By Teachers, For Teachers
I run a column over on my blog, Ask a Tech Teacher, where readers ask questions about technology in the classroom. One frequent thread revolves around technology in the classroom goals for students. As a teacher, it's tempting to phrase goals like:
4th graders can create a chart in a spreadsheet
80 percent of 5th graders can complete 10 skills in MS Word (or Google Docs)
But that's not what technology is about. Technology supports a curriculum. It's the pencils and books of our digital world. It scaffolds learning, making it blended, normative, rigorous, and granular. The metric for measuring technology skills isn't a rubric with a list of skills (i.e., add a border, include a hyperlink, and changed the font color). Rather, it's evidence of the transfer of knowledge: Did the student use technology to further his/her educational journey?
Here are seven authentic technology in the classroom goals that are scalable to your needs and can be spiraled up or down as required:
It's tempting to assign a goal -- say, 3rd graders should type 15 wpm -- and then assess based on student ability to meet that goal, but that's not practical. It doesn't take into account where students are in the learning curve and what their personal learning style is. A more purpose-built goal is to assess based on progress. How much has the student improved? If a student starts the year at 5 wpm and ends with 12 wpm (with a goal of 15 wpm), statistically, they're average, but practically, they improved by 140 percent. Their grade should reflect that.
Everyone who uses technology knows it breaks down. One study predicted a 114 percent chance of having tech problems when using a computer. There's always something that doesn't work. Technology's worth is often measured by how quickly users can resolve problems and continue their project. In the classroom, there is a short list of about 20 problems that cause most workflow stoppage. Make sure students recognize these and can solve them wherever they are -- class, home, or at a friend's house. Assess whether students meet this goal by observing them in class and having other teachers/parents anecdotally report successes (or failures).
Using a webtool under the watchful eye of a teacher, surrounded by classmates who can help, is much different from using it when the only one there to assist is the student themselves. For our purposes, we'll define “use” as the ability to blend the tech tool into learning. Some great examples of this are digital note-taking, PDF annotation, and grammar tools. To measure this goal, anecdotally observe students as they work. Do they take notes digitally or search for a pencil and paper -- and sharpener and eraser? Do they correct grammar on the fly with a right click, or do they ignore the green squiggly lines?
When starting a project, don't assign the tech tool; ask students whether the goals of the project are better served by a word processing program? Or a slideshow? Or a video? Or maybe a spreadsheet? Get students to think about how each tool's particular characteristics differ from other tools and how it is best-suited to audience, task, and purpose. The first time you do this, build a formal compare-contrast chart and discuss how each program satisfies the lesson's big ideas and essential questions in different ways. Then, let students pick the one that fits their communication style.
Expect students to use unknown (meaning untaught) tech tools by transferring knowledge from other tools they've used. Many programs have similar toolbars, canvases, drag-and-drop features, and more. Before students ask for help, remind them to make these connections and see if they can be their own problem solvers.
Expect students to include technology as a strategy for all of their research, writing, and learning -- even when they're not in your class. A great example of this is vocabulary. A significant purpose of most reading standards is to learn new vocabulary. Technology provides tools for decoding words quickly and efficiently, while students read, rather than by memorizing a word list for homework. Make this an ongoing goal: When students encounter an unknown word, they take 10 seconds to decode it before returning to their reading.
From the moment students cross the virtual threshold of the Internet, they enter a neighborhood as transformative as the physical one, albeit larger, deeper, and more agile. Teach students what they need to know at each grade level to be good citizens of that digital world. This requires a thorough understanding of age-appropriates rights and responsibilities. For example, by 3rd grade, they understand how and when to cite images as well as text. Kindergartners know cyberbullies are as painful as playground bullies. And 8th graders understand the nuances of their digital footprint, online purchases, and social media.
All seven of these goals are measurable by anecdotal observation and daily accountability. Expected learning outcomes revolve around success in the grade-level curriculum rather than anything with the words “Technology,” “IT,” or “Digital.” You will know students have reached their goals because they will excel in all related academic areas.
For more on the future of educational assessment, read this excellent article by Dr. David Hawley.
Jacqui Murray has been teaching K-8 technology for 15 years. She is the editor/author of over a hundred tech ed resources including a K-8 technology curriculum, K-8 keyboard curriculum, K-8 Digital Citizenship curriculum. She is an adjunct professor in tech ed, CSG Master Teacher, webmaster for six blogs, an Amazon Vine Voice book reviewer, Editorial Review Board member for Journal for Computing Teachers, CAEP reviewer, CSTA presentation reviewer, freelance journalist on tech ed topics, and a weekly contributor to TeachHUB. You can find her resources at Structured Learning.