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

From managing a mouse to using an online encyclopedia, your third grader will find technology an increasingly valuable learning tool.

By GreatSchools Staff

Technology enhances learning

Technology in the third grade classroom can provide a rich, entertaining range of learning opportunities that engage young minds and get them excited about all aspects of the curriculum. Your child will use technological tools to enhance her understanding of core subjects, including language arts, science, and math. According to the Common Core Standards Initiative that the majority of states adopted in 2010-2011, third graders should master certain basic technology skills that can be used in core subjects like reading, writing, science, and math. (Many states also follow the National Educational Technology Standards for Students.)

In third grade, your child will build on essential reading and writing skills, memorize math facts, and, through the lens of science, learn about the world around them. While using technology is no substitute for reading a book, mastering the multiplication tables, or conducting research for a science project, it's an important tool to supplement classroom instruction. Even more important, technological literacy is essential for your child's future.

Technology in language arts

Language arts — once exclusively the realm of paper and ink — get an enormous boost from technology. Third grade students learn basic essay writing skills and begin to write short opinion essays and informational reports, and they're likely to do some of their research on the Internet. (See the Common Core Standards.)

Audio books and audio-enhanced text books allow third graders to immerse themselves in a culture of storytelling, fit more books into their busy lives, allow books to compete with other media for entertainment value, and get hooked on reading as a lifelong pleasure. Using a tablet or a computer, students can learn to look up unfamiliar words to master new vocabulary and practice pronunciation. And digital book creation, video editing, and animation tools enable students to become authors of their own stories. A word processor — with grammar correction — can improve students' grammar and spelling as they write, by noting mistakes as they happen and offering corrections.

Math with a multimedia twist

Technology helps kids master math concepts with games and apps that illustrate more complex multiplication and division, as well as fractions and geometric concepts. A host of educational apps for tablets ask children to touch and manipulate math concepts on the screen. Math-based computer games transform rote drills into games that take advantage of gaming fever to drill facts into memory. Online animations and multimedia lessons can turn a math lesson into entertainment that teaches as it enthralls; they also allow students to review a lesson whenever they wish. And the Internet brings concepts and teachers — outstanding teachers like Salmon Kahn of Khan Academy (which offers hundreds of video classes on math, science, and other subjects) — into the classroom to inspire young minds.


Technology as a science aid

To track and chart scientific data, your third grader may use spreadsheet programs like Excel. You child may be also introduced to creating and using database software such as FileMaker Pro or Microsoft Access to classify information. Kids may work from templates in which a spreadsheet or database has already been created and they need to enter the information. Your third grader may contribute to a spreadsheet of the class's favorite foods or a database classifying their library of books.

In an Internet-connected classroom, science is as close as the whiteboard, monitor, tablet, or computer screen. At this level, children can watch close-up footage or animation of the human body, dinosaurs, space, or cells. They can play with animated versions of the elements in the periodic table or simulations of tornados or the night sky. Websites like Khan Academy,, Discovery Education, and The Jason Project allow kids to access multimedia lessons and animations that transform science instruction into adventure. And to help young students imagine themselves as scientists, the teacher can invite working scientists — virtually — into the classroom and let students ask questions of the researchers themselves.