Stretch your Way into Becoming an ISTE Certified Educator

My Personal Story

Get Ready. Set. Stretch your Edtech practice as you breathe deeper into becoming an ISTE Certified Educator! Really!?! As a participant of the ISTE course and currently working through the portfolio component, I can share with you it’s exactly what it sounds like. You perform various Yoga Poses as a kinesthetic approach to learning the ISTE Standards for Educators. In this post, I plan to share my initial thoughts, my actual experience, and ways this course has impacted my teaching practice.

As advertised upon registering, the course is focused on pedagogy, not edtech tools. Rather, it was about what you do with technology to transform learning and improve student outcomes while addressing the ISTE Standards. The course was broken into three components (note: I took the 3-credit option):

  • 2-day onsite workshop
  • 8 week long online course (broken into 4 modules):
    • Designing for Diversity,
    • Personalized Learning and Alternative Assessments,
    • Digital Learning Environments: Design Thinking & Computational Thinking, and
    • The New Digital Citizenship.
  • Portfolio
The ISTE course began with setting my own intentions for becoming an ISTE Certified Educator.

The face-to-face workshop took place at the Lincoln Intermediate Unit 12 in York, PA. The course began with a simple reflection of your personal intentions. The goals I set for myself were to listen and connect with others, to grow both personally and professionally with an open mind and an open heart, as well as to fail often and learn from my mistakes. The ISTE course not only met my intentions that I set out for myself, but extended beyond my own expectations. I connected with a multitude of like-minded individuals from various backgrounds and in various roles (educators, coaches, administrators, university professors), spanning K-12, higher ed, and adult learning. Talk about variety of educational experiences! I grew exponentially in my understanding and application of both the ISTE Standards for Students and ISTE Standards for Educators along with their underlying indicators. I was also transparent allowing others to see my flaws and own conceptualizations which ultimately resulted in deeper connections while developing my growth mindset. I was challenged and pushed to expand beyond my own pedagogical beliefs on how people best learn afforded by Edtech tools.

While I initially thought the course was more geared towards the ISTE Standards for Students, I quickly learned it was only a small segment of the overall course. If you plan to take this course (and you should!), then make sure to understand this course is about transforming your teaching and learning practices with technology through the ISTE Standards for Educators which in turn means you ultimately implement the student standards as well. To that point, we did spend some time reviewing and analyzing the underlying indicators of the ISTE Standards for Students in addition to two primary technology implementation frameworks: SAMR and TPACK. Evaluating and justifying the SAMR levels across various scenarios was one of my most memorable experiences during the onsite training. We worked in small groups to read and identify the SAMR level various scenarios represented with a slightly different task per rotation. It was memorable in that we classified our scenario as redefinition, however, our on-site trainer, argued why he felt otherwise. There was no right or wrong answer, but rather it showed that the SAMR model has it flaws and can be interpreted differently per person.

We continued our learning by redefining the vision of school. By studying the ISTE Standard for Educators, we were able to reimagine what learning could and should look like. We conducted a Socratic Seminar to argue topics interconnected with digital citizenship – a topic that I didn’t take seriously prior to taking the ISTE course. Since the course, I have developed resources to educate my own students about various topics related to digital citizenship, such as creating a positive digital footprint, raising awareness of Fair Use & Copyright laws, and the importance of reviewing privacy policies, all of which were topics that I had taken lightly beforehand. I will also note that this topic was a HUGE focus in our onsite cohort. Furthermore, we navigated the power of crowdsourcing, including the use of virtual networking as a way to find and curate resources and tools. We also discussed the learning sciences, neuromyths (see below), and how to apply proven research into current classroom practices.

SPOILER ALERT: Although children may have unique learning styles, there is no research evidence on best practices to support the idea that individualized instruction tailored to those styles will help them to learn best. Instead, there are basic instructional strategies, such as connecting prior knowledge, the role of feedback and reflection, and other learning practices, that support improved learning!  Source: See this article from APA, which includes some citations.)

The on-site course also explored backward design process in regards to instructional design. During this topic, we explored lessons to see how and if they aligned with those design principles along with any ISTE Standard indicators. Finally, we had to put our learning of the ISTE Standards for Educators and Students by applying them within a lesson plan design challenge. This was by far my favorite part of the onsite training as it required us to use backward design to develop a transformative learning experience for students which we then presented to our cohort to receive feedback. My partner and I composed a lesson built on the Innovator Designer and Computational Thinker Standards through the implementation of robotics. More specifically, students were tasked with building and coding an autonomous Sphero chariot.

I was able to implement the backwards-designed lesson from the on-site component of the ISTE course with my fifth grade students.

What I was surprised about was the need to narrow the focus on the number of indicators you planned to address. While I assumed you would want to address as many indicators as possible, it became understood the need to focus on only one or two indicators. I was also surprised to learn that the ISTE Standards for Students are standards we expect K-12 students to achieve by graduation (and beyond obviously) rather than the end of any given school year. On a final note, I did have the opportunity to apply this relevant and meaningful lesson with my fifth grade students! Consequently, not only were they successful (Check out an example) in being able to apply the ISTE Standard indicators that I had planned within my collaborative lesson, I also was able to implement various ISTE Standards for Educators, such as Facilitator (6c: Create learning opportunities that challenge students to use a design process and computational thinking to innovate and solve problems).

After the two-day onsite workshop, we furthered our learning of the ISTE Educator Standards within the online coursework portion. I figured the online coursework would be a cake-walk, if you will, but on the contrary, the online component was quite rigorous. Each module lasted two weeks long with the first week typically building on background knowledge and connecting with others through a discussion board while the second week required the application and creation of your understanding through a learning artifact. I enjoyed the various opportunities for feedback, but I will admit that due to low numbers of participants taking the graduate credits (Non-credit participants only had to complete two of the modules instead of all four), there were times where I didn’t receive meaningful (if any) feedback which was somewhat disappointing.

However, the power of the course in my experience was the creation. I developed several lesson plans, alternative assessment rubric, infographics on ed-tech tools, and even a multimedia blog post on various digital citizenship topics, all of which I have or plan to use within my own instructional context. For example, I have used my blog post to discuss topics of fair image and audio use with students through a student blogging challenge. Therefore, I was able to address the Citizen Standard (3c: Mentor students in safe, legal, and ethical practices with digital tools and the protection of intellectual rights and property). This has improved my teaching as well as my own personal practice especially since I didn’t receive any guidance in relation to fair use and copyright. rew up in a world where burning audio onto CDs and using images as my own were common practice, but in today’s age, that’s an evident no-no. I also plan to implement my lesson plan on vertical farming as an extension to learning about water conservation to support students in embodying both design thinking and computation thinking principles. Overall, this online course component was extremely informative as I reflected on my own practices while connecting with others with similar interests, achieved the goals I had set out for myself back in day one of the onsite training, and stretched my own edtech practice through the exploration and implementation of ISTE Standards for Educators (and Students).

Finally, the digital portfolio, which I am currently working on, is potentially the most time-consuming component of the entire ISTE Course because you must submit multiple artifacts that demonstrate how you are implementing all ISTE Standard for Educator indicators accompanied by a description that describes how. Having had created digital portfolios for my M.ed at Penn State University (i..e, WordPress) and again for my Instructional Technology Specialist Certificate at East Stroudsburg University (i.e., Wix), I figured I would create another digital portfolio shell to house my learning artifacts and reflections, but it seems to be a Google Drive folder portfolio along with an alignment map that demonstrates alignment between the ISTE Standard for Educator Indicators (the criteria), a link to the created artifact, and a contextualized reflection on how the artifact demonstrates or implements the addressed indicator within each standard. Not too bad, right? The challenge is there are twenty-five indicators, but you are only permitted to submit 9 – 14 artifacts to address all criteria. However, ISTE does provide virtual chats, informational videos, discussion boards to seek feedback from peers, and a guide for portfolio submissions with exemplars and artifact expectations, all of which to help you experience the most success since the portfolio component is pass or fail with the goal of your portfolio meeting at least 80%

A passing score is the final thing that stands between you and becoming an ISTE Certified Educator, so meeting all criteria is of utmost importance! As a final note, you do have six months to complete the portfolio, but my suggestion is to not procrastinate! Begin the portfolio as soon as possible while the course content is fresh in your mind!

Overall, if you desire to stretch your own edtech practice (literally), then I would suggest taking the ISTE course to earn your certificate as an ISTE certified Educator. As I planned at the start of the course through setting my own personal goals, you can also intend to: make meaningful connections with other professionals and resources as you develop a professional learning network (PLN), grow as an educational leader within your profession, and most importantly, learn to transform your pedagogy and empower your learners to direct their own learning by leveraging the purposeful and strategic use of educational technology tools. I have no doubt this course will extend beyond your expectation as it did for me. Did I mention, you’d be one of several hundred elite professionals within the nation with this certificate?!? So what are you waiting for!? Stretch your practice into the Warrior Pose, Downward Dog, Partner Tree Pose…And Go!

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