High school students in an engineering class using various devices with magnification and screen readers.

Mastering Tech Skills: When and What?

Planning tech goals? What should your student know by 5th grade and by high school?

Technology Evolution for the Classroom

Technology has certainly evolved in the classroom, especially during the last 5 years. In most states, schools have added/upgraded internet and in many cases, schools are either providing 1:1 devices or are supporting BYOD (Bring Your Own Devices). Students in these digital schools are learning and completing assignments using technology. For the schools that do not have 1:1 devices yet, students do have scheduled computer class periods and have access to computer/tablet carts that are shared between classrooms. Most students also have daily access to technology – computers, tablets and/or smart phones – at home.

Prior to the computer age, ‘technology class’ consisted of a typing class – an elective high school class. Fast forward to current times – toddlers and preschoolers are independently navigating and interacting with technology with apps on smart phones and tablets. Elementary students are using the Internet to complete assignments and are collaborating to create multimedia presentations.

Schools are scrambling to keep up with technology and the implementation of new online/digital resources. How are educational technology goals evolving to keep up with the new digital world?

To better understand the progression of educational technology, let’s first take a look at the timeline for personal/educational devices.

Personal Technology Timeline

Editor’s Note: The time frame for educators to begin using computers for educational purposes varied widely between states, districts and even schools.  Personally, I began using a computer for work purposes in 1988, when my forward-thinking school district in Texas purchased Apple IIe computers. One computer along with a Daisy printer was placed on a rolling cart and shared between the specialists. The TVIs, COMS and other specialists used this technology to write reports and IEP goals. Students did not have access to this technology.

What Tech Skills should be Mastered? High School  High school girl sitting in class using a PC listening to her screen reader through an ear bud.

The following general categories are standard tech skills for all students in mainstream classrooms (not specific for students with visual impairments).  These skills should be engrained into every students’ daily tech use – across a variety of devices. Students with visual impairments and blindness should have the same tech proficiencies as their sighted peers.

Click here for more information about computer skills for high school students.

What Tech Skills should be Mastered? 5th Grade  5th grade boy sitting in the library taking notes using his braille display paired on his iPad.

The following general categories are standard tech skills for all students in mainstream classrooms. Students should be independent and proficient with the following tech skills:

Students with visual impairments should also:

* Keyboarding – previously taught in high school typing class – is now being taught in elementary school. According to Education World, early elementary students use the hunt-n-peck method to type. First grade students are often introduced to Home Row keys and finger placement to type their name. Formal keyboarding skills are typically taught around 4th grade.

Common Core and PARCC recommend that students type at an average of 5 words per minute per grade level with an accuracy rate ranging from 80 – 95%.

Click here for more information about tech skills for 5th grade students.

Editor’s Note: Many educational resources were reviewed to identify what tech should be mastered and when these goals should be mastered. Long-term research is not available, as technology continues to evolve rapidly. Numerous sources were reviewed and the goals mentioned above were the common goals overlapping from a variety of educational sources.

Educational technology goals will continue to evolve as more educational resources – including digital textbooks and online assessments – are developed, more schools become paperless and more research becomes available.

For a detailed list of mainstream technology goals with skills broken down by scope and sequence and grade levels, go to the Common Core State Standards K-12 Technology Skills Scope and Sequence.

Tech Skills for Students with Visual Impairments

Technology is leveling the playing field for students with visual impairments and blindness. Accessibility features are being built into mainstream devices; enabling any device to be instantly customized to meet each student’s unique needs. With digital materials, students with visual impairments can access materials at the same time as their peers – without waiting for the materials to be converted to braille. Classroom teachers can instantly access their student’s work without waiting for the work to be transcribed into print.  Refreshable braille displays provide digital materials in braille for students whose preferred learning medium is braille.  Students with visual impairments have instant access to digital books and Internet content; students can create, edit and read digital Word documents, spreadsheets and PowerPoints.

There are growing pains as classrooms transition to paperless learning.  Tech and software developers are collaborating with educators to resolve the issues of making digital diagrams and math equations fully accessible. Besides including appropriate alternative text descriptions, new developments such as full screen braille displays and interactive diagrams on touch screen devices are being developed and field tested. Recently, software has been released that enables users to navigate and glean information from charts and graphs – including the use of sonification to “glance” at the image. As technology and software continues to evolve, there will be additional solutions to these issues. As accessibility awareness improves and better solutions are available, accessibility should become a standard feature.

Students with visual impairments and blindness should be expected to master the same tech goals at the same time as their peers. TVIs will need to teach commands that are unique to screen readers and/or magnification software in order for their students to be successful with technology in mainstream classrooms. Educators will also need to teach students with visual impairments how to trouble shoot and how to keep current on these commands. Technology will continue to evolve and improve and tech goals will change to accommodate the evolving technology.

Editor’s Note:  Victor is the student in the 5th grade picture using his braille display with his iPad and magnified iPad screen. (Picture taken in 2013.) He is also one of the students in the engineering class picture using a Mac computer with VoiceOver. (Engineering class picture taken in 2017.) Read Victor’s thoughts about his devices in the comment section below.

Collage of Tech Skills

By Diane Brauner

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