Goals and Objectives of a Computer Literacy Curriculum


The International Society for Technology in Education (ISTE) has developed a set of standards for students in today's schools. The ISTE's basic logic is that to live, learn, and work successfully in an increasingly complex and information-rich society, students must be able to use technology effectively. Within an effective educational setting, technology can enable students to become:


With the above general goals in mind, the ISTE has stated its National Educational Technology Standards (NETS). The technology standards for students are divided into six broad categories. Standards within each category are to be introduced, reinforced, and mastered by students. The ISTE has also developed a set of Profiles for Technology Literate Students that provide a framework for linking performance indicators to the standards. Teachers can use these standards and profiles as guidelines for planning technology-based activities in which students achieve success in learning, communication, and life skills.


The following are the basic standards the ISTE wants to help students achieve:

1. Basic operations and concepts
  • Students demonstrate a sound understanding of the nature and operation of technology systems.
  • Students are proficient in the use of technology.


2. Social, ethical, and human issues

  • Students understand the ethical, cultural, and societal issues related to technology.
  • Students practice responsible use of technology systems, information, and software.
  • Students develop positive attitudes toward technology uses that support lifelong learning, collaboration, personal pursuits, and productivity.


3. Technology productivity tools

  • Students use technology tools to enhance learning, increase productivity, and promote creativity.
  • Students use productivity tools to collaborate in constructing technology-enhanced models, prepare publications, and produce other creative works.


4. Technology communications tools

  • Students use telecommunications to collaborate, publish, and interact with peers, experts, and other audiences.
  • Students use a variety of media and formats to communicate information and ideas effectively to multiple audiences.


5. Technology research tools

  • Students use technology to locate, evaluate, and collect information from a variety of sources.
  • Students use technology tools to process data and report results.
  • Students evaluate and select new information resources and technological innovations based on the appropriateness for specific tasks.


6. Technology problem-solving and decision-making tools

  • Students use technology resources for solving problems and making informed decisions.
  • Students employ technology in the development of strategies for solving problems in the real world.


The exact ways in which these standards should be met are left to the discretion of school systems and teachers. ISTE (2000) has also published its National Educational Technology Standards for Students - Connecting Curriculum and Technology, which contains three dozen teacher-created lesson plans, sequenced by grade level, that illustrate the connection between teaching specific disciplines (including English language arts, foreign language, mathematics, science, and social studies) and the NETS for Students performance indicators. These are useful guidelines to help classroom teachers devise their own plans that incorporate similar activities.

The ISTE also points out that schools must supply an environment that is conducive to the achievement of computer literacy.essential conditions. The ISTE lists the following as essential conditions required to create learning environments conducive to powerful uses of technology:




Specific Computer Skills

It is also reasonable to think of computer literacy in terms of specific skills that students should be able to display at the computer. The following list, which is based on our own previous writing (Vockell & Schwartz, 1992), takes into consideration several important skills that most experts agree can help students become proficient computer users. We have identified five major objectives and have divided these into sub-objectives. These major instructional objectives are fairly distinct, ranging from the cognitive ability of knowing how to run a computer to the affective attitude of valuing the computer. The sub-objectives are listed in general order of increasing complexity, but there is considerable overlap. We have avoided placing the objectives and sub-objectives into grade levels, because the grade level at which these will be introduced may vary widely. We have seen kindergarten children who can use simple Macintosh or Windows commands; and we have met high school seniors who have not yet learned to operate a printer.


1. Students should be able to operate computer hardware. They should be able to:
  • Press keys to make the computer work.
  • Refrain from activities that could damage the computer.
  • Turn the computer on and off correctly.
  • Insert disks or cassettes correctly.
  • Warm- and cold-boot the computer.
  • Operate a printer correctly.
  • Use a mouse correctly.
  • Use a modem correctly.
  • Use a scanner to digitize graphics.
  • Use a large screen monitor or LCD projection device to display video output.
  • Access programs from a file server on a networked system of computers.
  • Perform simple adjustments on the computer (for example, insert paper in the printer, change the ribbon, adjust color controls on the monitor).
  • Perform complex adjustments on the computer (for example, adjust dip switches in the printer, install or remove a disk drive, connect a laserdisc player to a computer and to a projection device, connect a modem to a computer and to a telephone line).


2. Students should develop and use keyboarding skills. They should be able to:


  • Use a simplified (say, alphabetical) keyboard.
  • Use a few important keys on a standard keyboard.
  • Use all regular keys on a standard keyboard.
  • Use the special keys on a standard keyboard.
  • Use a variety of keyboards from different computers.
  • Type input at a satisfactory rate.


3. Students should be able to run and use computer software. They should be able to:


  • Run drill and practice, tutorial, simulation, and tool programs on the computer.
  • Use troubleshooting strategies to make programs work properly when something goes wrong.
  • Use a word processing program.
  • Use a database management program (access data from an existing database, enter data into an existing database, and develop their own databases).
  • Use the Internet to find and download information.
  • Use a spreadsheet program (feed data into an existing spreadsheet and develop their own spreadsheets).
  • Use graphing and graphics programs.
  • Use desktop publishing programs.
  • Send and receive email.
  • Use other computerized tools (e.g., PIMs) for specified purposes.
  • Use programs for specialized purposes (such as accounting, drafting, planning).
  • Enter new items into a CAI program that contains an editing module (such as questions or vocabulary words and definitions).


4. Students should demonstrate programming skills. They should be able to:


  • Perform tasks off the computer that require computer-related skills (such as if/then logic, looping, using variables).
  • Perform tasks employing a computer language.
  • Use and demonstrate programming procedures.
  • Modify existing programs to suit their needs more appropriately, using authoring systems or programming languages.
  • Write their own programs for specified purposes.



5. Of course, students should learn to value the computer in their lives. As evidence of this, they should be able to:


  • Recognize situations in which the computer can be used in their daily lives.
  • Feel confident about their ability to use the computer.
  • Enjoy and desire work or play with computers.
  • Use the computer to ease the burden of tedious or mundane tasks.
  • Spend free time using the computer.


To be considered highly literate at computer use, students should be able to display the appropriate skills and attitudes listed on the previous pages. In some cases, students may be able to get by with a less than perfect level of computer literacy. For example, not all students may actually need to be able to connect and use an LCD projection system or install a disk drive for a computer system. Indeed, in some cases, out of a concern for the safety of either the students are the hardware, school systems may not want students to engage in some activities.

Note also that these skills fit easily into a "spiral curriculum": As they progress through school, students can come to a better understanding and use of skills and attitudes they earlier acquired at a more rudimentary level. For example, very young (preschool) children can run such programs as Katie's Farm and McGee by Lawrence Productions*. While developing early language arts by interacting with interesting stories, they learn to use the mouse to make selections and develop a basic understanding of what the computer can do. As they grow older, they begin to engage in more sophisticated activities.

Students may start their writing activities using a simple word processor (such as Magic Slate*) in the second grade, change to a more advanced word processor (such as Bank Street Writer *) during the upper elementary grades, and become proficient on a fairly sophisticated word processor (such as Microsoft Works or Word) by the time they graduate from high school. Likewise, students may start using databases in the early elementary grades, begin to insert data into these databases as they progress through elementary school, and develop their own databases in high school. Or children who begin by writing simple HyperStudio programs as part of first grade math and art classes might learn to modify existing HTML programs to improve the artwork in middle school and eventually write Pascal programs to solve complex problems in high school physics.


At the very least, there should be some sort of checkpoint at which the school attempts to verify that students possess these skills and attitudes and to help them master the objectives they have not already reached.


The precise strategy for helping students develop these computer literacy skills will vary widely among school systems. (Strategies for teaching keyboarding skills are discussed separately in the next section of this chapter.) At present, a large number of schools are developing computer literacy or application courses. Often these courses are offered at the middle school or high school level and include keyboarding and the use of word processors, database management programs, electronic spreadsheets, desktop publishing programs, and the like. Literacy skills can be directly taught in such a course. Other schools employ a strategy of infusing these objectives into the existing curriculum. Instead of taking a course in which they learn to use a database management program or to program in HyperStudio, for example, students might use databases or hypertext stacks in their science, social studies, and language arts classes. The best strategy might be to combine these two strategies by teaching the skills in a special class but making sure they are applied throughout the curriculum. At the very least, there should be some sort of checkpoint at which the school attempts to verify that students possess these skills and attitudes and to help them master the objectives they have not already reached.

It is essential that some person or group make a plan to coordinate the introduction of computers into the curriculum and that all teachers be aware of this plan. When there is no effective plan, teachers in the regular curriculum frequently complain that the "computer literacy" class is tying up the computers so completely that no one else can use the facilities. At the opposite extreme, the regular teachers may be up in arms because they would like their students to use a computerized tool (say, a database), but they don't feel it is their job to teach such specialized computer skills. Computer literacy is most easily taught when its relationship to the rest of the curriculum is clear to the students and when teachers in the regular subjects cooperate with teachers of computer applications.

An excellent example of a computer literacy plan for a K-5 elementary school can be found at http://www.danbury.k12.ct.us/elemweb/complitk.htm. This link is to the school's expectations at the kindergarten level. By clicking on appropriate links, you can examine the school's expectations for all grade levels.


Online Links

Computer Literacy

Goals and Objectives

Information Literacy and the Net

This eight hour staff development course emphasizes student investigations as vehicles to explore the information available over the Internet. The course engages participants in learning the Research Cycle, several types of literacy, Gardner's Seven Intelligences, and other topics. If teachers understand and apply these concepts, they are more likely to help their students become computer literate.


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