sad, to see so much of the good work that was done by the former administration being deleted or shutdown on January 20th  (ConnectEd, some of CS for all etc..)

If you look at the documents on    you will see that things like Equity, Higher Education and Teacher Prep were a goal of that office, and it seems that ISTE is working towards those previous goals from the Office of Ed Tech.

I say, let’s give them some time and see where they take this organization and what good can they do?  If it does not pan out, there will be plenty of time for critique in the future.

For now, I am going to watch, commit to participate, and hope that this organization and people associated with it can help push technology in education forward.

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