Benchmarks part 1: Pre-K through 5

Despite constant brushfires and spending too much time on scheduling and database issues, I've been giving a lot of thought to a comprehensive, K-12 technology curriculum. With such a unified approach to teaching and integrating technology in our classes, teachers at each level would be able to expect certain levels of technical skill among their students.

Despite constant brushfires and spending too much time on scheduling and database issues, I've been giving a lot of thought to a comprehensive, K-12 technology curriculum. With such a unified approach to teaching and integrating technology in our classes, teachers at each level would be able to expect certain levels of technical skill among their students.

High school English teachers, for example, wouldn't need to teach how to create an outline in a word processor; students would already have learned how to do this by the 6th grade and said English teachers could simply ask students to "Outline a research paper". Of course, this begs the question, precisely what should students know in terms of technology by the time they finish primary school? Middle school? High school?

Thus begins a series of posts with my draft "benchmarks" for technology in K-12. I'm going to break them up into three parts (primary, middle, and high school) and will be addressing Pre-K through the 5th grade here. Note that I called them drafts. I'd like your input. Are they too vague? Too specific? Too lax? Too challenging? You get the picture. Here goes.

I recognize, by the way, that 7 years is a long time in the technological development of our students. However, by identifying what kids should know when they leave primary school, we can more easily reverse engineer a 7-year curriculum that leads to achieving these benchmarks. That process will be left for a later time.

1. The Systems Development Lifecycle While not exactly the computer technology that most teachers would think of, the systems development lifecycle (or the SDLC) is so fundamental to the use and implementation of technology that it must be understood by the time students leave primary school. It will become a recurring theme as we seek out technological solutions to various problems and see how technology can be a tool to address our needs. It also gets at the idea of technological "Systems", those interconnected people, tools, and parts that make our world go round. (For anyone not familiar with the term SDLC, this primer should help put a new name to an idea we all recognize.)

2. Hardware basics Students will be able to identify all major computer components and their functions (CPU, monitor, mouse, keyboard, touchpad, touch screen, other peripherals, etc.). The functions of these components will also be understood in the context of "IPO" (input, process, output). Students will understand computer form factors and be able to turn on, shut down, move, and reassemble desktop computing components. Again, digital media and storage devices will be covered in the context of IPO and students will be able to access the contents of digital devices.

3. Operating systems Students will be able to describe the function of an operating system and be able to compare and contrast the features of various operating systems. This should not be evaluative, but rather create an understanding of the computer as a tool. Just as we have diesels, hybrids, and gasoline engines, all power vehicles and can meet our transportation needs, albeit with some functioning better in given situations than others.

4. Applications Students should be able to identify major classes of applications (productivity, educational, communication, information storage/retrieval, web browser, etc.) and locate an appropriate example of each on any computer. Students should be able to write and format a research report using a word processing application and create a presentation based on the report using presentation software.

Students will be able to save and open files created in various applications and will demonstrate clear understanding of the locations of these files outside of the applications.

Students will be able to multi-task, switching between multiple applications and copying information between them.

Students will be able to identify types of security software, their applications, and define "malware".

5. Presentation Students will be able to summarize key points from a research report or impromptu Internet research in a presentation. They will be able to speak to the presentation and/or present it online to an interactive audience.

6. Attribution Students will be able to appropriately attribute their ideas, quotes, and concepts to various Internet sources. Plagiarism will not be tolerated and methods of linking, quoting, and referencing sources will be emphasized.

Students will be able to define "Fair Use" and will understand types of licensing, with particular focus on Creative Commons.

7. The Internet Students will be able to conduct a meaningful search on the topic of their choice, summarize their findings, and indicate their sources. Students will also be able to conduct an impromptu search to quickly answer questions. With instructor guidance, students will evaluate sources of information obtained during these searches.

Students will be able to identify sources of risk on the Internet and will be able to describe ways to protect their privacy.

Students will be able to identify multiple social networks and will be able to interact with an instructor-created blog and wiki.

8. Data Students will be able to collect simple data in a spreadsheet and create appropriate graphs. Students will be able to use basic arithmetic functions to summarize these data.

Students will be able to identify examples of larger databases on the Internet (e.g., a catalog or a student information system).

Students will refer to data using correct terminology (field, record, table).

9. Communication Under teacher supervision, students will use email, instant messaging or microblogging, and collaborative software (e.g., Google Docs, Zoho, wikis, etc.) to exchange information and collaborate in the creation of a teacher-specified deliverable.