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Is the Common Core all about Technology?

By Dave Stuart Jr.

At a recent gathering of educators, I heard an individual bragging about his district's move toward aligning curriculum with the Common Core State Standards (CCSS). This is what the educator said (roughly):

Our elementary classrooms are all getting iPads.

This kind of thinking isn't unique. I frequently see the CCSS being synonymized with classroom tech. This got me wondering: how much of the actual CCSS ELA/Literacy standards explicitly mention technology?

Very few technology anchor standards

Well, it turns out there aren't a lot. My lists are categorized below.


I could be missing one, but when searching for anchor standards that explicitly refer to the use of digital technology, I count only three:

  • W.CCR.6 — “Use technology, including the Internet, to produce and publish writing and to interact and collaborate with others.”
  • W.CCR.9 — “Gather relevant information from multiple print and digital sources…”
  • SL.CCR.5 — “Make strategic use of digital media and visual displays of data…”


This category is a bit fuzzy, so I'm sure we could argue on what standards fall within it, but from my overview there are three additional anchor standards that reasonably imply the use of technology:

  • R.CCR.7 — “Integrate and evaluate content presented in diverse media and formats…”
  • W.CCR.8 — “Conduct short as well as sustained research projects…”
  • SL.CCR.2 — “Integrate and evaluate information presented in diverse media and formats…”


Nothing has changed here: technology can be incorporated into learning just about any skill, and that probably includes all of those mentioned in the CCSS. But, to me, this begs a question: do you need technology to teach most of the CCSS?

For the sake of increasing equal access to a quality education regardless of school budgets, I would argue that, no, you do not need technology to teach most of the CCSS because the CCSS focuses on core, old school literacies.

Technology is nice, but…

I believe that the writers of the CCSS realized that true 21st century skills are the same as true 20th century skills. From my standpoint, these are:

  • Reading
  • Writing
  • Thinking
  • Speaking
  • Being a person of character (not a part of CCSS, but crucial)

Now, I need to be transparent: I'm biased by my own story.

As a member of the high school graduating class of 2002 and the college graduating class of 2006, the snazziest technology I could access in elementary school was the occasional game of Frogger on a classroom Macintosh. By the time I graduated high school, Hotmail was just coming into vogue, AOL Instant Messenger was the coolest thing I could do on my home's dial-up Internet connection, and the term “Web 2.0” was still a nerd-only word.

Yet, when Facebook came out, I figured out how to use it. When blogs became accessible via Blogger and WordPress, I figured them out. I figured out how to Google and how to determine the strengths and weaknesses of a given source on the Internet.

And despite not having spent countless hours in my core classes using the latest technology, I have happened to graduate from a demanding university, find employment wherever I've moved, and altogether flourish in the 21st century world that has come of age along with me.

To what do I credit my success? I certainly lack an outstanding innate talent or intelligence. Rather, I thank God for a boatload of reading, writing, thinking, and speaking instruction, and key character mentors who essentially taught me to work hard and be nice.

That's it.

Now, before ardent tech-lovers begin commenting in fury, I'm not saying that we shouldn't devote time to teaching students how to effectively and creatively use technology.

Instead, I am saying that unless students can really read, write, think, and speak, it doesn't matter how pretty their Prezi is. (Click here to tweet this quote.) I believe this is where the vast majority of our time should be focused, and it can most often be done with nothing savvier than a book, a pen, and a piece of paper.

So, what do you think? Let's get the conversation started. Thoughts? Rants? Helpful ideas for teaching the key skills I've mentioned with or without tech?

(And don't forget to spread the conversation via Twitter!)

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7 Responses to Is the Common Core all about Technology?

  1. davestuartjr July 25, 2012 at 1:44 am #

    Before I forget, I should mention that I took three key technology classes during my K-12 career: keyboarding, Microsoft Office suite, and computer science. Is it necessary to go “tech-heavy” in non-tech classes?

  2. Vicky July 25, 2012 at 7:27 am #

    Well researched, well said. I am saving this article and sharing it w/ many!

    • davestuartjr July 25, 2012 at 2:19 pm #

      Thanks a lot, Vicky — I hope it sparks fruitful conversation!

  3. readingdoc July 25, 2012 at 10:06 am #

    Although I agree with a great deal of what this blog says, from a literacy point of view, I believe it is important to acknowledge that there is considerable evidence that reading, writing, and researching via “21st Century Technology” is significantly different from traditional print-based reading, writing, and researching. Consequently, I think it is vitally important that students be taught those differences in order to be fluent in both traditional and new Literacies. Marshall McLuhan wasn’t far off so many years ago when he said, “the medium is the message.”

    • davestuartjr July 25, 2012 at 2:22 pm #

      ReadingDoc, thanks for the thoughtful comment. It is definitely important–and, I would agree with your wording, it is “vitally” so–that students be taught the differences between print-based and digital literacy skills. Thankfully, the CCSS acknowledges this with the anchor standards that I list above. What I am worried about is that students will begin spending an inordinate amount of time exploring digital literacies, and that, in the process, they will lose out on developing the print-based literacies that form the foundation for all other literacy.

      I love your blog, by the way!

  4. dogtrax July 25, 2012 at 5:39 pm #

    In Massachusetts, we have Guiding Principles and overview statements that actually mention the use of technology and the concept of digital literacy for publishing, collaborating, writing and peer editing as part of the Common Core. The principles are designed to be the overarching philosophy underpinning the standards.
    While I agree that technology is not the center of the Common Core (nor should it be), my reading of the Massachusetts Common Core opens a lot of doors for teachers and their students — not as stand-alone technology (the drop-the-kids-off-in-the-lab model) but more as integrated into learning. (That said, access and equipment and support are HUGE issues confronting schools).
    And one more thing: the Common Core is not a complete document. It should be viewed as standards to strive for, not a way of teaching. (Our Massachusetts document also makes that clear). So, let’s see it as an opening for us to reconsider how and what we teach and move from there.
    Thanks for the post.

    • davestuartjr July 26, 2012 at 2:48 pm #

      Hi Kevin,

      Thanks for pointing me towards the Guiding Principles in Massachusetts — I hadn’t heard of the concept of states having their own additions / philosophies / emphases for implementing the CCSS, but it makes total sense. Duh. I’m also glad that states are taking the initiative to implement the CCSS in ways that (hopefully) mirror their local populations. This is one more reason that the CCSS aren’t the Big Brother-ish bogeyman they are sometimes painted as.

      You’ve totally hit on my big concern with ed-tech: when there is already so much disparity in America’s public ed system, I worry that large investments will be made in techifying schools all over the place, when really the money might be better invested in correcting the deeper sources of educational inequity. Those are just my thoughts. I like the idea of all kids having access to great technology, but I like even more the idea of all kids having access to an excellent education.

      Finally, thank you for reminding me of the nature of the CCSS. They are like an apple core — they make up the internal, unifying structure of the apple, but what we eat is actually the meat of the apple. In the analogy, the “apple meat” is our own approaches and content and curricula.

      Thanks again for your thoughtfulness, Kevin. Have a great day.

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