Common Core Meets Aging Education Technology

Many K-12 schools struggle to implement new educational standards with old technology, outdated skills.
This is a huge shift. In fact, schools might have the technology in place to support the Common Core standards in the classroom, but that doesn't mean they are set up for the coming standardized Common Core assessments.

"There are two different discussions that need to take place when it comes to Common Core. One is on instruction and the other is on testing and assessments," said Ernie Delgado, founder and co-CEO of Beyond Technology Education, an organization focused on training teachers and students to properly use technology. "They will be requiring laptops and tablets that, for example, need to have a certain screen size. And they have to be able to use a browser with certain security features. If you really want to be in compliance for the assessment aspect, you have to look at these kinds of minimums."

The state of New Jersey has adopted the PARCC assessment, which is scheduled to be administered starting in the 2014-15 school year. "We went with MacBook Air instead of a tablet knowing that by 2014-15 we have to be ready for the PARCC assessment," said Kravitz. "This will give us some time to get the kinks out of our system."

These kinks might include students' typing skills or, as the case might be, their lack thereof. In fact, said Kravitz, a teacher has been hired expressly to instruct students in kindergarten, Grade 1 and Grade 2 in typing skills.

Indeed, many of the experts interviewed for this story said schools assume that students have a high level of technology understanding. However, they said, although students might know how to play games and text, many don't know how to type with more than two fingers or to conduct basic operations in word processing and spreadsheet programs. The mistake schools are making is assuming too much tech knowledge and not teaching the basics.

The good news is that students typically are not afraid of technology and learn quickly. Teachers, on the other hand, represent a wider range of exposure to and comfort with technology.

Delgado said there is some debate on the ratio, but he has found that in any given school, 10% of teachers are very tech-savvy, 10% fear technology and 80% are somewhere in the middle. "The challenge is getting teachers comfortable [with the technology] and making sure that the curriculum is aligned," he said.

Kravitz said professional development focusing on technology will be a priority in his district, and he plans to hold parent tech nights to give parents guidance on what they can do at home to help their children develop their skills.

"There will be constant training," he said.

What Common Core tech challenges is your district facing? What are you doing to overcome them? Please let us know in the comments section below.

Follow Deb Donston-Miller on Twitter at @debdonston.