Great Tech Expectations: What Should Elementary Students Be Able to Do and When? | Edutopia
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Great Tech Expectations: What Should Elementary Students Be Able to Do and When?

Mary Beth Hertz

K-8 Technology Teacher in Philadelphia, PA
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First off, let me clarify that I am not a proponent of expecting all children to learn at the same pace. Why all third graders are expected to be at x reading level by January is beyond me. That said, I think it's a fair assumption that there are certain skills that we hope our students have by a certain age in order to help them reach their full potential. This also applies to tech skills.

I teach in a computer lab every day, with classes ranging from kindergarten through sixth grade rotating through my lab every 45 minutes. I have the luxury of seeing what my students can accomplish and I understand how to scaffold their learning so that when they reach a higher grade I know they will have the required repertoire of skills to be successful in whatever projects we are working on and at whatever school they may end up in when they leave me.

Here are some skills by grade level that I aim to have my students obtain. Each skill is rated per grade as either an Introductory (I), Developing (D) or Applied (A) Skill.

(Please keep in mind that I teach in a high-poverty school where many kids do not have access to computers, iDevices or the Internet at home.)

Skill K 123456
Log into a computer using a one-word single sign-onA___________
Log into a computer using your own personal accountIA A A A A A
Log into web-based tool accounts I D A A A A A
Find keys on the keyboard to construct sentences and type your name I D A A A A A
Know how to make a capital letter using Shift I D A A A A A
Type using two hands I D D D A A A
Type at least 15 WPM __ __ I D A A A
Type at least 20 WPM __ __ __ I D A A
Type at least 25 WPM __ __ __ __ D D A
Know some basic keyboard shortcuts I D D D D A A
Know how to copy/paste __ __ I D D A A
Save a file I D D A A A A
Open a file I D A A A A A
Understand file paths I D D D A A A
Locate files and navigate file paths independently I I D D A A A
Know how to organize files I I I I D D A
Navigate a browser (back, forward buttons and tab) I D A A A A A
Know how to evaluate websites for accuracy and relevance I I I D D A A
Know how to leave a useful comment for a peer I I D A A A A
Practice good netiquette when commenting I I D D A A A
Know how to use tools like Edmodo or Schoology to discuss, share and blog about course content __ __ __ __ D D A
Collaborate with peers on digital projects I I I D D D A
Begin to look for solutions to real-world problems through the lens of technology I I I D D D D
Know a system for bookmarking/saving sites __ __ __ I D D A
Use a tool like Diigo to compile resources __ __ __ __ __ D D
Be familiar with basic menus within applications I D D D A A A
Independently use a drawing program (like TuxPaint) I D D A A A A
Complete graphic organizers using software like Kidspiration I D D A A A A
Take and edit photos using PhotoBooth or Picnik I D D D A A A
Insert photos into projects I D D A A A A
Download and upload photos I D D D A A A
Create and edit video I I D D D D D
Be able to synthesize information from one place to another (i.e. graphic organizer to comic, web information into graphic organizer) I I D D D A A
Compose short stories using a web-based tool like Storybird I D D D A A A
Compose and format longer stories using Word Processing software I I D D D A A
Create basic presentations using tools like PowerPoint I I D D D A A
Have a basic understanding of programming through programs like Scratch __ __ __ __ I D D
Be able to show what you know through a variety of tools __ __ __ I D D A
Know how to build a website or wiki, including images, citations and video __ __ __ __ I D A
Write and maintain a personal blog __ __ I D D D A
Know vocabulary like Desktop, monitor, CPU, mouse, keyboard, application, program, browser I D A A A A A
Have a basic understanding of copyright I D D D D A A
Understand and follow copyright rules and guidelines I D D D D D A
Cite sources __ __ __ I D D A
Know what kinds of information you should/shouldn't share online I D D D A A A
Know how to handle cyberbullies I D D D D A A
Know how to configure privacy settings __ __ __ __ I D D

This is a rough framework and in no way representative of everything that students should know. I am one-hundred percent sure that I missed some things along the way and that many people will argue with some of it, but that's why we blog, right?

Please let me know what I may have left out or anything you think is in the wrong place or doesn't need to be there at all.


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Mary Beth Hertz's picture
Mary Beth Hertz
K-8 Technology Teacher in Philadelphia, PA

Yes, Donna. We can't assume that just because a student is of a certain age that they know how to use digital tools. I have found myself focusing a lot on basic skills with my students to fill the gaps they have as compared to their contemporaries in higher-income neighborhoods and schools.

teach2connect's picture
K-4 Technology Facilitator, suburban Maryland

Perfect timing MB. I totally needed this kind of information TODAY and here it is...Thanks!

Shelley Owen's picture

I have 11 years experience teaching in a computer lab, your list is spot-on! Thank you! I would love to be able to download the chart?

Tawny-Raquel Collins's picture

This is an excellent list. I appreciate you sharing such a wonderful resource. I echo the thought that having this in downloadable form would be a great idea. I plan to share this list on my home school educators 2.0 wiki. This is not only an excellent resource for those of us who teach but also a great resource for parents. Thank you for sharing.

Jan Seiter's picture

"Know how to use tools like Edmodo or Schoology to discuss, share and blog about course content
Collaborate with peers on digital projects
Begin to look for solutions to real-world problems through the lens of technology..."
I appreciate that you included these ideas as Introduction at the primary grades. Showing and demonstrating can be good for the teacher as well.

Mary Beth Hertz's picture
Mary Beth Hertz
K-8 Technology Teacher in Philadelphia, PA

Thanks for the feedback. I'm glad to know the list is helpful. As for a PDF, I will see what I can do.

Todd H's picture

This is a very comprehensive list of "must knows" for the computer lab. I too work in a Title 1 school where students have little or no access to computers after school is out, some, even after their computer class is over for the day. While we have student computers in each of our classrooms, and we are known for our level of technology in the classroom, I often ask myself what good does it do if the students cannot continue the practice at home, and get computer time 2 or three times a week.

What caught my eye about your list is that the span of grades K-6 is the same at my school. Unfortunately, because of the lack of practice, the items you have listed as being accomplished by 6th grade, well, not many of my students have that mastery. I actually run the science lab at my school and am fortunate to have enough laptops in my room that students can work in pairs on them. But with some groups just logging in to the machines is a chore, and this is a task that should be known by kinder-first grade.

I am not giving up though, I am going to print a copy of the list and pass it along to our computer teacher and also keep it for my lab, as it is a useful guide.

Thanks for posting it!

Charlie's Desk's picture
Charlie's Desk
Elementary School Computer Lab Teacher

Nice job with the matrix of skills! I too have taught in a computer lab with 45 minute classes coming and going for quite a long time. And, have spanned grades 2 through 8. Recently I have become frustrated trying to do "bigger picture", project-based learning in the special subject setting. I see over 600 students each week and am trying to develop a good method of managing and organizing myself. It is difficult to do some types of activities. For example, if I want my classes to Skype with another class, author, etc., I have to find volunteers for all of my classes throughout the week. That is nearly impossible. So, if you can pass along some organizational wisdom in addition to your skills matrix it would be greatly appreciated!! BTW, have you begun attempting to align to SAS? Your thoughts on that! :-)

Rita Oates, PhD's picture
Rita Oates, PhD
Global PBL, student engagement in STEM, language practice

Mary Beth, this is a terrific matrix to help people realize that developmentally, students need to do some things before they can do other things, and that they may need to review what "was covered last year" too.
Have you thought about organizing all these great activities around the NETS-S? The National Educational Technology Standards for Students were created collaboratively by ISTE and many educators and have been revised. They are used in multiple countries, not just the US, thanks to the work of ISTE.

Here's a link:
The broad overview (each standard has additional parts):
*Demonstrate creativity and innovation
*Communicate and collaborate
*Conduct research and use information
*Think critically, solve problems, and make decisions
*Use technology effectively and productively

A grade 4 teacher in Georgia, Elizabeth Simmons, created computer-based activities throughout the school year to meet all the NETS-S with her students. Her class collaborated with a class in the UK. That teacher won an award for "most outstanding use of ed tech in UK schools"!
Elizabeth Simmons was invited to be the keynote of the Global Education Conference in Nov. 2010. Here's the recording of her session:

Here is a link to her slides:

I hope that others who are active on the Edutopia site could help you organize the items under the NETS-S and suggest what else might be helpful to add. For those looking to fulfill the "Communicate and collaborate" standard, I recommend using the free ePals Global Community to find other teachers in 200 countries, in the largest online network of K12 teachers in the world. You can also use ePals SchoolMail for students to communicate, or ePals Student Forums for students safely asking and answering questions about their lives. (All these have translation to 58 languages.)

Mary Beth Hertz's picture
Mary Beth Hertz
K-8 Technology Teacher in Philadelphia, PA

Thanks, Rita, for the resources! Great minds must think alike. One of my first posts here discusses the importance of keeping the NETS in mind when planning with technology (

The NETS are very general, so I found the need to isolate certain skills that I felt were necessary for my students to be able to work toward those standards. I definitely plan on mapping them to the NETS, so I thank you again for the resources!

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