“Mister, it’s not working.” In unison, the classroom teacher and I turned to see what was troubling the student. Immediately, we both eyed each other from across the library computer lab with the same “um, this is going to take more attention than expected” look. Picture if you will what we, as teachers, saw in front of us: a student holding the computer keyboard in the air, grasping each side with a hand, and trying to type with just her thumbs. Clearly, this student had only typed on a cellphone. Not only would we need to consider this student’s learning needs as an Advanced ELL student, but also we’d need to reconsider where we had predicted she would be for a technology literacy starting point.
Yes, that’s an extreme scenario, but it’s a true story. There are the students who chicken peck their way across the keyboard. There are the students who haven’t heard of a network map and therefore don’t quite understand where to save documents for universal access. This wide divide in student technology literacy needs to be considered as we implement the Common Core State Standards. Despite this divide, we must also remember to continue to give our students highly skilled and highly demanding technology exposure. Yes, we need to help some of our students learn to type at a faster speed with endurance. But, the only time the students sit down at a computer can’t be to type. It especially can’t only be to type if that typing is always disconnected from class projects like an essay, a science lab, or a presentation.
Typing is the New Lexile
Considering the technology literacy of students while providing highly skilled and demanding technology components can appear inharmonious with each other. However, if we don’t agree to hold these discordant ideas as achievable, I fear that we will get mired in a technology integration that merely increases the technology literacy divide. As evidence, I point to writing standard 6, which in grades 4-6 specifically outlines an amount of pages to be typed by a student. I don’t know about your district’s piloting of the SBAC, but the only thing that I’ve heard reported several times in different group settings is the lack of typing skills from our students. I agree that typing skills needs to be dealt with, but I fear that “typing is the new Lexile.” It took us too long to revise our thinking on text complexity, and we still haven’t fully recovered from equating text complexity as solely a Lexile score, determined by a computer. I can only imagine the detriment to our students if we begin to focus technology instruction too heavily on typing skills.
Before we hop on the “typing as technology instruction” train, let’s stop to reflect on what the Common Core is asking for technology. Additionally, what is our society asking our students to understand and do, with regards to technology? If you haven’t read the standards with an eye for its technology pieces, bookmark this post to remind you during the summer months to take a perusal. What’s complicated about technology literacy and the Common Core is that it’s not all in the same spot or even the same subheading of standards. You should find though that technology is: typing, creation tool, collaboration platform, research tool, place for critical thinking/problem solving, integration of multiple media types, and more. Take Speaking & Listening Standard 5 as an example.
Where are great places to learn about technology literacy & Common Core after I read the CCSS ELA standards?
I would, of course, send you to talk to your school’s Teacher-Librarian/Library Media Specialist. He or she can offer you a plethora of resources tailored to your learning needs and starting points. If you happen to not have that position at your school, take a look at the 21st-Century Learner Standards published and created by the AASL (American Association of School Librarians). What’s even better, is that AASL has already created a crosswalk between their 21st-Century Learner Standards and the Common Core State Standards. At the state level, OSPI has information available on Educational Technology with specific links to state and national standards. Last, but not least, the work out of ISTE (International Society for Technology in Education) centers the conversation about technology at a national level, with NCCE organizing our regional division. The great thing about ISTE is that beyond standards for students, they have developed standards for teachers.
My Humble Request
My humble request to our readers is for you to delve into what it means to be technologically literate. Then, be an advocate in your building, speaking from a platform of expertise. We need to be offering our students not only the chance to meet standards beyond just typing but the opportunity to learn those standards. To say that you integrate and use technology cannot be just an option given for student choice without any specific teaching of the platform for students. The students who already know how to make say a Prezi will continue to outpace and outperform their counterparts on integration of various media types, Speaking & Listening Standard 5 seen above, simply because they walked into the classroom knowing a tool.
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