Setting the Standard for Student Empowerment

Technology Standards

The ISTE (International Society for Technology in Education) standards provide a solid foundation for planning, measuring, implementing, and evaluating student learning across the subject area of technology.  The 2016 iteration provides seven overarching standards for technology instruction. In ISTE’s own words, “The ISTE standards provide a support framework across the grades and for all subject areas that serve as a groundwork for what’s possible in learning using technology.”  There’s a lot to learn throughout these standards, so it’s helpful to focus on and ask questions about each standard one at time. In this case, let’s focus on ISTE standard 1 and student empowerment.

ISTE Standard 1 and the ISTE Standards

Empowered Learner standard: Empowered Learner: Students leverage technology to take an active role in choosing, achieving and demonstrating competency in their learning goals, informed by the learning sciences. Students:

  1. Articulate and set personal learning goals, develop strategies leveraging technology to achieve them, and reflect on the learning process itself to improve learning outcomes.
  2. Build networks and customize their learning environments in ways that support the learning process.
  3. Use technology to seek feedback that informs and improves their practice and to demonstrate their learning in a variety of ways.
  4. Understand the fundamental concepts of technology operations, demonstrate the ability to choose, use and troubleshoot current technologies, and are able to transfer their knowledge to explore emerging technologies.

An entire book could be written on these standards, and, in fact, ISTE has written an e-book called “ISTE Standards for Students”.  This means that at least a chapter could be written on each standard if not more. So, in and of itself, asking just one critical question about one of these standards provides plenty to talk and write about.  Since not every educator is a technology teacher, a logical question to ask is how might ISTE standards connect to standards that I teach?

Essential Question

Where do opportunities exist for interdisciplinary integration in the NGSS and CCSS as related to student empowerment and the ISTE 1 Empowered Learner standard?

Seeing the Standards Forest for the Trees

A great visual for seeing how standards can connect is a VENN diagram that comes out of Stanford and is based on work by Tina Cheuk.  Shown above as the title graphic for this post, the visual shows how K-12 standards (CCSS Practices/Capacities & NGSS Practices) naturally supplement, complement, and overlap each other.  What’s perhaps missing to some degree is technology; where does technology fit into all of this?

Fortunately, two great resources provide examples that can help address this question.  The “ISTE Standards for Students” ebook provides several helpful vignettes. One of which is sample scenario 2 for ages 8-11 and describes the role that ISTE standards can play in “Solving Real-World Community Problems”.  The US Department of Education also provides a report entitled “Innovation Spotlights: Nine Dimensions for Supporting Powerful STEM Learning with Technology”. The seventh dimension shared provides both a description and a case study for “Project-based Interdisciplinary Learning”.  The examples show how technology potentially supports, intersects, and overlaps with other disciplines, as well as how technology empowers student learners.

Connecting the Standardized Dots

By considering how standards overlap and disciplines connect then we can begin to think about answering the question around interdisciplinary integration in the NGSS and CCSS as related to the Empowered Learner standard.

The “Solving Real-World Community Problems” describes a classroom project where students respond to a recent snow storm by designing solutions to help make their neighbors’ lives easier during the next storm.  Students are empowered to design real-world solutions to share with their community by thinking about the environmental and weather-related science, how technology can improve lives, utilizing the engineering emphasis of the design process to come up with new ideas, and the basic math required to diagram, measure, and build their solutions.

The “Project-based Interdisciplinary Learning” dimension describes a challenge-based learning approach where students research a real-world problem, organize, communicate, and then culminate their work via creation of tangible product solution for public presentation.  The associated case study shared how students researched, created, and presented posters based on their learning around sunscreen, the Earth systems, and how to improve human health while also protecting the environment from possible pollution. Students research biology, chemistry, and environmental systems to understand how potential technological solutions can be better designed while understanding the mathematical scale of the potential impact.

Empowering Student Learners

The two previous examples show strong connections among science, technology, engineering, and mathematics while providing opportunities to work within the English language arts as well, but technology is both implicit and explicit throughout. ISTE standard 1 emphasizes empowering students to take an active role in choosing, achieving, and demonstrating their learning. These examples allow students to leverage technology to do just that by potentially setting learning goals as part of their project work, customizing their learning environment, demonstrating their learning in a variety of ways, and understanding the fundamental concepts of the technology that they are working with via their projects.

Once we begin to see the potential connections that exist across potential lessons and activities, then we can intentionally plan interdisciplinary units. With this integrated end in mind, applying backwards planning through research-proven systems such as Understanding by Design allows educators to empower students to apply all of their learning across subject areas. Doing so with the goal of sharing or presenting as a means of assessment, provides real-world purpose to the problems that students are solving through these kinds of projects. This empowers students to apply all of their learning across subject areas while solving real problems and sharing that with their community.

For a deeper explanation of the standards and referenced examples as well as more in-depth thinking for interdisciplinary integration, I encourage you to explore the resources referenced below.


  1. International Society for Technology in Education (2017). ISTE Standards for Students (ebook): A Practical Guide for Learning with Technology [PDF version]. Retreived from
  2. Office of Educational Technology (2019). Innovation Spotlights: Nine Dimensions for Supporting Powerful STEM Learning with Technology. Retrieved from
  3. International Society for Technology in Education (2016). ISTE Standards For Students. Retrieved from
  4. Common Core State Standards Initiative. Common Core State Standards. Retrieved from
  5. The Next Generation Science Standards for States by States. Next Generation Science Standards. Retrieved from
  6. Wiggins, G., & McTighe, Jay. (2005). Understanding by Design (Expanded 2nd ed., Gale virtual reference library). Alexandria, VA: Association for Supervision and Curriculum Development.