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Contrary to popular belief, students are not just “born” with technology skills. While we commonly observe them interacting daily with their computers and cell phones, that doesn’t necessarily mean they understand basic use, best practice, and safety risks. In fact, to be ready for the challenges of their future, we have to educate students to become “digitally literate.”

For K-8 students, elementary and middle school technology curriculum provides them with the foundation they need for high school readiness. This is so students can function in a rigorous high school environment in which they use technology concepts and skills to conduct basic research, write essays, practice their speaking skills with presentations, or even code a solution to a problem. To better prepare students with these skills so that they become digitally literate, various standards, online assessments, and initiatives have been developed.

Standards That Inform Elementary & Middle School Technology Curriculum

There are three sets of standards that most commonly inform elementary and middle school technology curriculum to prepare students for high school.

ISTE Standards

The International Society of Technology Educators Standards for Students (ISTE-S 2016) guide most of this K-8 digital literacy curriculum and instruction. The seven ISTE standards focus on “transforming learning with technology” by creating students who use digital concepts and tools to become:

  • Empowered Learners
  • Digital citizens
  • Knowledge Constructors
  • Innovative Designers
  • Computational Thinkers
  • Creative Communicators
  • Global Collaborators

Every state has adopted current or previous versions of the ISTE standards as a framework for digital literacy instruction as part of technology-driven high school readiness initiatives.

CSTA Standards

In addition to ISTE, the Computer Science Teachers Association (CSTA) Computer Science Standards often drive components of technology skills instruction for students in elementary school, middle school, and high school. The CSTA standards typically have more of a technical emphasis than the ISTE standards and are often used to guide computer science curriculum and instruction. Major CSTA themes include:

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

As with ISTE standards, many states have also adopted the CSTA Computer Science Standards.

Core Standards

Now, even Common Core content standards in reading, writing, and mathematics require that students use digital tools to learn about and demonstrate their understanding of core content concepts and skills. For example:

Middle School ELA college and career “anchors” require students to “use technology, including the internet, to produce and publish writing and to interact and collaborate with others” and to “gather relevant information from multiple print and digital sources, assess their credibility and accuracy…and integrate the information while avoiding plagiarism.”

Middle school mathematics practice standards require students to “regularly use digital tools for math instruction” like spreadsheets, statistical packages and geometry software. The same standard also requires students to “use technology to visualize results of assumptions” and make predictions and to use technology tools to deepen mathematics concepts.

Most state-level core standards, regardless of whether they adopted Common Core, feature embedded technology skills.

Read more about how these standards inform technology curriculum.

Online Assessments Require Technology Skills

In addition to standards, high-stakes online assessments like SmarterBalanced and many other statewide assessments require students to have fundamental technology skills. While the objective of these online assessments is to determine student achievement in reading, writing and mathematics, they often require that students have these technology skills in order to navigate the assessment and respond to questions.

As early as third grade, students need to master computer fundamentals (mouse navigation, tabbed browsing, scrolling, launching on-screen audio and video player), and typing (students as early as third grade may be asked to type short responses). Students are also expected to answer questions by understanding and using digital concepts and skills like dragging and dropping objects, navigating drop-down menus, and using highlighters. Specifically, online mathematics assessments require additional knowledge around spreadsheets, graphs and charts, and interactive number lines and shapes.

Research suggests that elementary and middle school students who take online assessments like these tend to score lower than similar students who take the same assessment in traditional paper-and-pencil formats. Educators realize that students need direct instruction in technology skills to demonstrate their achievement of core concepts on these high-stakes, online assessments.

School Initiatives Prompt Technology Instruction

In addition to standards and online assessments, initiatives encourage educators to pursue elementary and middle school technology curriculum.


E-Rate provides schools across the U.S. with funding to provide high-speed networks and broadband access, among other things. By accepting E-Rate funds for technology projects, schools are then required to deliver a digital literacy curriculum to students that is focused on digital citizenship and online safety as part of the E-Rate agreement.


Growing numbers of schools are adopting project-based instructional models around science, technology, engineering and math. These STEM schools recognize that technology skills are foundational, using technology skills as a vehicle for students to become budding scientists, technologists, engineers and mathematicians.


Some individual states such as Texas, Michigan and Florida have adopted specific guidelines for technology application in students. For instance, The Technology Applications Texas Essential Knowledge and Skills (TA-TEKS) are specific guidelines within the TEKS framework that focus on the integration and application of technology in education. Adopted to ensure students develop competence in technology as it intersects with all areas of learning, the TA-TEKS cover a range of skills from computer literacy to more advanced information technology concepts. These standards are designed to prepare students for the digital age, emphasizing critical thinking, problem-solving, and the practical use of technology in both academic and real-world settings. They aim to equip students with the digital skills necessary for success in higher education, the workforce, and beyond. Read more about’s Texas TechApps here.

Computer Science and Coding

“Computer Science for All” initiatives like “Hour of Code” drive elementary and middle school curriculum around computational thinking and coding with the aim of helping all students understand how to think critically, solve problems, and even learn coding language.

Final Thoughts

In both helping elementary and middle school students meet standards, prepare for online assessments, and address important initiatives and understanding the need for all students to be proficient in digital skills, schools across the country have begun to deliver integrated and comprehensive technology curriculum and instruction.


This blog was originally published in 2019, and has been updated. 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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