Your child and technology: what your second grader needs to know

Your second grader will learn to use technology tools like email and simple graphing software.

By GreatSchools Staff

Second graders in a high-tech world

In our tech-savvy world, even second graders need some basic skills. By the end of the school year, your second grader may be using word processing programs, draw and paint software, and presentation software (like PowerPoint) to complete classroom activities in a range of subject areas, including reading, writing, math, and science. Used judiciously, multimedia tools like these can help develop a young child's higher order thinking skills (problem solving, critical thinking, and analyzing), promote creativity, and be an invaluable academic aid.

According to the Common Core Standards Initiative, which the majority of states adopted in 2010-2011, second graders should be learning a suite of technological skills to support core subjects like reading, writing, and math. (Many states also follow the National Educational Technology Standards for Students (NETS-S). Reality check: although these technology standards exist, how much teachers incorporate them varies widely.

Some mastery of basic skills in the second grade will start your child on the road to technological literacy — a necessity in the 21st century. The goal is that by the end of elementary school, students will know how to make use of multimedia tools that support their education. Here’s a primer for the types of technology you might find in your second grader's classroom, what skills your second grader needs to have, and how these skills can help your child learn.

Tools of the second grade

Your second grader may have one or more computer workstations in the classroom, visit a computer lab once a week, or may not use technology regularly at all. If your child's class does use technology to support learning, here are the tools you might expect to find:


  • Educational software that reinforces reading and math skills
  • Multimedia encyclopedias and dictionaries
  • Digital camera
  • Video camera
  • Interactive story books on a computer
  • One computer or more with access to the Internet and a printer
  • Large-screen display connected to a computer
  • An interactive whiteboard
  • One tablet or more

Even if your child's class has little more than a computer and printer, there’s no need to panic. The skills a second grader needs can be taught using these basic tech tools.

Technology skills your second grader needs

To be on track, here’s what your child should know by the end of second grade:

  • Computer terminology: learn the proper terminology to communicate about computers, such as the monitor, keyboard, mouse, printer, and speakers, and software terms (and how to find them on the screen) such as menu, file, save, print, and quit.
  • Keyboard and mouse: continue mastering (after learning the basics in first grade) use of the keyboard and mouse; use a mouse to click, drag, and drop; know the keys on the left and right side of the keyboard; practice typing the home keys and using the space bar; use the correct body position, hand-wrist position, and proper techniques for striking the keys. (Some schools may be using a program that teaches your second grader how to type).
  • Send email: know the basics of how to send and receive email.
  • Publishing basics: with guidance from the teacher, write and publish or print a simple document using a web-publishing program.
  • Web basics: understand how to do online research and navigate websites the teacher has bookmarked for them.

By learning these skills in second grade, your child will have the basic knowledge needed to start doing research and communicating thoughts in writing, which are essential to learning core academic subjects like reading, writing, math, and science.

Using technology for language arts

As second graders become more proficient in reading and writing, multimedia tools can be used more frequently as academic aids. According to the second grade Common Core Standards, second graders should know how to use digital tools to "produce and publish" written work (anything from a short story to a poem to a report on a historical figure) — and even illustrate this work using KidPix or digital photos. Your second grader may use presentation software such as PowerPoint to add to a class book or slide show, making a slide with both pictures and text. Your second graders might also be expected to know how to use online dictionaries and glossaries to find definitions. In addition, as second graders refine their abilities of self-expression, they might be asked to create audio recordings of stories or poems.


Using technology for math

Your second grader may use spreadsheet programs like Excel to organize data and make graphs (technical skills that will also be essential for science). He may work from a template in which the spreadsheet is already created, so your child can enter the information needed. Free websites like Khan Academy can help second graders complete a full math curriculum whether they want to brush up or they’re ready to race ahead. A bonus for parents whose kids love playing with smartphones or tablets: knowing how to navigate a touch screen device comes in handy for strengthening math skills by taking advantage of educational apps (like this), which allow children to touch and manipulate math concepts on the screen.

Using technology for science

In just a few years, your second grader will need to know how to research and write detailed reports on everything from sea turtles to supernovas. This year, your child may build toward that goal by learning more advanced techniques for conducting online scientific research (for example, looking up facts about Saturn on a website about the solar system). Your child’s classroom may be equipped with a full range of tech tools, like cameras, computers, tablets, or white boards, which help bring science to life. Children can watch close-up footage of whales, rainforests, or space. They might use apps to play with animated versions of the elements in the periodic table or simulations of tornados or the night skyor even watch science experiments online (like this). As with math, your second grader may be required to use online graphing tools like Excel for science assignments to, for example, contribute to a class spreadsheet about temperatures taken over a period of time.