Common Core Tests Require Digital, Computer Literacy Skills


As computer skills become increasing necessity in the workforce, there has been a call for greater digital and computer literacy in schools and the inclusion of such skills in both curriculum and testing.

Exams linked to the Common Core standards will replace the paper-and-pencil multiple choice tests given in 29 states this year.  Students who take the new exams must be able to switch between screens, open drop-down menus and be able to move words and numbers.

Many educators argue that although children have grown up in a computer-savvy world, hands-on instruction is still needed as the exams require different skills of test-takers than they would learn using a smartphone, reports Lisa Leff for The Columbian.

“Children can be quick learners when technology is in front of them at school, but knowing very intuitively how to drag and drop or highlight words or even indent a paragraph on a Google doc is not going to come naturally,” said Susan Gonzalez, the computer lab teacher at Ja’Niyah’s school, Bayview Elementary.

Common Core exams are given in the third through eighth grades and then again in high school.  The standards outline what students should know at the end of each grade level in math, reading and writing.  While technology benchmarks are not included in the standards, the skills are a necessity for children to take the exam.

For example, the writing standards ask that students “use a variety of digital tools to produce and publish writing” starting in the first grade.  By the sixth grade, the standards state that students should “demonstrate sufficient command of keyboarding skills to type a minimum of three pages in a single sitting.”

As a part of the growing movement toward increasing digital literacy among schoolchildren, national nonprofit organization Common Sense Education recently released the interactive gaming platform Digital Compass.  The games address digital issues faced by children on a daily basis and allow the students to determine how any digital interactions may impact their real-world lives.

“We created Digital Compass™ in response to overwhelming requests from the more than 200,000 educators who use our curriculum to help students learn, grow, and be responsible digital citizens,” said Mike Lorion, general manager of Common Sense Education. “Our teachers asked for an interactive tool that would seamlessly integrate into their blended learning environments and teach these important 21st-century skills to middle schoolers who are already comfortable with technology at home and at school.”

In the UK, school leaders hold the same views, saying computer coding is just as important reading and writing, and asking that it become a part of the daily curriculum in schools.

Dr Wendy Allen, principal of Discovery School, in Newcastle, said: “Coding skills are vital, but that is not because I think everyone should train to be software engineers or work in the computing industry. “It promotes computational thinking – this is how software engineers solve problems.