Tech Better Using ISTE’s Standards for Students

Debbie TannenbaumBlog, Lesson Plan Better, Tech Better


  • The ISTE student standards help students acquire skills to become a digital age learner.
  • The 7 ISTE Standards for Students are categorized by: empowered learner, digital citizen, knowledge constructor, innovative designers, computational thinker, creative communicator, and global collaborator.

Back in October 2021, I wrote about how you could tech better using the ISTE Standards for Educators. But did you know that there are also ISTE Standards for Students?  During my coursework in November for my ISTE Certification, one of the activities we worked on was completing a crosswalk between the ISTE Student and Educator Standards.

Although I have the ISTE Student Standards poster hung up right in front of my workstation at school, this forced me to take a closer look at the 7 ISTE Standards for Students. In my role as a tech coach, I have the honor and the privilege of working with both students and teachers in classrooms. So in addition to giving you an opportunity to reflect, this post gives me that same opportunity as well.

Why Use the ISTE Student Standards?

Why should we use the ISTE Student Standards? That’s easy. Because they matter.  We spend so much time in our everyday teaching jobs focusing on standards. Our students need to learn this standard in math, or in reading, right? But to prepare our students with the future jobs they will get and hold, they need to have future-ready skills or 21st century skills. In my district, we call these skills Portrait of a Graduate skills, but when it comes down to it, these skills are really standards that we need our students to achieve during their school learning.

These ISTE standards for students give all of us educators a place to start in our backwards design process. If these standards are indeed our goal, then we can work together to envision what each standard looks like in our educational settings. ISTE does a great job of breaking down these standards, explaining the terminology used, and even including video examples to make sure we are all speaking the same ISTE language.

In fact, ISTE has even created age bands with accompanying scenarios to demonstrate what the standards should look like at different ages: ages 4-7,  8-11, 12-14, and 15+. Their book, ISTE Standards for Students, takes their established standards and breaks them down into these age bands.  Being able to look at these standards by age band was a game-changer for me as I work to integrate these standards K-6.

What are the ISTE Standards for Students?

Before I begin to summarize these standards. I want to be clear that I can not do them justice in a brief blog post. All of the information that I am sharing below comes from my analysis and is meant to be an introduction to these standards. I would highly encourage all of you to go to the ISTE Standards for Students website to further explore these standards more as you seek to implement them into your practice to #techbetter.

1. Empowered Learner

Much like the ISTE Standards for Educators, the ISTE Standards for Students start with learning. In this standard, students use technology to help them set learning goals, determine best steps for reaching these goals, and even use technology to reflect afterward. This standard shares how we can use technology to help empower our students.

Consider the following:

  • How do you use technology to help your students set, monitor, and reflect on their learning goals?
  • Do you help your students to build learning networks and help them customize their learning environments?
  • Do your students get feedback using technology and use technology to demonstrate their learning?
  • Do your students understand how to use technology including best ways to troubleshoot if needed?

2. Digital Citizen

Digital citizenship is not reserved for one week in October; it is a standard that all of our students need to understand and apply in their everyday lives. In this standard, students need to not only understand their rights and responsibilities as an online learner but also act in ways that demonstrate that understanding.

Consider the following:

  • Do your students understand and apply best practices for managing their digital identity?
  • Do your students understand and apply practices for safe online interactions?
  • Do your students understand about citations for sharing others’ intellectual property?
  • Do your students understand what is safe to share online and what is not?

3. Knowledge Constructor

The knowledge constructor standard is one that I find myself drawn to as I promote inquiry with my students. For this standard, students learn how to locate resources, determine whether or not they are reliable, and create artifacts that demonstrate their understanding of their new learning.

Consider the following:

  • Do your students understand and apply best practices for effective research?
  • Do your students understand and apply best practices for evaluating online resources?
  • Do your students understand how to curate collections based on their research and create artifacts of their learning?
  • Do you give your students opportunities to explore and investigate real-world issues using a design thinking process?

4. Innovative Designer

This standard makes the STEAM teacher in me so happy.  This standard focuses on design thinking and giving our students opportunities to use technology as part of this process. It focuses on our students both identifying and solving problems with their own solutions. Too often, we only give them opportunities to find solutions, but we can’t forget to allow them to identify problems as well.

Consider the following:

  • Do your students understand and use a design thinking process to explore problems and find solutions?
  • Do your students understand how to use digital resources and use them as part of their design thinking process? 
  • Do your students understand how to make prototypes, test them and refine them as part of the design thinking process?
  • Do you give your students opportunities to deal with open-ended problems and experience ambiguity needed to develop perseverance during these tasks?

5. Computational Thinker

This standard focuses on computational thinking. This is an area that I didn’t know much about until a few years ago. Computational thinking helps students develop strategies for understanding and solving problems using technology tools. This standard is one that often gets overlooked so pay close attention to the considerations below.

Consider the following:

  • Do your students understand how to use data analysis and algebraic thinking for exploring and solving problems?
  • Do your students understand how to use digital resources to display and analyze their data in a way that they can use to inform decision-making?
  • Do your students understand how to decompose problems into parts and use their analysis to explore and solve problems?
  • Do your students understand automation and how to use algebraic thinking to create and test solutions?

6. Creative Communicator

This is without a doubt my favorite standard. I love promoting creation with my students. I am a firm believer that our students need to create using technology, and not just consume. In this standard, students communicate their ideas and thinking creatively using a variety of tools, platforms, formats, and digital media. 

Consider the following:

  • Do your students understand how to select the appropriate platforms and tools to meet their purposes?
  • Do your students understand how to create original works and/or remix work responsibly?
  • Do your students understand how to communicate ideas clearly by creating or using digital objects?
  • Do your students understand how to publish or share content for their intended audiences?

7. Global Collaborator

This is a standard that I do well as an educator but need to work on for my students. This standard focuses on using digital tools to broaden students’ perspectives and amplify their learning by collaborating with others by working with them in teams both locally and globally.

Consider the following:

  • Do your students understand how to use technology to connect with learners from various backgrounds to broaden their perspectives?
  • Do your students understand how to use technology to connect and learn with others to develop and solve problems? 
  • Do your students understand how to contribute to project teams and work together effectively towards a common goal?
  • Do your students understand how to explore local and global issues and use technology to collaborate with others to explore solutions?
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Now that I know there are ISTE Standards for Students, where should I start?

The best place to start is by assessing where your strengths are in these standards, and which standards are either new to you or you might need to learn more about. This reflection step is critical as you begin to #techbetter using these standards.

Here is my self-reflection as an example. Remember, none of us are perfect and all of us are still learning and evolving as educators. Click here to make a copy for your own reflection.

Luckily for you, there are tons of free resources available on ISTE’s site to help you learn. Start with small steps. I plan to select one standard to get started with and then see how I can #techbetter with these standards with simple and strategic steps. What about you? How do you plan to #techbetter using ISTE’s Standards for Students?

About Debbie Tannenbaum

Debbie Tannenbaum is an Elementary School Technology Specialist in Fairfax County, VA. An educator with over twenty years of experience, Mrs. Tannenbaum is completing her second year in this role, where she supports both staff and students to integrate technology tools into instruction through both co-teaching sessions and weekly technology classes. Mrs. Tannenbaum is also an avid blogger and shares her thoughts and reflections on her website: Techy Notes. You can also find her on Twitter and Instagram at @TannenbaumTech.