ISTE 6: Are Basic Computer Skills Still Important?

Photo Credit: OpenClips via Pixabay
Photo Credit: OpenClips via Pixabay

The end of the quarter at Seattle Pacific University is quickly coming to a close, as is my adventure diving into the ISTE Student Standards. If this is your first time visiting my blog, I encourage you to check out my explorations of standards 1, 2, 3, and 4. This week, I will be digging into ISTE Student Standard 6, attempting to answer the question, “How can students demonstrate a sound understanding of technology concepts, systems, and operations?” You might notice that I have failed to include standard 5, this standard addresses Digital Citizenship issues. The students in the Digital Education Leadership program have examined this standard at length through our Group and Individual Projects, I invite you to check those out!

I recently attended an EdCamp (if you’re unfamiliar with the term, this video is a must) where I met with several librarians who were talking about the need for basic computer skill instruction. After much discussion and reflecting on the standard for this week, I was left asking myself the following question:

How can the library play a central role in facilitating a scope and sequence of computer skills for students in the primary grades (mouse skills, keyboarding, saving files, navigating browsers, ect)?

Wanting to know more, I did a great deal of research, hoping to find articles that covered the pedagogy of computer skills for our youngest students. Why is it important for our youngest learners to be taught computer skills? How do those skills impact their learning in the future? Unfortunately, it was surprisingly difficult to find resources that addressed these topics and the articles I did find had an average copyright date that was 10-20 years old. This left me scouring for information on librarian’s blogs and individual school websites that post their curriculum publicly.

Where Did We Come From and Where Are We Going?

Photo Credit: Sneaka
Photo Credit: Sneaka

In an article written in 1999, the author excitedly highlights the technological accomplishments of students in Orange County, California public schools: “[The] students have developed solid touch-typing skills, have a thorough command of word processing and spreadsheet programs, and made oral and written multimedia presentations using programs such as Hyperstudio and PowerPoint” (Graves, 1999, pg. 2). Other articles from the same time period spotlight the use of programs like Mavis Beacon and Where in the World is Carmen Sandiego?

Photo Credit: Pomah via Moby Games
Photo Credit: Pomah via Moby Games

Fifteen years ago, educators were facing an “instructional dilemma” that they couldn’t “shrug away: When and how should students learn to type?” (Zehr, 1999, pg. 12). While it is fun to look back at these programs and laugh at what now seems archaic, it is important to ask ourselves, has anything really changed in all this time?

In a book introduced to me by fellow librarians, the Ultimate Guide to Keyboarding: K-5, the authors state the following skills are necessary for our students (Ask a Tech Teacher, 2014 pg. 10):

  • Kindergarten and first grade: Introduce mouse skills, keyboarding, key placement, and posture.
  • Second grade: Work on keyboarding, key placement, posture, and two-hand position.
  • Third grade: Reinforce basics, work on accuracy and technique.
  • Fourth and fifth grade: Continue accuracy and technique, begin work on increasing typing speed.

This book was published within the last year and covers essentially all of the same computer skills that were being introduced when digital technology was first becoming mainstream in elementary school classrooms. What does this mean? Have we failed to move forward? Or are these just essential skills that transcend time?

Technology is embedded into our classrooms now more than ever, and the simple fact of the matter is that kids still need to be able to manipulate a mouse, quickly type a sentence and navigate a document, whether it be on a device or saved in a cloud. Through my research, the main difference I have found between the 1990’s and now, is the way in which these skills are being taught. Granted, there are still a number of educators specifically hired to teach computer skills, but more often, those skills are now incorporated into other areas of the curriculum. Washington State has created Educational Technology standards that focus on skills such as: locating and organizing information, or communicating and collaborating to learn with others. While these standards do not explicitly cover basic computer skills, those skills are naturally built in as a stepping stone to reach these larger, overarching goals:

WA Standards

Some districts address basic computer skills in a very explicit way, teaching them as stand-alone lessons. Mary Beth Hertz, a published K-8 Technology Teacher shares an example of her computer skills scope and sequence with (I) being introductory, (D) developing and (A) applied (2011):

Screenshot (26)

Does the Library Play a Role?

Regardless of how computer skills are taught, they are still a vital part of the curriculum. In my position, as I mentioned earlier, I am left asking myself how these skills can be incorporated into the library program. In one instance, School Library Journal reported that California’s Modesto City Schools are ending library instruction in their schools, based on the “board’s belief that students needed more computer training, including keyboarding and how to use search engines” (Barack, 2014). While I think the library is conductive to the introduction and reinforcement of computer skills, I think it is important to incorporate both computer skills and information literacy in a successful library program.

After some searching, I have found that there are several different models for adding computer skills to an elementary library program; each option producing unique advantages and disadvantages. Some of the most common models include:

  • Teaching computer skills and information literacy skills as one, using the classroom curriculum to guide learning.
  • Teaching computer skills and information literacy skills separately, but still using the classroom curriculum to practice those skills.
  • Teaching computer skills and information literacy skills separately, as stand-alone lessons that are not embedded into other areas of the curriculum.

In order to incorporate a combined computer skills and information literacy skills scope and sequence into my existing library program, I will need to do some revisions, but in the long run, I think it will be a successful move. It is evident that as more schools move towards online standardized testing, the need for these skills is not going to fade. The times have changed, but the necessity for basic skills has stood paramount: “Educators have always focused on preparing children for the future, whether that future was agrarian, as in past centuries, or if it is technologically driven, as in the 20th and 21st centuries. Just as children of past generations had to gradually be taught labor skills, today’s children need early instruction on the most basic of technological skills” (Parker, 2014, pg. 26).

Image created by Becky Todd, Librarian/Media Specialist,
Image created by Becky Todd, Librarian/Media Specialist

Further Questions for Consideration

The following are some questions that I have moving forward and I look forward to hearing your feedback on these different topics, your thoughts are welcomed in the comments section of this post:

  • How has the infiltration of tablets in elementary classrooms changed the need for basic computer skills?
  • Has there been research done on the effect of tablets on students computer skills?
  • Are computer skills not being taught because educators assume that students are born with these abilities?


Ask a Tech Teacher. (2014). Ultimate guide to keyboarding: K-5 (K. Delamagente, Ed.). East Moline, IL: Structured Learning.

Barack, L. (2014, May 23). California’s Modesto City Schools to end library instruction for elementary schools. School Library Journal. Retrieved from

Graves, T. (1999, Dec 16). Multimedia learning rounds out education at elementary grades IUSD teaches computer skills from grade one. Orange County Register Retrieved from

Hertz, M. B. (2011, July 13). Great tech expectations: what should elementary students be able to do and when? [Blog post]. Retrieved from

McLoughlin, C. (2011). What ICT-related skills and capabilities should be considered central to the definition of digital literacy? World Conference on Educational Multimedia, Hypermedia and Telecommunications, 2011(1), 471-475.

Parker, J., & Lazaros, E. J. (2014). Teaching 21st century skills and STEM concepts in the elementary classroom. Children’s Technology & Engineering, 18(4), 24-27.

Skeele, L. R. (1997). Surviving the ‘new’ library skills curriculum. Library Talk, 10(5), 9.

Zehr, M. A. (1999). Tech-savvy youngsters getting a new type of lesson. Education Week, 18(29), 1.

The Thought Process

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4 thoughts on “ISTE 6: Are Basic Computer Skills Still Important?

  1. Modesto = facepalm

    Great post, Becky. You provide a strong case for role of the library while pointing out thing tools change and we will always need to provide resources and education. They need for technical skills is not going away. If students do not learn these skills, I fear, that they will be left behind as culture and society move forward with new innovation. The technical skills you discuss in your blog post will one day become as important as knowing the names of different colors they will be integrated into our life therefore we must pay attention to how we will continue to provide robust opportunities for students to learn the skills.

  2. Your new design looks wonderful, Becky! It seems like a librarian’s role has changed over the years, as computer skills and information literacy are now part of a library program.
    I like how you added the questions/concerns at the end of your blog as it gives us something to think about. I was also thinking about the role of tablets in our schools. I can see where tablets would be beneficial in the younger grades but they would still need to learn keyboarding skills.
    Thanks for sharing and great job!

  3. Great post Becky! I really think you hit the nail on the head with your acknowledgement that the necessary technology skills of today have not completely changed over the past twenty years. Rather, they have been updated and built upon. I also think there is a propensity to assume our students arrive to class with naturally occurring skills, chiefly because of their extensive social media use. We still need to address the fundamentals! Your comments about models of instruction were also astute. Although many educators work to align technology with core content curriculum, sometimes it is difficult to maintain the same technology expectations across classrooms if a building or district wide set of expected skills doesn’t exist.

  4. You’ve done a nice job, Becky, of addressing the question of what role libraries play in advancing student computer skills. Personally, I like the idea of integrating computer skills with information literacy skills, using the classroom curriculum to guide learning, as the two work hand in hand. In short, enabling students to immediately integrate and apply their learning is immensely valuable.

    You bring up some interesting questions in regard to the use of tablets at the end of your post. As someone who works in a BYOD environment without a school librarian, it gives me pause to review what skills are really of value. Thanks for sharing your thoughts and resources.

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