Blogs About Reading

The Common Core Classroom

Emily Stewart, M.Ed.

Guest blogger Emily Stewart, M.Ed., is a third grade teacher at Murch Elementary, a public school in Washington, DC. During the 2012-2013 school year, Emily will be sharing the real-world strategies, challenges, and successes of implementing ELA Common Core standards in her classroom.

Digital natives: getting connected with the Common Core

May 28, 2013

There are many pressing issues we face in schools today — one of the biggest is student engagement. We have to change with our ever-changing society. Students in the 21st century are communicating with cell phones, iPods, G-chat, social networks, video games, Skype, webcams, flip cameras, and self-published web pages; e-mail is just a small component of our students' communication toolkit.

Marc Prensky calls today's kids "digital natives." In 2002, Prensky wrote, "today's students think and process information fundamentally differently from their predecessors. These differences go farther and deeper than most educators suspect or realize." He suggests that "different kinds of experiences lead to different brain structures. It is very likely that our students' brains have physically changed — and are different from ours — as a result of how they grew up. But whether or not this is literally true, we can say with certainty that their thinking patterns have changed."

While our students' thinking patterns are changing, we are not. Teachers and instructors are remaining stagnant in their practices because it is difficult to recreate the wheel year after year. Prensky suggests that the single most serious issue facing today's teachers is that they do not speak "digital." The language that teachers are using in today's classrooms is outdated and old fashioned, and creates an instructional gap between 21st century content and students. So how do we mesh tradition and new technology to do what's BEST for our students? How can technology leaders help staff overcome the shackles of tradition?

The Common Core Standards have embedded technology within, challenging teachers to pair content standards with technology as they teach. Last year, I had the opportunity to complete my Master's in Educational Technology. The focus of technology within the Common Core is comfortable to me because of the opportunities and instruction I have had. However, many teachers don't feel as relaxed, because educational technology is an unknown and the path to fully implement it is blurry.

The goal is to remember that it's not always the teacher's hands that need to be utilizing the technology. Planning technology within lessons is the first step. Thinking outside of the worksheet, and focusing on student engagement is a next step — remembering that troubleshooting doesn't always need to come from the teacher, but that our kiddos are perfectly capable of working with technology, and in some instances can teach us a thing or two!

How the technology is incorporated, whether it is in the instruction or the student product of learning is dependent on the teacher and the standard. In third grade, our text features standard was elevated within the Common Core to include online search tools:

CCSS.ELA-Literacy.RI.3.5: Use text features and search tools (e.g., key words, sidebars, hyperlinks) to locate information relevant to a given topic efficiently.

This standard would utilize technology within the instruction, possibly involving web quests or research reports. One of my favorite technology tools is Delicious. This free bookmarking tool allows a teacher to create a "home site" linking other websites that have been preselected for students. This gives teachers more control over the use of technology, allowing safer searching online. Think: If you type Saturn into Google, what are the chances that a students would get a car website in their search results? Delicious helps teachers to eliminate these types of searching mishaps for students, enabling more appropriate and relevant online access.

If you're looking to incorporate the technology into student products, Joanne Meier, a fellow Reading Rocket blogger has some GREAT resources, but Mapping Media to the Curriculum particularly intrigued me.

As we're heading into summer and you're looking for ways to refine your knowledge and lesson planning of the Common Core … get connected! Here are a couple of resources I have found helpful. Some help teachers connect with other teachers to find support and troubleshoot questions. Others can help teachers take baby steps to utilizing technology with the Common Core Standards!

Connect with Other Educators!

• Teachers Engage (Intel)
• NETS Wiki (ISTE)

Connect Your Kiddos!

• Technology Tips and Tricks for Student Projects
• 50 Ways to Integrate Technology for PBL and Student Projects (Discovery Education Blog)


I love your discussion. That is been a huge topic as we are moving in the 21st century. I think that we need to find a fine media as we incorporate technology. We need to use it, but make is mobile and after researching something, actually try it out :)

Hi Kim! Thanks for your thoughtful response! I agree that too much technology for our kiddos can easily push them into needing stimuli more than they normally would. However, with it being the reality of some of our kiddos, and video games and screen time at home being out of our control, I think we also need to adapt to our 21st century learners…and technology is one of those tools! I do agree, that it is a TOOL, and not the end all, be all to every lesson. It should be utilized strategically and thoughtfully to help students interact with their learning in a meaningful way. Thanks for your post!

If someone loves and only eats fast-food burgers but their health is imperiled because of it, do we feed him something else or not?Scientists are worried over changes in the brain because they do not know what it all means. We also know that empathy is alarmingly on the downswing. ADHD, ADD, and autism are on the rise.Humans have learned – and become human – because of social tendencies and an emotional way of learning that is a direct input via mirror neurons. THIS is what students are starving for, not more technology! You want to see kids learn better? Treat them as human beings and not as techno-creatures. When will we learn, as parents and teachers, to say no, and then do what is right. Technology is a tool...and a good one. However, we need to use it correctly.

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