ISTE 4 – Innovative Designer

Question: What are digital tools that connect with design process frameworks that teachers and students can use to solve authentic student-led problems that will challenge students to be flexible, persevere through the unknown and find innovative solutions while still being realistic for current student standards and teacher expectations?

To better make sense of my question, I will separate my question into two parts, Tools and Implementation.

Tools ~ What are digital tools that connect with design process frameworks that teachers and students can use to solve authentic student-led problems that will challenge students to be flexible, persevere through the unknown and find innovative solutions…


Implementation ~ …while still being realistic for current student standards and teacher expectations?


Common Sense Media is a helpful resource to search for digital tools that have been vetted.  Through my research, this was my starting point for finding apps and platforms that could work to inspire students to use something new or to jumpstart students toward something they find on their own to use. Ultimately, having students embark on finding what to use and determining why certain resources best support their learning and mission is the desired outcome.  My guess is that students would quickly move from suggested tools, apps, platforms into finding new innovative tools once they are used to having the freedom to find what works best for them. This is where guided choice can be best in the beginning and then gradual release for them to explore on their own. Throughout this process of gradual release, it would be a natural time to weave in the ISTE Digital Citizenship Standards.  

When looking at specific design frameworks, there is a combination of design processes that I think would work well together depending on the age of the student and the desired outcome and each process could be tweaked by what educators feel their students are ready for.

Project Based Learning + Design Thinking = Innovative Thinking and Design

Project Based Learning: Interdisciplinary, Project Based, Student Centered


Design Thinking: A methodology for solving problems

These design processes focus on innovative thinking, multiple attempts, many possible solutions, creativity and empathy.  When students learn how to go through the process(es) comfortably, then they have a solid substructure for embarking on self-determined projects both as students in education and once they become part of the workforce and as entrepreneurs and global community citizens.


The second part of my question,…while still being realistic for current student standards and teacher expectations, brings me back to asking, how can we realistically make this happen in the day to day as public school educators?  This is where the solution to my question remains convoluted. PBL and Design Thinking need to be explicitly taught and bought into by teachers and districts.  Then, it requires time and dedication to get comfortable with it. Both processes require thoughtful implementation and for public school settings that have a strict curriculum guide to follow, this can seem daunting and even impossible at times.  BUT this is not to say it is not worthwhile to learn about, dream about and fight for implementing the digital tools and processes.  Yet, ISTE standard 4 – Innovative Designer – can still be incorporated in ways that are not solely focused on PBL and Design Thinking.

After watching the video, RSA Aminate, I was reminded of the importance of fixed vs. growth mindset (RSA, 2015).  In order to feel comfortable with the design processes mentioned above, it is crucial to have a mindset that supports those processes.   

Ranadive, 2016

Currently, there is not much room for creativity in my classroom because there is a very structured curriculum that we are expected to teach as intended BUT one way I can make a difference for my students is by focusing on how I influence their growth mindset and steer them away from a fixed mindset. With a fixed mindset, students believe that if you have ability, you shouldn’t need effort.  With a growth mindset, students believe that effort activates ability (RSA, 2015). If I choose to focus on process praise versus intelligence praise, then I can help establish the groundwork for a growth mindset that influences whether students want to genuinely learn or if they want to ‘be smart’ or pass the test.  In the documentary, Most Likely to Succeed, it was surprising when students talked about not wanting to have open-ended student-led problems to solve. They wanted to ace the test and get into college; if they forgot what they learned because they did not learn deeply, so be it (Dintersmith, Whiteley, 2015).  My goal for ISTE Standard 4 in current education position is to help my students feel comfortable with learning, not understanding the first time, having a ‘Not Yet’ approach and gaining the ability to apply knowledge in a variety of contexts, not just for the standardized test.  

Another step teachers could take without doing full PBL or design thinking, is to include performance tasks when possible.  A performance task is any learning activity or assessment that asks students to perform to demonstrate their knowledge, understanding and proficiency. Performance tasks yield a tangible product and/or performance that serve as evidence of learning (  Through the performances tasks, you could begin teaching what the Design Thinking process is so that students become aware of the process.  Maybe during their middle school or high school years, they will remember these experiences and be inspired to use this process when the opportunity arises.

Once the path of education is accomplished (or not accomplished!) and students/young adults come into the workforce, this is where the soft skills, PBL and knowing how to follow design thinking will help with this transition.  This is the ultimate time in one’s life where there is a very real need to be able to follow the ISTE standard 4d – Students exhibit a tolerance for ambiguity, perseverance and the capacity to work with open-ended problems (ISTE, 2018) – in a variety of situations! Whether you have your Bachelor’s Degree, Master’s Degree, PhD, left college before finishing or did not attend college at all, once you are in the working world, there is no test to ace. Instead, there are people to figure out, real problems to solve which will impact you depending on how well you solve them, relationships to navigate and failures to learn from. It can be a harrowing and confusing time OR a time to put your innovative and design thinking skills to work!


Common Sense Media. Tools for Project Based Learning. Retrieved from

Dintersmith, Ted. (Producer), Whiteley, Greg (Director). (2015) Most Likely to Succeed [Documentary] Retrieved from

“ISTE Standards for Students” Retrieved from

McTighe, J. (2015, April 10). Defined Learning: What is a Performance Task [Blog Post] Retrieved from:

Miller, B.H. (Sept., 2017). What is Design Thinking. Retrieved from

Ranadive, Ameet. (2016, March 24). Fixed V. Growth Mindset. Retrieved from

[The RSA]. (2015, December 15). RSA animate: how to help every child fulfill their potential. Retrieved from

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