Colin's Sandbox

Planning for the Future

by on Jan.27, 2014, under #digitalcitizenship

When you ask, “How do you plan for the future?” in the light of the quickly changing face of technology you’re likely to elicit quite a few strong opinions about how “the way things used to be!” as well as a fair amount of shoulder shrugging.  It’s a formidable task; how do you plan for the future indeed, if you don’t know what the future is going to bring to your door?  The ISTE Standards for Teachers were last revised in 2008 and, while the revision marks a big change from their original document drafted in 2000, are ready for a reboot.

The assumption is that these advances in technology will only become more pervasive, and therefore I attempt to abstract as much as possible concerns and approaches to dealing with those advances.   Our goal, then, is to modify the ISTE Standards for Teachers to bring them in line with current and anticipated advances in technology and the social changes that both lead and result from these advances.

Forecasting changes in the technology landscape

Mobile Devices, Wearable Technology, and the “Internet of Things”

Mobile devices are here to stay: according to the folks at (as referenced in, 91% of all people on Earth of a mobile phone.  56% of people use a smart phone.  This smartphone statistic also correlates exactly with the Pew Research Center’s “Internet & American Life Project” study numbers for adults in the United States.  That in itself is a huge number.  Yet, when you look at the ISTE NETS-T standards written in 2008, there is no mention of the word “mobile” or “cellphone”.

Many technology companies are exploring “wearable computing”.  Innovation in this space ranges from the audacious Google Glass, to wrist watches that link in with your mobile phone, to the more mundane technologies such as smartphone apps which count your steps, track your runs, etc.

This meshes in with the debate about “Bring Your Own Device” initiatives in schools around the country.  Some things seem certain: these devices are not going away, learning is 24/7 and students will be using these devices at home to learn what they want when they want, and the list of BYOD types is only to grow longer and the need to address them all the more important.

Growing along these lines is the tendrils of the Internet to connect more and more devices to each other through tagging, the imagined result is known as the “Internet of Things”.   Think RFID or Near Field Communication (NFC) here.  Imagine an environment where devices will have the ability to know who is interfacing with them, and be able to tailor the experience accordingly.  There’s a lot of privacy concerns here that need to be addressed: what is a reasonable expectation of privacy for students?  For teachers / administrators / staff?

All of these changes will be absorbed into the changing communication form now known as “social media”.  It’s difficult to imagine what the various incarnations will look like as they evolve, but if history is any guide, social media will serve as the nexus by which people communicate narratives about their lives with one another.

Forecasting Social Changes

While forecasting future trends in technology (at least for the next few years) is a tractable problem, identifying the social ramifications from their use by humans is a more difficult nut to crack.  A few common threads emerge however: privacy, copyright, increased communication across the student’s educational sphere, and changes made possible in pedagogy through the use of new technologies and the increased availability of existing ones.

On the issue of privacy

Along with this new emphasis on mobile devices and wearable devices will come the question of, “what is the expectation of privacy that I have while using my device in school, in public, and in private?”.  With the proliferation of always-on mobile devices in the context of BYOD (Bring Your Own Device) , I think it’s important to address privacy and access concerns in this realm.  With off the shelf technology it is possible to gain massive amounts of data as to not only users’ browse history but also their positional data as well.  What expectations of privacy do we want to model for our students?  These concerns are already in the public discourse: with the use of RFID badges alone there have been many concerns about the appropriate use of students’ positional data (  Cell phones, laptops, and tablets also present a digital signal that could potentially be tracked using Wi-Fi / cell data, let alone monitor the traffic they generate.  With knowledge of what a student is researching, what games they’re playing, where they spend their time and with whom, an observer can get a better sense of what motivates kids.  Who should have access and control over this information, well meaning or otherwise?  The expectation of privacy that we set up in the students’ minds will be carried over into their adult lives after school.

Issues of copyright

A predominant theme in digital culture is the taking of existent artifacts and combining them in new ways, creating the “remix”.  The current ISTE standards for teachers addresses this with item 4a: “Advocate, model, and teach safe, legal, and ethical use of digital information and technology, including respect for copyright, intellectual property, and the appropriate documentation of sources” (ISTE, 2008).  I see the need for this only growing larger, and I think it would be wise for educators to not forget to teach students their own rights in the digital world in addition to the obligations that they have as consumers.

Learning 24/7

With the changes that mobile computing is bringing about it is apparent that connected learning is now occurring around the clock, in almost any location, whether or not a teacher is present or guiding.  Modeling good research, interaction, and collaboration skills is essential to a student’s own learning and participation in this digital learning environment.

Connecting parents with educators

The ISTE standards for teachers (ISTE, 2008) 3c recommends “Communicate relevant information and ideas effectively to students, parents, and peers using a variety of digital age media and formats”.  With the social media outlets available today and the amount of data that schools generate every day (assignments, test scores, on down to attendance data), there’s more and more opportunities and expectation for teachers to reach out and work with parents.  The looming issue that I see here is time.  An example from an educator whom I admire and trust (which is good, because she’s my wife) tells me, “I finally had time today to make a particular call to parent whose child is struggling”, and this made me a bit sad.  First, because if it’s gotten to this stage I’m not sure how much good a phone call will do, and secondly, why is there not a greater emphasis on connecting parents to what’s going on in the classroom (outside of posted grades)?  Again: time, it would  therefore seem, is the limiting factor, not technology.

Bringing the ISTE recommendations to date

Much of the current discussion within our class has centered around how technology will enable classrooms to become more student-driven, allowing for greater creativity, utilizing computers to connect students and their work with a greater outside world, and these are all very visions, and great motivators for change.  If we start viewing the teacher, then, as a researcher, instructor, mentor, evaluator, and counselor, there would seem to be a great need for us as educators, to include the parents and guardians of the students as much as possible.

There is no way that this is going to happen overnight, or without cultural change on a massive scale, as this would seem to necessitate a large reduction in teacher workload.  Which, unless we find some way of gaining time through efficiencies, equals more staff.  Which, in turn, equates to greater expense.  Which in the long run equals: a hard sell.

The guidelines that ISTE lays down, however, is a good step in setting the direction the educating public takes in incorporating and viewing technology into education.  Making sure we maintain our focus on the big issues of the day that new technologies are bringing to our doorstep (e.g. privacy, ethics, learning styles), arming our students with good critical reasoning and research skills, along with reaching out as much as possible to the parents and guardians of the students are going to be keys to the next version of ISTE standards in my opinion.

Looking Forward

Be open for revision and change; just when you think you’ve got a handle on it the situation will likely change!  Maintaining a short lifecycle for the ISTE Standards for Teachers as well as the ISTE Standards for Students, ISTE Standards for Administrators, and ISTE Standards for Coaches will remain necessary as long as educators feel under pressure from the rapid pace of development of technology within the field of education.


Pew Research Center (2012).  Smartphone ownership – 2013 update.  Pew Internet and American Life Project.  Retrieved from:

Digital Buzz Blog (2013).  Infographic: 2013 mobile growth statistics.  Retrieved from:

International Society for Technology in Education (2008). ISTE standards for teachers.  Retrieved from:

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