According to Lewis, ISTE, which was originally founded by a group of computer science educators from the University of Oregon, has three core components: the ISTE standards, the annual conference that draws tens of thousands of educators from around the world, and its community of what Lewis calls “energetic” members.

“Just like a lot of organizations and companies out there, we wanted to fix the lack of clarity about who we are and what we stand for,” he explained. “And we realized we’re not just an advocacy group, or a platform for information, we’re a community that supports educators. We want to have a lasting impact helping states, districts, schools, and individual educators across the spectrum.”

Lewis noted that it’s important to focus on the support ISTE offers interested educators, especially when the national climate focuses too much on placing blame on schools.

“In the last 50 years, the role schools have had to take on broadened exponentially,” he noted. “Schools are now in charge of everything, from practically raising a child to educating them for a constantly-changing future. Policy-wise and country support-wise, this shift hasn’t been recognized.”

He continued: “And though the community, parents, and the nation-at-large see schools as a machine to crank out certain results, it’s often forgotten that behind every school is a group of humans; a group of individuals who work every day, just like everyone else, and they need support.”

One way ISTE is offering support is by being an advocate for changes to the eRate, advocating for a timely response to the proposed changes that would increase the amount of broadband provided to schools.

ISTE also supports a number of bills in Congress that seek to provide schools and states with education technology funding.

Beyond advocacy, ISTE says it’s hearing from its members that the era of the “shiny new toy” is over, and effective implementation is going to be the focus of 2014.

According to Lewis, many of ISTE’s members are beginning to implement small pilots of different technologies or initiatives before buying or investing too heavily.

“There are so many gadgets and initiatives out there and educators are growing weary,” explained Lewis. “What ISTE can provide is a community where educators, tired of technology without meaning and tired of initiatives without planning, can come together and provide best practices to focus more on the planning and implementation stages of ed-tech. It’s a place to foster relationships for those who are looking ahead and care about their school, district, and state communities.”

(Next page: Professional development and the art of teaching)

Meris Stansbury

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