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« The rest of the AASL standards | Main | Web Apps I use meme »

Student standard comparisons and a clean garage


(Click on image for a larger jpg image. For the same diagram as an Inspiration file, click here. Or as a pdf file.)

I spent some time this weekend finally getting around to trying to compare the new NETS Standards to the new AASL Standards. This was a tough go. While I usually write as means of putting off doing chores around the house, I actually cleaned the garage yesterday to delay working on this comparison. This was challenging task, but it was a good way to gain some familiarity with both new publications.

Both sets of standards are more complex than in their previous iterations. Hoping to address some of the widely discussed "knowledge work skills," both documents address creativity, independent learning, higher-order-thinking skills, collaboration/social networking, and life-long learning. More emphasis on the "affective" side of learning, if you will. ISTE has 6 major skills groups with 16 specific skill sets; AASL had only 4 major skill groups with 28 specific skill sets. (AASL also had other specifics in the categories of Dispositions in Action; Responsibilities; and Self-Assessment Strategies. For this comparison, I am ONLY comparing what AASL regards as Skills.)

In working on direct skill to skill comparison, I got frustrated. Separate skills in one document were often combined in the other (and vice versa). Shadings of meaning were evident. But there was still major overlap - even agreement - between the documents on the basics.

I decided a better way to approach the comparison was visually. So I fired up good old Inspiration and the chart diagram you see above is the result. The diagram displays all the areas and at least the basic idea of all skills in both sets of standards (or at least how I interpret them). I then color-coded each set and skill:

  • Red: Information literacy (we can quibble later about the actual name)
  • Yellow: Communication
  • Pink: Collaboration/teamwork
  • Green: Creativity, HOTS, application
  • Blue: Safe and ethical use
  • Purple: Reading skills
  • Orange: Tech skills
  • Light blue: Attitude (I am sure there is a better word for this)

A few initial observations:

  1. Information literacy, regardless of how it is organized, remains a major focus of both sets of standards. Squint and look at the red.
  2. HOTS (along with creativity and application) are a second major emphasis in both standards. I will be interested in seeing model benchmarks and assessment tools for these areas.
  3. ISTE still has some tech-specific skills and AASL some reading-specific skills. But they seem to be only a small part of each set.
  4. There is, as Jacquie Henry in an LM_Net posting calls it, a "slippery" factor to many of these "skills." AASL: "Read, view and listen for pleasure and personal growth" ISTE: "Exhibit leadership for digital citizenship"? Are describing student competencies here or describing a philosophical ideal?
  5. Both sets of skills seem overly ambitious. Schools and states will need to carefully pick and choose which skills will be included in their own IL/IT curriculum models and for embedding in the content area standards.

I would be DELIGHTED to see other comparisons/interpretations of these sets of standards.  Comments, as always, are very welcome.

Hey, and you should see my garage - it's never looked so good! 


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Reader Comments (20)

Thank you very much! This is very helpful. Now you can find my garage at 1827 N.....

January 7, 2008 | Unregistered CommenterJoe Brennan

Finding another visually minded individual is such a blessing. I second Joe's suggestion about his garage, only for would be better if you hit my office! :)


January 7, 2008 | Unregistered CommenterSara

Thank you so much for sharing this! I got a lot from both the visual and the comments. It really does help to have them compared and I think there are many of us out there that could use this to springboard to the "one page document" to share with principals that Chris Harris suggests. Thanks again and I'm glad your garage is clean --- want come help with mine :)???

January 7, 2008 | Unregistered CommenterLiz P.

Thanks for this, Doug. I hope you will post a link to this on the AASL Blog (or I just might do it myself!). There is a very timely discussion going on there about the standards, timely because the AASL Learning Assessment and Indicators Task Force is just ramping up for its work...the next big piece. I love a good debate--Sara KJ

PS--my garage isn't too bad, but my two attics could use your neatnik organizing skills!

January 7, 2008 | Unregistered CommenterSara Kelly Johns

Great idea, Doug--and a lot of work.
One thing--in AASL #1, one of the subdivisions is "demonstrate mastery of tech tools." You made this red (IL). Shouldn't it be orange (tech skills)? We have few enough orange ovals!
Also, is there a way in Inspiration (which I don't use) to show two colors for one idea. For example, under AASL # 3, I think "share understandings and reflect on learning" would be appropriate in both the "communication" and "attitude" categories. Of course putting two disparate ideas like that together is calling for confusion!
Otherwise, I enjoyed the display. I actually turned it into an outline but the colors do help show the big picture.

January 7, 2008 | Unregistered CommenterTom Kaun

WOW! And a clean garage!!
Thanks so much for doing this. Since it's posted on your blog, I will be sharing this URL with my grad students and my state's listserv.

It is fascinating to note that both organizations have recognized a need for change. (Sounds just like the presidential campaigns.)

January 7, 2008 | Unregistered CommenterHilda K. Weisburg

Thanks, Doug,I want to take some time to look at this. I've been carrying around the standards in my bookbag for several weeks! Our state organization, RIEMA, plans to look at our curriculum relative to the new standards and this will be a great help.


January 7, 2008 | Unregistered CommenterJackie Lamoureux

Doug - Thanks bunches - I have created two grids (not as nice as yours) that align or match our Wisconsin Info Tech Literacy standards to both ISTE's new ones and to the Partnership for 21st Century Skills ICT standards.

Not quite the same as yours but another look at this type of activity as states begin to revise/refresh in lieu of the revisions nationally.

Stuart J. Ciske - Wisconsin DPI

Anyone can email me at if you want them as they are not really public yet and I can't post them to our DPI website.

January 7, 2008 | Unregistered CommenterStuart Ciske

Hi folks,

Thanks, Sara. Nice to hear from you! Long time, so see.

I wish got as many speaking requests as I got for cleaning garage/office/house cleaning! Must show where my skills truly lie!

I am hoping that Tom and others will take these and change them as they see fit. I did not do this as a representative of any professional organization - just to help me clarify my own thinking.

I'd urge everyone to find a way to make these standards their own.

All the best,


January 7, 2008 | Unregistered CommenterDoug Johnson

NEAT! And tidy, and very much like I like to see things, though I can't say I'd have worked so hard to make it so. I thank you for giving me a visual model to compare, and I'm glad that someone else senses a "slippery factor" to some of these standards.

I would like to see more of the blue "ethical" objects, or a thoughtfully crafted subset of them, as technologies grow more and more pervasive (in ways both positive and not-so-positive...")

Thanks again, man! Would you come and work on my garage?


January 7, 2008 | Unregistered CommenterScott Merrick

That was a lot of hard work and deep thought. I wonder how the the enGauge 21st Century skills would mesh with these 2 skill sets? There is a lot of overlap but they all serve to create a vision of the product of 21st education. I only hope the policy makers are looking beyond preparation of students to perform well on standardized tests. Their view should include life in a future that we can only guess about.

January 7, 2008 | Unregistered CommenterPatricia Callender

Excellent work! Thank you so much for sharing this. This must have been a lot of work, in addition to garage cleaning that I vaguely understand is a man's worst nightmare. The affective component is certainly evident in this new iteration of the standards. I think it's a step in the right direction, but I hope that it includes preparing students for all the standardized tests that are emerging.

January 7, 2008 | Unregistered CommenterTruc Nguyen

Hi Truc,

You are very welcome. I hope you find this useful.

There will continue to be a tension between those who emphasize basic skills as measured by standardized tests and those who see a need to emphasize more affective, right-brained attributes. But that has been an on-going controversy for a very long time.

All the best,


January 7, 2008 | Unregistered CommenterDoug Johnson

Thanks Doug!
Your visual representation comparing the standards is very helpful. Started to make a comparison myself, but got distracted by the need to clean the kitchen. Could be a gender thing, but then again... naw Interesting to note that both groups are moving toward a common ground and seeking to define our roles in a 21st century educational environment.

January 7, 2008 | Unregistered CommenterKathy Sanders

Doug, you are THE man. Thanks so much for illustrating these two standards,

And I bet the cables and patch cords behind your stacked electronic gear are tucked away neatly, too.

January 7, 2008 | Unregistered CommenterMarty Swist

...the Inspiration file too. Thank you so much.

January 7, 2008 | Unregistered CommenterMichael Vallance

Hi Kathy,

Always nice to learn that something has been helpful.

I've always thought that AASL and ISTE were of two genders as well. Maybe these standards show there is common ground ;-)

All the best and thanks for the comment!


January 8, 2008 | Unregistered CommenterDoug Johnson

Very interesting, Doug. In the April issue of Teacher Librarian, we are going to have several comparisons and visual models of the standards and will have a contest for both adults and kids to send in visual representations. It will be a part of a challenge for each professional to do what you have done as an excuse to internalize the content of this more complex document.

January 8, 2008 | Unregistered CommenterDavid Loertscher

Hi David,

Thanks for the head's-up. Looking forward to getting my copy as always!

I did think the exercise helped me internalize (as you put it) the standards!

You want a judge for your contest?

All the best,


January 8, 2008 | Unregistered CommenterDoug Johnson

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