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Standards in education provide a crucial framework for defining what students should learn and achieve at various educational levels. These standards play an important role in shaping curriculum, as well as assessment and measurement. Standards provide clear expectations for knowledge and skills required at different educational levels, which help educators design curriculum and teaching aligned with these educational goals.

Standards also help to promote equity in education by ensuring that all students, regardless of background, have access to quality education regardless of subject matter. They also support continuous improvement in educational practices, allowing educators and policymakers to identify areas for improvement and updates as information technology and application progress. 

Curriculum Standards for Digital Literacy in Education

In digital literacy education, standards are integral for aligning instruction as well as broadening the ways in which digital literacy and technology skills permeate core curriculum for technology-enabled teaching and learning.

Core Standards, ISTE Standards for Students and CSTA Computer Science Standards are the most common standards for designing a comprehensive digital literacy curriculum.

Common Core Standards in Digital Literacy Curriculum

With technology permeating almost all student learning, technology instruction is no longer siloed to computer class. This integration into core curriculum is readily apparent in the Common Core Standards and modified state-specific versions. Common Core is considered to be college and career readiness standards created to provide consistent, comprehensive and adequate learning goals across states.

Common Core Standards Structure

Common Core Standards are grade and subject-specific standards that articulate what students should “know” and “do,” and provide strategies for targeting these standards in instruction. Common Core Standards cover ELA and math as well as literacy standards for history, social studies, science and other technical subjects. While Common Core and its variants do not specifically address technology skills, these skills are both explicitly and implicitly incorporated into the standards.

For example, this following fourth-grade writing benchmark outlines how students will use technology in honing their writing practice:

“With some guidance and support from adults, use technology, including the Internet, to produce and publish writing as well as to interact and collaborate with others; demonstrate sufficient command of keyboarding skills to type a minimum of one page in a single sitting.”

Comparatively, this fourth-grade writing standard implicitly includes technology because much of writing process now occurs on computers; so, to meet this benchmark, students will apply technology skills like using word processing and visual mapping tools.

Produce clear and coherent writing in which the development and organization are appropriate to task, purpose and audience.

ISTE Standards for Students

The International Society for Technology in Education (ISTE) Standards for Students provides the framework for developing higher-order digital literacy skills, which enable student-led learning that is technology-driven.

ISTE Standards, A Brief History

First published in 1998, the ISTE standards concentrated on fundamental computer skills and competencies in student learning such as knowing how to save a file, navigate a web interface and use tools like floppy disks. 

In 2007, the standards were adapted to instead cover using technology in the learning process like creating charts or graphs from data.

The latest iteration, the ISTE Standards for Students, involves transforming student learning with technology and expanding learning beyond the boundaries of the classroom. They encourage students to apply technology concepts and skills to evaluate a problem and create a solution, deepening learning in core concepts and sharpening their technology skills simultaneously.

Structure of ISTE Standards

The ISTE Standards are not delineated by grade or subject. Instead, they are intended to be broad digital literacy skills, rather than content knowledge, that are applicable throughout the course of the student digital literacy learning experience.

The ISTE Standards’ framework cover the following skills:

  • Empowered Learner – Students leverage technology to take an active role in choosing, achieving and demonstrating competency in their learning goals, informed by the learning sciences.
  • Digital Citizen – Students recognize the rights, responsibilities and opportunities of living, learning and working in an interconnected digital world and they act and model in ways that are safe, legal and ethical.
  • Knowledge Constructor – Students critically curate a variety of resources using digital tools to construct knowledge, produce creative artifacts and make meaningful learning experiences for themselves and others.
  • Innovative Designer – Students use a variety of technologies within a design process to identify and solve problems by creating new, useful, or imaginative solutions.
  • Computational Thinker – Students develop and employ strategies for understanding and solving problems in ways that leverage the power of technological methods to develop and test solutions.
  • Creative Communicator – Students communicate clearly and express themselves creatively for a variety of purposes using the platforms, tools, styles, formats and digital media appropriate to their goals.
  • Global Collaborator – Students use digital tools to broaden their perspectives and enrich their learning by collaborating with others and working effectively in teams locally and globally.

Within the framework are performance standards focusing on what students can “do,” but they are not prescriptive about how to meet the standards. For example, under “Empowered Learner” are the following benchmarks:

  • Students articulate and set personal learning goals, develop strategies leveraging technology to achieve them and reflect on the learning process itself to improve learning outcomes.
  • Students build networks and customize their learning environments in ways that support the learning process.

The ISTE Standards for Students intend to nurture students’ digital literacy skills throughout their time in school, positioning digital literacy as fundamental to the trajectory of student learning.

CSTA Computer Science Standards

Originally created in 2011 and revised in 2017, the Computer Science Teachers’ Association (CSTA) Computer Science Standards, which have been adopted by several states, focus on computer science and related technology skills that are integral for career readiness. The CSTA Computer Science Standards are designed to provide the foundation for a computer science curriculum, but they are often adapted to guide broader digital literacy curriculum and technology-driven core instruction.

CSTA Computer Science Standards for Students

The CSTA Computer Science Standards focus on developing computer science skills that are honed over time. The standards are organized by grade bands and address the following themes:

  • Computing Systems
  • Impacts of Computing
  • Networks and the Internet
  • Data and Analysis
  • Algorithms and Programming

With grade bands, the complexity of the skills grows as students develop their computer science skills.

As an example:

  • Students in K-2 will learn to do the following under Computing Systems: select and operate appropriate software to perform a variety of tasks and recognize that users have different needs and preferences for the technology they use.
  • In grades 3-5, this skill is broadened to: describe how internal and external parts of computing devices function to form a system

Similarly, for Data Analysis:

  •  Students in K-2 will be able to: collect and present the same data in various visual formats.
  • In grades 3-5, students will be able to: organize and present collected data visually to highlight relationships and support a claim.

The Computer Science Standards also develop a computational thinking mindset. Computational thinking uses decomposition, pattern recognition, abstraction and algorithmic thinking to develop efficient and effective solutions.

Final Thoughts

Whether covering broad digital literacy with the ISTE Standards for Students, targeted computer skills with CSTA Computer Science Standards, or technology skills embedded in Core Standards, these standards illustrate the various ways in which technology must be at the forefront of student learning. These standards provide the foundation for a holistic digital literacy curriculum by working symbiotically to cultivate students’ digital literacy.

This article was originally published in March 2019 and has since been edited for content, accuracy, references, and completeness. Staff Writers Team

Staff Writers

Founded in 1999, 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.

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