This article is an excerpt from our eBook, Building a Digital Literacy Program that Nurtures Future-Ready Students.
To build a digital literacy program that is both equitable and effective, developing a comprehensive scope and sequence for the curriculum is imperative. Delineating skills – and their progressive complexity – across different subject areas and grade levels defines what students will learn in specific classes and what they will need to be able to know and do as they progress from one grade level to another.
This process for mapping digital literacy curriculum ensures learning begins with foundational technology skills that compound, grow, and connect as students’ skills develop.
There are a multitude of standards that support digital literacy curriculum, including Common Core, ISTE, and CSTA.
Common Core: Common Core Standards and its state-specific variants are grade and subject area standards covering ELA, math, and literacy for history, social studies, science, and other technical subjects.
CSTA: The CSTA Computer Science Standards focus on computer science and related technology skills that are integral for career readiness in the 21st century.
Beyond these, there are other standards for content areas like social studies and science as well as library standards and STEM-centric frameworks to guide scope and sequence planning. By examining and curating standards, educators can better tailor the digital literacy curriculum to fit the implementation model. After identifying the relevant sets of standards, the scope and sequence can be further delineated.
Mapping the Vertical Scope and Sequence
In the same way that a novice pianist cannot play Mozart in a recital, students cannot use technology if they do not have the requisite skills to do so. A student will not be able to use a spreadsheet to analyze and interpret data and predict trends if they don’t know how to enter data, work the formulas and functions, and create trend charts.
In sum, digital literacy curriculum must be vertically aligned to reflect when skills will be introduced and how they will expand and develop so that students are prepared to meet expectations in relevant grade levels.
When working through vertical scope and sequence, the various sets of standards complement each other. For example, core standards help define the grade levels and subjects in which ISTE standards may be addressed.
Example: Common Core Meets ISTE
In the third grade core standard W.3.8, students must be able to recall information from experiences or gather information from print and digital sources; take brief notes on sources and sort evidence into provided categories.
To reach this skill, students require media literacy and visual mapping skills, as well as more fundamental skills like typing and word processing, to manage their curated information.
To support students in doing so, this standard under ISTE’s “Knowledge Constructor” would also apply: Students curate information from digital resources using a variety of tools and methods to create collections of artifacts that demonstrate meaningful connections or conclusions.
Then, jumping ahead to sixth grade, the same core standard (W.6.8) expands to gathering relevant information from multiple print and digital sources; assess the credibility of each source; and quote or paraphrase the data and conclusions of others while avoiding plagiarism and providing basic bibliographic information for sources.
As this skill is developed, so is the “Knowledge Constructor” with students now addressing this standard: Students evaluate the accuracy, perspective, credibility, and relevance of information, media, data or other resources.
By understanding how digital literacy skills grow vertically, the sequence becomes clearer:
- Grade 3: Organizing ideas with visual mapping software
- Grade 6: Applying media literacy by scrutinizing digital sources (digital citizenship)
This sequencing can then be further constructed with horizontal planning.
Mapping the Horizontal Scope and Sequence
Horizontal alignment addresses how the digital literacy skills will be addressed in different content areas. When building the horizontal scope and sequence for digital literacy curriculum, schools and districts can assign skills and competencies based on subject area standards.
English Language Arts
According to the Common Core standard W.7.6, seventh grade ELA students need to hone their word processing skills to be able to: Use technology, including the internet, to produce and publish writing and link to and cite sources as well as to interact and collaborate with others, including linking to and citing sources.
In the National Council of Teachers of Mathematics (NCTM) standards, middle school math students must be knowledgeable of how to use spreadsheets to be able to: Select, create, and use appropriate graphical representations of data, including histograms, box plots and scatter plots.
Then, the Next Generation Science Standards (NGSS) states that middle school students in Engineering Design must also develop computational thinking skills to be able to: Develop a model to generate data for iterative testing and modification of a proposed object, tool, or process such that an optimal design can be achieved.
Further, in the College, Career, and Civic Life (C3) standards, middle school students in Social Studies will also need media literacy and digital citizenship skills to be able to: Evaluate the credibility of a source by determining its relevance and intended use.
Digital literacy skills such as computational thinking, pattern recognition and algorithmic thinking are foundational to elements of computer science including coding and data analysis. Furthermore, a strong understanding of digital citizenship and online safety can help ensure students have the basis to consider ethics in computer science.
Beyond assigning focus by core subjects, digital literacy can also be incorporated elsewhere in curriculum. For example, computational thinking in a science class would benefit from coding lessons, which are easily integrated into computer labs. Digital citizenship under social studies also begets media literacy and research skills, which are readily targeted in a library setting.
By using these examples, an initial start to the horizontal scope and sequence might include:
- ELA: Constructing researched writing with word processing tools
- Math: Visualizing data with spreadsheets
- Science: Using algorithmic design (computational thinking) to develop solutions
- Social Studies: Scrutinizing digital content with media literacy (digital citizenship)
- Computer Science: Learning a text-based coding language such as Python
Delineating where and how skills will be taught optimizes the implementation model and reinforces the program’s vision. Alignment builds a more cohesive digital literacy curriculum, making disparate standards not so disparate and digital literacy not ‘just another program’ but an essential element to the entire learning process because, at its core, this program aims to transform the ways students learn by empowering them with technology skills needed to succeed in their future.
The result of this effort is an equitable and effective digital literacy program.
This article was originally published in July 2019 and has since been updated.
Founded in 1999, Learning.com provides educators with solutions to prepare their students with critical digital skills. Our web-based curriculum for grades K-12 engages students as they learn keyboarding, online safety, applied productivity tools, computational thinking, coding and more.