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Your first grader and technology

When first graders use technology in the classroom, they start using a keyboard and master terms like menu, file, save, and quit.

By Miriam Myers , GreatSchools Staff

Your first-grader may use technology to complete activities in a range of subject areas, including language arts, science, social studies, math, and art. Integrating technology into the classroom with any of these subjects is a great way to tackle the first step in technological literacy: Using tools to solve problems.

Technology resources range from computers, software programs, and the Internet to digital cameras, camcorders, and voice recorders. Technology isn't a teaching substitute, but a valuable aid that introduces children to new ways of thinking and working. Plus, it's a great introduction to resources that your child's likely to use in the future.

Gayle Berthiaume, our award-winning education consultant notes that some projects integrate more than one subject and technology: "Students may write poems and stories, illustrate them with Kid Pix or digital photos, and use GarageBand to record their poems, add music or a beat, and publish it as a podcast to allow parents and others to listen to it."

Technology use varies from school to school

Many states base their technology standards on the National Educational Technology Standards for Students. But because children aren't tested on their use of technology, teachers are typically not held accountable to teach them. That means technology use varies widely from classroom to classroom. Your first-grader may have one or more computer workstations in the classroom, go to a computer lab once a week, or not use technology regularly at all.

To get the maximum benefit from technology, the best classrooms implement technology into regular lessons that develop students' higher order thinking skills, promote creativity, and facilitate academic learning. Your child's teacher may use technology to evaluate students' progress.

"Parents can use technology at home to reinforce the skills taught in school," Berthiaume says. "There are several software programs available that help children practice reading and math skills. Or you can use AppleWorks to create stories on the computer. Children learn to read better by writing."

Language arts

First-graders work in word-processing programs to practice writing, editing, design, and keyboarding skills. Your child may type words that rhyme; write a thank-you letter and add an image; or type words, changing the font, color, and size of the text. After reading stories by an author, a class may visit the author's website, and  send an email to ask a question about the book. Your child may also learn to use an online dictionary. He may also keep a dictionary of words that he can read and spell in a word document.

First-graders may learn the proper terminology to communicate about technology, such as the parts of a computer system and software terms such as menu, file, save, and quit. Your child may make labels for the different parts of the computer, such as the monitor, keyboard, mouse, printer, and speakers. If these lessons are integrated with the traditional subjects of reading, writing, math, social studies, science, and art, your child will learn how technology can help him find out what he wants to know and communicate his thoughts.

Comments from GreatSchools.org readers

06/13/2012:
"I suppose that the comments from '08 are a moot point now, since most of the United Staes has adopted the Common Core Standards which include technology as a writing tool in all grades. "
05/16/2011:
"It is not that this technology is the ONLY resource used in teaching. It is used along WITH the standard methods of teaching WITHOUT technology. Depending on how old you are, you may have begun woking with computers at an early age as well. My 4th grade class was the first introduction of computers into the school system. I still went home everyday and went outside to play. Just because you know how to use one, doesn't mean you become one. If it wasn't for the great evolution of knowledge, we'd all still be scratching out pictures on walls of caves. Wonder how much flack the first person to write on paper got?"
01/12/2009:
"I echo the coments from 1/15/08. Well said. More and more information points to the fact children, particularly of this age group, need real life expereinces not vertual ones. Let's remember these are children who are developing their bodies and social behaviors. Learning to write and draw is important. Giving them 'keyboard' skills before perfecting necessary skills is damaging. I hope the schools your children go to do not rely on technology but rather relationships with other children and teachers and the experiences that develop life long learning skills. Including stories, handwork and physical movement with traditional tools. If your are interested in schools that provide this kind of opportunity over technology I suggest you look into Waldorf School programs. "
01/17/2008:
"Very informative article. I went to all the websites mentioned in this article and it gave me some really interesting ideas to make science and learning fun for my daughter."
01/15/2008:
"I find it curious that at no point in this article is there a mention of the reasonable option of NOT including technology (as defined by electronic media devices) in the classroom at all. Every subject that a 1st grader would 'need' to learn about (and I would bet the majority of the optional subjects that a teacher would want to teach) can be richly covered using 'traditional' tools and like art supplies, models, stories and creative teachers. I don't buy that technology aids are required at that age. Even the most advanced, interactive computer teaching tools resort to bright lights, sounds, animations and other gimics to reward students in order to maintain their attention -- the same gimics long utilized by TV commercials, cartoons and video games. Just because they are packaged as an 'educational' tool doesn't mean they are any less damaging to a child's creative or emotional development. Interaction should be a LOT more than clicking and dragging. No technology ! tool yet can even remotely approach the richness of interaction that a student has with even a good set of Legos or a xylophone, let alone a living puppy, or God forbid, another student or a teacher. First graders need to be immersed in their lessons -- not just connected to them by a mouse button. We already know that kids have a predisposition to sitting idly by as the addictive TV or computer soaks them with images and sounds -- why reinforce that behavior in the classroom? Kids who are not exposed to television tend not to even ask for it, let alone expect it. Why not encourage them, at the tender age of 7 or 8 yrs old, to get out into the physical world and have a truly immersive experience? Compare a group of students who never watch TV to a group who watch even an hour or two a day, and you'll immediately see a difference in their speech and play and they way they treat each other. Do we really believe that it's necessary to start a kid using technology in 1st grade in order for him/her to understand the tools, or become technologically literate? I have no doubt that a student who sees a computer for the first time in 4th grade will be every bit as skilled in its use, by high school graduation, as a student who starts in 1st. And I would bet that first kid is much more likely to be emotionally mature, independently creative, caring and respectful. And please note, this is not the ranting of a Luddite who shuns modern life. I have degrees in computer science, communication theory and learning theory, and have spent the last 15 years developing commercial websites and interactive training systems. I fully understand the power of technology to provide rich interactions far beyond what is available to most people in daily life. I just don't believe it has any place in a child's life until they have developed a strong sense of themselves and their place and role in the world. Technology certainly has a place in school -- it's just not in 1st grade, and maybe not in elementary school at all."
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