Don Knezek

Don Knezek

CEO, International Society for Technology in Education (ISTE)


World-Class teachers and school principals are the most critical upstream inputs to a world-class education system.

Above all, who you have teaching young learners, and who you have providing leadership to those teachers on a day-to-day basis, are the most important determinants of the quality of education our young learners receive. As we look at nations that have developed their education systems and moved to the top of the ranks in international comparisons of educational outcomes, serious investments in teacher professionalism and leadership is the championship strategy. For an opportunity to see what teaching, learning and leadership can look like globally in this digital age, visit the ISTE Annual Conference and Exposition.


Education policy is important, but education policy backed by leadership and incentive funding is a game changer.

Educators and education systems respond better with strong leadership and well-structured incentives for movement toward policy goals. If we, again, examine those national education systems that have overtaken the worldwide field in only a few decades, we find that clarity of focus, consistent and substantial commitment, and steady investment in the system—human and financial—driven by strong central policy and leadership clearly correlate to improving educational outcomes.

Engage with advocacy activities of ISTE and our sister professional associations concerned with engaging and relevant digital-age education to understand how to impact the alignment of local, regional, national and global education policy with improved education system performance.


Accountability based on needs of previous generations does not result in an education system that prepares learners for their futures.

Comparative global studies make it clear that measuring and rewarding student achievement as minimum academic skills of 20th Century curriculum does not create a nation that is competitive in the 21st Century. One of the toughest questions I’ve ever been asked came from a high-ranking legislator in Costa Rica heavily involved in their educational improvement efforts. “Don,” he asked, “how do you all expect to compete on the global (education) scene if you devote all your attention to minimum basic skills?” We were part of a national effort to determine how the ISTE National Educational Technology Standards (NETS) could better prepare students in that nation for their futures. I answered that that was clearly not my strategy!


The most important lessons to be learned today are not only inside the four walls of our classrooms.

Textbook and teacher centered learning experiences neither engage digital-age learners nor prepare this emerging generation to thrive in an increasingly digital and connected global society.  In the mid-1800s or so educators and policy-makers in the U.S. made monumental strides to see that every student-learner had a textbook because we saw that as the best resource available of the skills and knowledge required for learners to thrive in their futures. Today, we know those skills and that knowledge (to thrive in their futures) are worldwide and involve digital access, connectivity, skills and sophistication.

How can we be still debating whether young learners need to develop for their futures in environments that relate? I’ve learned that policy often ignores the obvious.


When organizations collaborate, kids win.

What education agencies, organizations and institutions can accomplish individually is quickly dwarfed by what we can do together. I’ve worked hard to ensure institutions and organizations with which I’ve been fortunate to be associated are strong individually, exhibiting efficacy and integrity. I’ve worked harder to ensure each is a superstar collaborator and critical partner contributing to joint efforts that leverage strengths of each participant group. And, while that strategy multiplies efforts, I’ve also learned that making things better for learners all over the world is very, very hard work.

The views expressed on this site are the author's own and do not necessarily reflect those of the Pearson Foundation.


Don Knezek, CEO of the International Society for Technology in Education (ISTE®), is recognized internationally for his leadership in transforming learning through effective and innovative uses of technology. He has led innovation in the classroom, from the district and state department of education perspectives, and through large multi-state projects. Dr. Knezek has recently served as Director of The National Center for Preparing Tomorrow’s Teachers to Use Technology (NCPT3) and Co-Director for the National Educational Technology Standards (NETS) Project—both important ISTE initiatives.

Don serves on a number of boards and advisory councils, including the governing board of the Institute for Information Technology in Education (IITE) of the United Nations Education and Scientific Organization (UNESCO), as a member of the UNESCO Advisory Team for Mobile Learning Policies, and as a member of the board of the Learning First Alliance.

Don is committed to universal education and to 24/7 student access to quality digital-age learning opportunities. He is a tireless advocate for job-embedded, ongoing professional development for educators and educational leaders, and is providing consulting services to ministries of education around the world sharing his valued expertise in preparing education leaders and teachers to thrive in an increasingly digital world.