Your third-grader may use word-processing software, draw and paint software, and presentation software (such as PowerPoint) to complete activities in a range of subject areas, including language arts, science, social studies, math, and art. These activities, which integrate computers into the classroom curriculum, are the first steps to technological literacy: Using tools to solve problems.

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 aren’t typically held accountable for teaching them. That means computer use varies widely from classroom to classroom. Your third-grader may have one or more computer workstations in the classroom, may go to a computer lab once a week, or may not use technology regularly at all. To get the maximum benefit from technology, the best classrooms implement technology into the curriculum plans to develop students’ higher order thinking skills, promote creativity, and facilitate academic learning.

What you might see in a well-equipped classroom

  • Educational software that reinforces reading and math skills
  • Multimedia encyclopedias and dictionaries
  • A digital camera — digital photos can then be displayed in a slide show
  • Interactive story books on a computer
  • One computer or more in the classroom with access to the Internet and a printer
  • Large-screen display connected to a computer used by the teacher to demonstrate a technology lesson to the whole class.  If there isn’t one available, the teacher may have smaller groups come around the computer to introduce a lesson or technology skill.
  • Use of email with support from the teacher or classroom helper

Learning technology terminology

Third-graders use the proper terminology to communicate about technology. Your third-grader should be familiar with the names of the parts of the computer, such as the monitor, keyboard, mouse, printer, and speakers, and software terms such as menu, file, folders, applications, save, and quit.

Keyboard and mouse

Your third-grader will use a mouse to click, drag, and drop. She will know the keys on the left and right side of the keyboard. She will practice typing the home keys and using the space bar. She will use the correct body position, hand-wrist position, and proper techniques for striking the keys. Some schools may use a typing program that teaches your third-grader how to type.

Word processing and email

Your third-grader will type and add clip art in word-processing programs. Your child will learn to change the font, size, and color of the text. He may also use email to contact an expert, peer, or another class. He may make a class newsletter with pictures and text, write a book review, or email a pen pal in another class.

Draw and paint software

Draw and paint software programs such as Kid Pix and AppleWorks are common in many third-grade classrooms. Third-graders use the tools in the programs to type and create pictures. Your third-grader may model multiplication and division word problems with number sentences and pictures. (A number sentence is a sentence that includes numbers, operation symbols, and an equal sign, such as 3×4=12.)

Presentation software

Your third-grader may use software such as PowerPoint and AppleWorks to add to a class book or presentation in which she makes a slide with pictures and text. Your third-grader may contribute to class projects, such as a slideshow about heroes or one about the community.

A word about PowerPoint

Some critics argue that teaching young children to use PowerPoint puts too much emphasis on fonts and formatting and not enough on thinking, writing, and organizing ideas. Others argue that teaching the effective use of multimedia tools is essential, as long as they are used as visual aids to highlight and clarify a student’s ideas.

Spreadsheets and Databases

Your third-grader may use spreadsheet programs like Excel and AppleWorks to organize data and make graphs. He may be introduced to creating and using database software such as FileMaker Pro, Microsoft Access, and AppleWorks to classify information. He may work from templates in which a spreadsheet or database has already been created and he needs to enter the information. Your third-grader may contribute to a spreadsheet of the class’s favorite foods or a database classifying the class library of books.

Internet research

In third grade your child may visit websites the teacher has bookmarked to further explore what is being taught in class. She may go on a virtual field trip to the White House to learn about the government. She may also develop critical evaluation skills by beginning to learn to assess the credibility of websites.

“To reinforce learning at school, parents can help their child search the Internet to learn more about various topics. Comprehension is increased when people discuss what they have learned,” explains our teacher consultant Gayle Berthiaume.