At a recent gathering of educators, I heard an individual bragging about his district’s move toward aligning curriculum with the Common Core State Standards (CCSS). This is what the educator said (roughly):
Our elementary classrooms are all getting iPads.
This kind of thinking isn’t unique. I frequently see the CCSS being synonymized with classroom tech. This got me wondering: how much of the actual CCSS ELA/Literacy standards explicitly mention technology?
Very few technology anchor standards
Well, it turns out there aren’t a lot. My lists are categorized below.
STANDARDS THAT DIRECTLY MENTION TECHNOLOGY:
I could be missing one, but when searching for anchor standards that explicitly refer to the use of digital technology, I count only three:
- W.CCR.6 — “Use technology, including the Internet, to produce and publish writing and to interact and collaborate with others.”
- W.CCR.9 — “Gather relevant information from multiple print and digital sources…”
- SL.CCR.5 — “Make strategic use of digital media and visual displays of data…”
STANDARDS THAT REASONABLY IMPLY TECHNOLOGY:
This category is a bit fuzzy, so I’m sure we could argue on what standards fall within it, but from my overview there are three additional anchor standards that reasonably imply the use of technology:
- R.CCR.7 — “Integrate and evaluate content presented in diverse media and formats…”
- W.CCR.8 — “Conduct short as well as sustained research projects…”
- SL.CCR.2 — “Integrate and evaluate information presented in diverse media and formats…”
STANDARDS THAT COULD INCORPORATE TECHNOLOGY:
Nothing has changed here: technology can be incorporated into learning just about any skill, and that probably includes all of those mentioned in the CCSS. But, to me, this begs a question: do you need technology to teach most of the CCSS?
For the sake of increasing equal access to a quality education regardless of school budgets, I would argue that, no, you do not need technology to teach most of the CCSS because the CCSS focuses on core, old school literacies.
Technology is nice, but…
I believe that the writers of the CCSS realized that true 21st century skills are the same as true 20th century skills. From my standpoint, these are:
- Being a person of character (not a part of CCSS, but crucial)
Now, I need to be transparent: I’m biased by my own story.
As a member of the high school graduating class of 2002 and the college graduating class of 2006, the snazziest technology I could access in elementary school was the occasional game of Frogger on a classroom Macintosh. By the time I graduated high school, Hotmail was just coming into vogue, AOL Instant Messenger was the coolest thing I could do on my home’s dial-up Internet connection, and the term “Web 2.0” was still a nerd-only word.
Yet, when Facebook came out, I figured out how to use it. When blogs became accessible via Blogger and WordPress, I figured them out. I figured out how to Google and how to determine the strengths and weaknesses of a given source on the Internet.
And despite not having spent countless hours in my core classes using the latest technology, I have happened to graduate from a demanding university, find employment wherever I’ve moved, and altogether flourish in the 21st century world that has come of age along with me.
To what do I credit my success? I certainly lack an outstanding innate talent or intelligence. Rather, I thank God for a boatload of reading, writing, thinking, and speaking instruction, and key character mentors who essentially taught me to work hard and be nice.
Now, before ardent tech-lovers begin commenting in fury, I’m not saying that we shouldn’t devote time to teaching students how to effectively and creatively use technology.
Instead, I am saying that unless students can really read, write, think, and speak, it doesn’t matter how pretty their Prezi is. (Click here to tweet this quote.) I believe this is where the vast majority of our time should be focused, and it can most often be done with nothing savvier than a book, a pen, and a piece of paper.
So, what do you think? Let’s get the conversation started. Thoughts? Rants? Helpful ideas for teaching the key skills I’ve mentioned with or without tech?
(And don’t forget to spread the conversation via Twitter!)