ISTE 5 and ISTE 7 – Designer and Analyst – Is Branching Minds the puzzle piece I’ve been looking for?

The two ISTE standards we focused on the last two weeks in our DEL EDTC 6103 graduate class were ISTE Standard 5 – Designer – Educators design authentic, learner-driven activities and environments that recognize and accommodate learner variability and ISTE Standard 7 – Analyst – Educators understand and use data to drive their instruction and support students in achieving their learning goals.  After digging deeper into the Standards, the question I came away with was – How can I track student growth and have it available for families while also having the students drive the reflection and next steps piece to be active in their learning, growth and progress? There are two tools that stood out to me to try out and one article in particular that got me thinking more about the importance of student voice and perspective when designing authentic, learner-driven activities.

For the ISTE Standard 5 – Designer – the article, Using video technology to enable student voice in assessment feedback, made me reevaluate the importance of student perspective in feedback and how to give their voice and analysis as much space as the teachers voice and feedback.

“When actively engaged in the feedback process, students request feedback, question to clarify feedback, negotiate feedback, reflect on feedback and also provide feedback to themselves, their peers or the teacher. Teachers likewise ask questions, and receive and reflect on feedback from the student and adjust their feedback accordingly. For optimal engagement in feedback processes, both teachers and students need to self-regulate as active agents (Kleij, F. V., Adie, L., & Cumming, J. (2016).

When designing authentic, learner-driven activities, it is extremely important to include adequate time to converse with students about their work and their own self-assessment and then time for them to go back to their work or move on from it depending on the outcome from the joint feedback. In early elementary, there is a tendency for feedback conversations to be teacher driven. Learning how to be a facilitator in the conversation rather than the majority voice would help students become more aware of and in charge of their growth and in turn more committed to their progress.  I believe if you start this practice in early elementary, then the internal drive and perseverance when challenged will be stronger as they go into middle and high school.

One digital tool that addresses these standards is Branching Minds. I read about this tool in the article, The Growing Diversity in Today’s Classroom. Throughout ISTE Standard 5 (Designer) and 7 (Analyst) there are opportunities for personalized learning to be at the forefront. The video below is very informative for understanding what  Branching Minds designed to do:

Branching Minds

A key element from Branching Minds that connects the two ISTE standards is that this program takes a wide range of data and clearly shows where the student is challenged and where they excel and then matches specific learning programs/tools that support the learning style of that student which makes the learning more personalized.  The programs/tools suggested are free to use though there are some that are ones to purchase but an educator has the option to hide the suggested that cost more. It also is designed to be a tool that can be shared with families and other staff that may interact regularly with the student which helps to get the whole child perspective when collecting data.

Improve effectiveness of implementation, reduce burden of documentation.

  • Understand whole learner’s strengths and challenges: academic, cognitive, social emotional and behavioral
  • Increase collaboration amongst all stakeholders (teachers, family and student)
  • Scaffold the use of matched evidence-based interventions, best practices of RTI/MTSS and effective differentiation
  • Cut meeting and prep time in half!
  • Meet student intervention goals more frequently/quickly
  • Connect all the dots easily and visually

(Branching Minds 2019)

From there, you could incorporate another digital tool like Seesaw to post activities that facilitate multiple modes of student engagement (video, drawing, voice recording, writing, etc) that match the learning style of the students.  Seesaw is also a platform where you could record student and teacher feedback sessions so everyone (parents, students and teachers) could look back and review where they are at and see growth as the year progresses.

As educators, we are always looking for ways to improve our understanding of all of our students. Is Branching Minds a more thorough and straight forward path to curating student information to better personalize education for all students?  I can’t be sure until I have tried it first hand but learning about it has opened my mind to thinking more about how to implement assessment and data meaningfully while also connecting this assessment and data to designing more student-driven activities and with supports that make sense for the student. As educators think about how to best fit together the puzzle pieces of effective digital tools, the data that Branching Minds is focusing on bringing together makes a lot of sense and could help educators to work ‘smarter not harder’ considering we are all already working so hard every day. Now, to try out the free demo at some point to get a more hands on experience since it is not a district paid for platform…too often the downside of finding exciting new tech is the time, energy and money it takes to see if it is in fact one of the puzzle pieces in my 5,000+++ piece educator puzzle!


Branching Minds (2019). Retrieved from

Digital Promise Global. (2016). The Growing Diversity in Today’s Classroom. Retreived from

“ISTE Standards for Educators” Retrieved from

Kleij, F. V., Adie, L., & Cumming, J. (2016). Using video technology to enable student voice in assessment feedback. British Journal of Educational Technology,48(5), 1092-1105. doi:10.1111/bjet.12536

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