ISTE Standard 3: Model Digital-Age Work and Learning
Triggering Event Question: As an elementary school teacher how can I display traits of literary competence in my classroom and in the community surrounding my students, using digital tools?
At the heart of this new digital age is an interconnectedness that allows us to tap into countless new ideas and resources. For students, computer literacy skills are of paramount importance as we now rely significantly on technology to explore new ideas, research and evaluate data and information, and problem solve. To foster greater abilities in our students for the manipulation of digital tools to achieve desired personal and educational objectives we need to first focus on increasing our students’ general exposure to computers at home as well as in the classroom. Greater sustained exposure will ultimately give them the experience they need to become more capable digital learners.
As teachers it is important to recognize that the more general exposure our students obtain in relation to computers the greater their digital literacy will be (Dragon & Ewa, 2012). As an elementary educator working at a Title 1 school I’ve noted that the students from more affluent backgrounds usually have greater digital competency. Dragon and Ewa describe digital competency as “the capability to explore and face new technological situations in a flexible way, to analyze, select and critically evaluate data and information, to exploit technological potentials in order to represent and solve problems and build shared and collaborative knowledge” (p. 1755). More affluent students often have digitally competent parents who use computers a great deal at home, which extends their digital learning beyond the classroom. Greater digital competency gives students the ability to perform better in web-based assignments and with an increasing amount of assignments being digitally based it is only fair to explore how we might extend the digital learning for all students, regardless of whether they come from more affluent backgrounds.
One interesting approach in seeking how to extend digital learning beyond the classroom for all students involves the parents. In Using Computer Technology to Bridge School and Community, by Jie-Qi Chen and Warren Dym (2003), we learn about a teacher, in a lower-income district, whose focus it was to raise awareness among the parents of his students about the importance and power of computers. This teacher offered parents a basic computer skills course with the logic that if parents learned to rely on computers more at home, his students would only benefit from the increased general exposure to computers. The results were excellent. Participating parents gained new skills, which allowed them to begin supporting their elementary aged children more from home as they learned together how to appropriately use the Internet to complete a variety of personal and educational tasks. This is a great example of how a teacher used their knowledge and skills to collaborate with the community in support of extended and enhanced digital learning for their students.
A classmate posted a helpful article by Holland (2013), which speaks to the importance of supporting the development of digital fluency in our students. With greater access and exposure to digital learning we are able to focus on increasing students’ digital fluency so they can learn to utilize the Internet more appropriately and with better results. Holland (2013) defines digital or technology fluency as the “ability to manipulate, transform and move information across various media and platforms” (p. 1).
How can we assist our students in the development of their digital fluency within the confines of our classrooms in order so they can display traits of literary competence? Holland (2013) asserts that we must challenge our students to think creatively and out of necessity for themselves as they are utilizing digital tools such as computers. Some examples on how to do this include:
- Digital Platforms: Require use of a variety of digital platforms to achieve an objective. For example, instead of giving clear, easy, and direct instructions to the whole class on how to complete an assignment, require each student to access your class blog, for example, which contains the detailed instructions on how to complete the assignment. This approach requires students to use a variety of digital platforms to access the instructions, which gives them more general exposure to computers while requiring them to take greater ownership of the learning process.
- Scaffolded Challenges: Provide students only partial instructions on how to complete a greater assignment or task, which requires use of digital tools, leaving it up to them to figure out the best steps to take to meet their objectives.
- Empower Student Leaders: Utilize tech-savvy students in your class to help teach others as you assign tasks using digital tools.
In conclusion, there are a variety of ways we can offer students opportunities to hone in on becoming better digital learners. We can involve families to ensure students receive more general exposure to computers at home, which only adds to their digital competency. And we can challenge students from within our classrooms in finding new ways to utilize digital tools to achieve their objectives. In short, we want to be teachers who use our knowledge and skills to give students what they need to learn how to take responsibility for their own learning in today’s ever-changing and expanding digital landscape.
Chen, J., & Dym, W. (2003). Using computer technology to bridge school and community. Phi Delta Kappan, November 2003, 232-235.
Dragon, K. & Wasniewski, E. (2012). Relationships between digital literacy and print literacy: Predictors of successful on-line search. Proceedings of Society for Information Technology & Teacher Education International Conference 2012 (pp. 1755-1758).
Holland, B. (2013, December 16). Building technology fluency: Preparing students to be digital learners. Edutopia. Retrieved from