The International Society for Technology in Education (ISTE) has just completed a draft of its new National Educational Technology Standards (NETS) for students, updating its groundbreaking paradigm for what young people should know about technology and what they should be able to do with it before graduating. Now, ISTE is asking educators for feedback on the new draft.

ISTE first issued its NETS for students in 1998, and this framework has since found its way into the standards of at least 45 U.S. states. Now, nearly 10 years later–and having also issued NETS for teachers and administrators–ISTE is in the process of revising its NETS to keep pace with the changing demands of advancing technology and a new global economy.

A number of forces have prompted ISTE to update its technology standards, said Don Knezek, the group’s chief executive.

“The standards’ age, the globalization of education, new developments in technology, and changing demographics of learners … were all good indicators that the standards should be updated,” he said.

Rising challenges to the nation’s leadership in innovation and its standing atop the world’s economy also were factors, he added.

“While the original NETS identified skills and knowledge every student needed to succeed in the technology and information environment that was emerging in 1998, there was still a tone of concentrating on the tools–the technology [itself],” Knezek said.

In contrast, “these new student standards focus on skills and knowledge that students need to learn effectively and live productively in an increasingly digital society … Cognitive and learning skills, as well as creativity and innovation, are the focus now–and information and media literacy are also elevated [in importance].”

Knezek described the changes as a shift in focus away from “competency with [technology] tools” and toward the “skills required in a digital world to produce and innovate” using technology.

The differences can be gleaned by looking at the categories that define each set of standards.

In the original standards, the skills necessary to define technology proficiency were outlined across six categories: basic operations and concepts; social, ethical, and human issues of technology use; productivity tools; communication tools; research tools; and problem-solving and decision-making tools.

Under “communication tools,” for example, you would find, “Students (A) use telecommunications to collaborate, publish, and interact with peers, experts, and other audiences; and (B) use a variety of media and formats to communicate information and ideas effectively to multiple audiences.”

The revised draft standards also are organized into six categories: creativity and innovation; communication and collaboration; research and information retrieval; critical thinking, problem solving, and decision making; digital citizenship; and technology operations and concepts.

Under “communication and collaboration,” you would find, “Students (A) collaborate, publish, and interact with peers, experts, and others employing a variety of digital media and formats; (B) communicate information and ideas effectively to multiple audiences utilizing a variety of media and formats; (C) develop cultural understanding and global awareness by engaging with learners of other cultures; and (D) contribute to project teams to produce original works.”

To tackle its NETS refresh, ISTE established a project leadership team made up of current staff members, as well as members from the original NETS Leadership Team. The refresh process began at last year’s National Educational Computing Conference (NECC) in San Diego, and ISTE hopes to release the final version of its updated standards at this year’s NECC in Atlanta June 24-27.

Using the original NETS development process as a model, ISTE has been collecting input from as many stakeholders as possible through town hall meetings and various online channels. For information about how you can contribute, see the group’s NETS Refresh web page: http://www.iste.org/nets-refresh.

Through its NETS Refresh Project, ISTE also will be reviewing and revising its NETS for teachers and administrators. ISTE plans to release its new teacher standards at NECC 2008 and its new administrator standards at NECC 2009, the conference’s 30th anniversary.

The NETS Refresh Project is sponsored by Adobe Systems, Apple Inc., Intel Corp., Microsoft Corp., Pearson Education, Promethean, SMART Technologies, and Questia Media.