Common Core Quick-Start

Incorporating Digital Devices into Common Core Lessons

Elizabeth Ross Hubbell and Kirsten Miller

Technology and the Common Core State Standards are a natural fit: after all, the standards are peppered with references to technology, digital tools, and multimedia. But though the Common Core standards tell us what to teach, they don’t tell us how to teach it—or, in this case, which technologies teachers and students can use to implement the standards.

When it comes to technology, the wording of the standards is purposefully broad so that the documents won’t become dated as specific tools are replaced by newer technologies. However, a teacher new to technology might find this general treatment of 21st century tools frustrating and obscure. If nothing else, the lack of specific guidance might be limiting for teachers who aren’t yet tech-savvy.

For example, mathematics standard 7 under interpreting functions in high school states that students should, “Graph functions expressed symbolically and show key features of the graph, by hand in simple cases and using technology for more complicated cases.” Although most teachers would immediately think of using a graphing calculator, there are also a variety of online tools and iOS (Apple’s mobile operating system) apps that could be used for this purpose.

Similarly, one of the college- and career-readiness anchor standards for writing states that students should, “Use technology, including the Internet, to produce and publish writing and to interact and collaborate with others.” Though blogs or e-mail might first come to mind, tools such as ScreenChomp andExplainEverything can create vodcasts (video podcasts) to provide even richer collaborative communication experiences.

So, how can teachers choose the right technology to use when implementing the Common Core standards? As with any instructional tool, we need to adjust its application to our intended outcome.

Defining the Purpose of Technology

We first need to determine what we’re teaching and how we’re teaching it and then consider how technology can help us get there.

One helpful tool for choosing technologies is Pitler, Hubbell, and Kuhn’s (2012) Matrix of Strategies and Technologies. The matrix helps teachers first identify the instructional strategy that they intend to use (Dean, Hubbell, Pitler, & Stone, 2012) and then narrow down the myriad of choices to one of the nine types of technology:

  • word processing
  • organizing and brainstorming
  • data collection and analysis
  • communication and collaboration
  • instructional media
  • multimedia creation
  • instructional interactives
  • database and reference
  • kinesthetic technology

Let’s say, for example, that a 6th grade teacher wants his students to research varying points of view about what should be done about a pollution issue in their small town. Following Writing Anchor Standard 1 in the Common Core State Standards, he wants his students to “Write arguments to support claims in an analysis of substantive topics or texts, using valid reasoning and relevant and sufficient evidence.” In addition, he hopes to incorporate a rich multimedia and collaboration activity to tap into his students’ recent interest in connecting with learners outside of their school.

As he looks over the matrix, he decides that his proposed activity will use the instructional strategies of summarizing and cooperative learning, because students will have specific roles on which they will be graded in addition to the group product. Next, he reviews the technology types and decides that the tools he has in mind fall under the communication and collaboration and multimedia creation categories of the matrix.

With this information in hand, he can search the Internet and the iTunes store for tools that will fit his purpose. He decides to use VoiceThread, an online resource and iOS app that allows students to upload pictures or slides, record their voice, draw on the slides, and comment. This tool not only gives his students a place to verbally and nonlinguistically summarize what they find, but also gives them a platform for providing feedback to their team members.

As his students grow more comfortable with using these types of technologies, he will later give them the freedom to choose their preferred tools for projects.

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