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Your fourth grader and technology

Fourth graders may do Internet research and use various types of software to complete activities that build on their classroom learning.

By Miriam Myers , GreatSchools Staff

In a technology-rich classroom, your fourth-grader uses tools to enhance his learning in a range of subjects, including language arts, science, social studies, math, and art. He is taking the first steps to technological literacy: Using tools to solve problems.

Resources range from computers, software programs, and the Internet to digital cameras, camcorders, and voice recorders. Technology isn't a substitute for teaching, but a way to bring the world into the classroom. Plus, it's an essential tool for your child's future.

The Internet can connect kids to native speakers of a language they are learning or to scientists worldwide. Computer-based programs can give teachers real-time feedback on how well students grasp a concept in math. But technology is no substitute for learning mathematical concepts or the basics of writing an essay. It's simply one way to enhance classroom instruction and help your child practice new skills and master new concepts.

The technology skills your child learns will help her write research papers in history and do multimedia presentations in science. She will develop critical evaluation skills by assessing the credibility of websites and learning about copyright laws and the ethics of using online information or pictures.

"Fourth-graders are very comfortable using a computer to complete learning projects," explains our teacher consultant Gayle Berthiaume.

Technology use varies from school to school

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

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

Technology terminology

Fourth-graders build on their vocabulary to communicate about technology. Your child should be learning the names of computer parts - monitor, keyboard, mouse, printer, and speakers - and software terms - menu, file, folder, application, save, and quit.

Keyboard and mouse

Your fourth-grader continues to practice and improve her skills in typing and using a mouse. She works to build speed and accuracy. A fourth-grader typically types 15 words per minute. To avoid repetitive stress injuries later on, she should learn to use the correct hand, wrist, and body positions and the proper techniques for striking the keys.

By the end of the year, she should demonstrate advanced keyboarding skills such as cutting, copying, and pasting to edit her work.

Schools may use a typing program that teaches students how to type.

Word processing and email

Your child can use a word-processing program the same way a professional writer does: to prewrite, draft, revise, and publish work. He may type his ideas in the first draft, then proofread and make changes. In the final stages of the writing process, your child may use word-processing software to add clip art; change the font, size, and color of the text; and learn to use spell-check. He may add bulleted and numbered lists and explore some of the advanced features of a word-processing program, such as using borders, shading, and page layout. He may also learn how to access files over a network. Gayle Berthiaume explains: "Many schools share and save files over a network. Students may access their saved work from any computer in the building."

Your child may make a class newsletter with pictures and text, write a book review, or email a pen pal in another class. He may learn to use cut, copy, and paste to transfer text or graphics from one program to another.

Your child may use email or a program like ePals to contact a peer, another class, or experts worldwide.