"Students who are college and career ready employ technology thoughtfully to enhance their reading, writing, speaking, listening, and language use. They tailor their searches online to acquire useful information efficiently, and they integrate what they learn using technology with what they learn offline. They are familiar with the strengths and limitations of various technological tools and mediums and can select and use those best suited to their communication goals.” -Common Core State Standards
As schools ramp up to implement Common Core State Standards into their daily practice, it’s essential to utilize all of the tools available to help our students reach those learning targets. Technology can be used to implement Common Core into daily lessons in effective, engaging, and collaborative ways. It plays a key role in helping our students become 21st Century learners. However, it’s our jobs as educators to ensure that students are using technology in the most productive way.
Where to Begin
The first challenge for educators is to figure out what is expected from the CCSS. Mastery Connect has a reference app downloadable from the Windows Store. It provides an easy interface to quickly find standards by subject, grade or subject category. They also have an app for the Next Generation Science Standards.
An easy way to build lessons aligned to the CCSS, is to download the Common Core Implementation Kit found on the Partners in Learning Network. This kit works with Microsoft Word to quickly create lessons that have learning targets, vocabulary lists, instructor notes, ideas for differentiation and assessment, and a whole lot more - all aligned to the CCSS. Currently there are only templates available for grades K-3, but they are adding more grades in the near future. Even if you teach older grades, download one of the templates to get ideas on how a CCSS lesson might look.
Tools and Apps to teach CCSS for Math.
The K-5 CCSS provides students with the procedural and conceptual understanding of numbers and operations, and algebraic thinking. The foundational skills built in the elementary grades prepare students for expressions and equations in the middle years, and algebra in high school. There are two excellent apps to help teachers build that procedural knowledge and understanding of mathematical concepts. Math Worksheet Generator enables teachers to create math practice problem worksheets (with an answer key) – you provide a sample problem; this app will do the rest. Students and teachers can also build mathematical models using Microsoft Mathematics. It’s a full-blown graphing calculator that has a step-by-step equation solver, unit converter, triangle solver, and handwriting recognition for students who would rather write out their problems instead of typing. Also, iTooch from the Windows Store has CCSS aligned math programs.
Tools and Apps to teach CCSS in English Language Arts
The ELA Standards expects younger students to develop an understanding and working knowledge of concepts of basic conventions of the English writing, gain exposure to a range of texts, and demonstrate increasing difficulty in all aspects of language use. There are many apps from the Microsoft Store to help meet those expectations. Some of my favorite apps for younger grades include Guru Cool, Spell a Word, Alexander Learning Series, ABC Letters and Phonics for Kids, Rhyming with Palmer and Palmer’s Alphabet.
Teachers can also create individualized reading assessments using a shared OneNote notebook. Combined with the digital ink feature in Windows 8, teachers can create lessons that allow students to show their learning through handwriting, typing, audio and even video. Everything is combined into a page within the OneNote notebook that both the teacher and student has access to.
For older grades, the CCSS expects students to be exposed to a diverse array of literature as well as challenging informational texts. In writing, students are expected to write logical arguments, and make claims using evidence from text to analyze, synthesize, and evaluate what they have learned. Mini research projects are preferred over large semester or yearlong projects. Again, OneNote is an ideal way for students to assemble their ideas into one place that is easily accessible to by using OneNote’s powerful Search feature.
Another great app for boosting reading, writing, vocabulary and composition is iTOOCH found in the Windows store. It’s interactive and rewards students with badges as they complete different levels. They have apps for grades 3 – 8, are aligned to the CCSS, and even have apps for math and science.
Online Publishing and Digital Storytelling
Common Core expects students to use technology to produce and publish through writing and multimedia. Students are also expected to be able to communicate in a professional manner using academic language. Digital Storytelling is an extremely effective way for students to show their understanding of concepts, ideas and subject matter. There are various digital tools available free for students. Convey complex messages through video using Windows Movie Maker, making strategic use of digital media by creating infographics using PowerPoint, or develop inquiry lessons using images with Autocollage or Bing homepage images and have student create their own interactive images using Thinglink.
Student Collaboration and Communication Online
As early as kindergarten, Common Core expects students to be able to communicate and collaborate with others. As students get older, the expectation is that students are able to collaborate and build on each other’s ideas. Students can to do this anytime, anywhere through online tools. Through SkyDrive, students are able to organize and prepare for projects, share files with teachers and peers, and even create a group space for research projects. In addition, SkyDrive provides access to Office Web Apps for free. Students can provide peer reviews using Word, create personal and collaborative notebooks with OneNote, share PowerPoint presentations, or gather and manipulate data using the Excel Survey tool. One item to note, students under the age of 13 are not allowed to use SkyDrive without parent permission unless it is part of Office 365 run by the school district.
Remember that technology should be used in the classroom to meet the learning targets. It’s a tool to support the learning process, not the focus of the learning. Find what works for your classroom, is easily implemented, and don’t be afraid to let students take control of how they show their learning. The Common Core State Standards are not a “one size fits all” set of standards. They are a baseline for schools to ensure that students have similar learning outcomes to prepare them for the future regardless of where they live. The tools mentioned in this article are just scratching the surface of how technology can aid in this undertaking.
Kim WestMicrosoft Master EducatorKirkland, WA