Technology Standards and Tools for Teachers

Learning Standards for Teachers?

One of the more unique aspects of the International Society for Technology in Education (ISTE) standards is the creation of not just teaching standards, but instructional standards that apply to teachers themselves.  My initial reaction when I first heard this was probably similar to many educators: why? I have enough on my plate already and I don’t need another group of standards that apply to me in addition to my students. While I still agree with this statement depending on the timing, I also think that, for those that have the bandwidth to focus on professional development, the ISTE Educator Standards can provide helpful guidelines for personal growth.  At this unique time in education, a good area to grow is around learning to collaborate online.

International Society for Technology in Education (ISTE) Educator Standard 4

ISTE Educator Standard 4: Collaborator: Educators dedicate time to collaborate with both colleagues and students to improve practice, discover and share resources and ideas, and solve problems. Educators: 

  1. Dedicate planning time to collaborate with colleagues to create authentic learning experiences that leverage technology.
  2. Collaborate and co-learn with students to discover and use new digital resources and diagnose and troubleshoot technology issues.
  3. Use collaborative tools to expand students’ authentic, real-world learning experiences by engaging virtually with experts, teams and students, locally and globally.
  4. Demonstrate cultural competency when communicating with students, parents and colleagues and interact with them as co-collaborators in student learning.

One of the things that I like about this standard is the inclusion of students as potential collaborators for educators.  We are charged with educating all of the students that come through our door, whether physical or virtual, but we also have so much that we can learn from these students.  One concept that I used to explain to my students in September was that my job was to figure out what unique thing each of them had to teach me, and then learn from them over the course of the year.  When we become co-learners with our students and learn with them as the “chief learner” in the classroom, then we are able to try out lesson ideas that wouldn’t normally work because we’ve modeled that we don’t know everything and that learning together is important.  With this in mind, I’d like to focus on the second component of ISTE Educator Standard 4, because when learning something so entirely new such as online learning there is no way to successfully accomplish this without our students help so we need to be able to collaborate, co-learn, discover, diagnose, and troubleshoot together.

Essential Question

How can teachers and students utilize online tools and resources together in lieu of hands-on learning with physical manipulatives?

Virtual Hands-on Learning

Hands-on learning is so important.  I chose the essential question because I am very interested in how educators may be looking to uniquely engage students with online tools that attempt to simulate hands-on learning.  Even though one cannot truly substitute or replicate, there are some resources out there that attempt to provide the next best thing. Since humans are wired to learn via their hands (see homunculus model), I believe it’s important to do as much with our hands in a virtual online learning environment as possible.  The close that we, as educators, can come to helping our learners simulate hands-on learning in an online environment then the more effective we can be in terms of maximizing natural learning modalities, individual comprehension, and overall learning retention.

Computer Assisted Design

Computer assisted design, or CAD, programs help people to create a variety of virtual design versions of real physical objects.  This can be as simple as dealing with very basic shapes to things as complex and intricate as microprocessors, engines, and airplanes.  There are many advantages to CAD programs, but most relevant application in this case is the ability to design and interact with virtual versions of physical objects.  In many ways, this is the closest virtual version of hands-on manipulatives. There are dozens of CAD programs so one of the biggest challenges is finding the right program to utilize in an educational environment.

Tinkercad as a Solution for CAD in Education

Tinkercad is created by Autodesk which is known for a variety of CAD programs.  Tinkercad has several advantages for use by educators. Autodesk provides Tinkercad to educators and students at no cost which greatly increases accessibility.  Tinkercad is also web-based which means no program installation is necessary. Most importantly, Tinkercad is user-friendly and intuitive so students as young as 3rd grade can learn the platform quickly and begin virtual hands-on learning in a digital environment.  For teachers, Tinkercad has an easy to get started tutorial series as well as an entire library of classroom lesson activities. Given that a new Tinkercad project starts as a blank canvas with unlimited possibilities, there are numerous learning applications that can be taken on with Tinkercad.  Tinkercad’s user-friendly environment incorporates lots of opportunities for measurement which opens the door to all sorts of math applications covering most basic math standards from basic shapes to area and volume to angles and more. In addition to math, there are plenty of applications in regard to engineering design and science standards.  More creative applications can even look at creating settings for narratives and story panels in a virtual environment. Regardless of subject area, the resulting designs can be saved, converted to image files, printed on paper, printed via a 3D printer, imported to Minecraft, converted to basic LEGO shapes, and more. Students learning to program can alsocode shapes in Tinkercad.  The possibilities for creating convergence between the hands-on physical world and the minds-on virtual world are endless, and the savvy teacher will highlight the aspects of the platform that tie into student interests as way to increase overall engagement.

How Then Do Classroom Teachers Go About Applying This?

Like so many things with technology, starting small and trying one new step at a time.  This becomes much more doable and even powerful when collaborating with students themselves.  The key as the lead learner is to engage students in the concept, students will often take the learning from there and figure out far more things than the average adult learner.  They aren’t afraid to click on anything and everything. An additional advantage to Tinkercad for collaborative online learning, is that multiple users can interactive with, design, and adjust objects in the same virtual online environment.  This means the teacher can design alongside students while talking them through the learning activity, and in addition to this assign groups of students to work on the same design project together. This type of collaborative virtual learning is not a direct substitute for hands-on learning but certainly compliments and even enhances what can be done with physical manipulatives.  When distance learning is the only option then Tinkercad provides the next best way for students to interact with virtual versions of physical objects while interacting with other students.


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  2. Huddleston, L.  (July 10, 2019).  Using a Makerspace for English and Humanities Instruction. Edutopia.  Retrieved from:
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