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With Larry Ferlazzo

In this EdWeek blog, an experiment in knowledge-gathering, Ferlazzo will address readers’ questions on classroom management, ELL instruction, lesson planning, and other issues facing teachers. Send your questions to lferlazzo@epe.org. Read more from this blog.

Teaching Opinion

Response: The Role of Tech in Common Core

By Larry Ferlazzo — May 13, 2017 16 min read
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(This the first post in a two-part series)

The new “question-of-the-week” is:

How does tech fit into the Common Core Standards?

We’re all teaching the Common Core Standards (or near “look-alike” versions). Technology is discussed in them, and there are also ways that tech can also help us meet the non-tech standards. This series will examine both of those areas.

Today, Julie D. Ramsay, Michele L. Haiken, Laura Taddei, Melissa Oliver, Michael Casey contribute their responses. You can listen to a 10-minute conversation I had with Julie and Michele on my BAM! Radio Show. You can also find a list of, and links to, previous shows here.

Readers might also be interested in two previous posts responding to a similar question:

Ways to ‘Shrink the Change’ of Tech & CCSS in Your Classroom

Slow & Steady Wins the Race’ for Making Changes in Teaching

And, of course, there are also these two collections of past posts:

Implementing The Common Core

Using Tech In The Classroom

Response From Julie D. Ramsay

Julie D. Ramsay is a National Board Certified Teacher and the author of “Can We Skip Lunch and Keep Writing?": Collaborating in Class and Online, grades 3-8.She teaches ELA to sixth graders at Rock Quarry Middle School in Tuscaloosa, Ala. She also travels the country to speak, present, and facilitate workshops in applying technology to support authentic learning. Read her blog, eduflections:

Common Core and Technology: A Perfect Partnership?

Many states across the country have adopted a version of the Common Core Standards. These standards outline what students should be able to do in order to move forward to the following grade level. Although some states have made addendums with specific curriculum, reading lists or prescriptive programs, these standards are a destination to where a student’s learning should be headed; the specific route to that destination is not specifically outlined.

When one takes the time to look at the language of Common Core Standards, words such as analyze, evaluate, engage, produce, collaborate, and interpret require students to go beyond a basic understanding of content. Learners are expected to move into higher order problem-solving, decisionmaking, and creative application of content knowledge in order to prove mastery of the standards.

Likewise, when one takes the time to evaluate the International Society of Technology in Education Standards for Students, very similar language is used to describe how a student will apply their content learning to not only demonstrate mastery of content standards, but also fill the roles of engaged learner, digital citizen, knowledge constructor, innovative designer, computational thinker, creative communicator and global collaborator.

So as classroom teachers, one of our driving goals is to empower our students to harness the power of digital tools in order to apply their content knowledge in meaningful ways. With a deep knowledge of our students, we can design learning opportunities that meet their needs while providing them with the opportunities to choose the tools, low-tech or high-tech, to equip them to meet their goals.

For example, this spring, based on the needs and interests of our students, my intern, Caylyn Harden and I, turned our 6th grade English Language Arts classroom into a makerspace. Learners were working towards demonstrating mastery of four different Common Core Standards by creating an informational how-to guide for classes of third grade students, a project designed and directed by our learners. Students had the opportunity to make anything that was of interest to them. Their projects varied from creating video games to building a working pinball machine out of cardboard to sewing a literary cosplay costume.

As we studied that genre of reading and writing, we used picture books as well as a Blendspace of digital mentor texts. Students took photographs or video of each of the steps for their specific projects while doing all of their writing in Google Drive where they received feedback from their peers and us. We conferred with students throughout the writing process, and learners chose the medium where they would publish their final writing pieces. Some projects were published digitally while others created physical books.

Although every project and published writing was just as unique as each of my students, the focus remained on their learning and demonstrating mastery of Common Core Standards, the job tasked to content area teachers. However, what empowered learners to have a voice and fulfill the roles of today’s student were the digital tools that we used to support their learning.

These digital tools and social media platforms gave students an authentic reason to read, write, listen, and speak while making the learning process transparent. Technology was embedded throughout the learning process providing students the ability to not only meet, but exceed, these standards. Common Core and technology really can be a perfect partnership.


Common Core Standards

ISTE Standards for Students

Response From Michele L. Haiken

Michele L. Haiken is a middle school English teacher in Rye, N.Y., and an adjunct professor in literacy at Manhattanville College. To see examples how she addresses literacy, technology, and the Common Core in her own classroom and learn more, visit her blog and follow her on Twitter at @teachingfactor:

The introduction of the Common Core Standards states, “Students who are college and career reading reading, writing, listening, speaking and language: They use technology and digital media strategically and capably. Students employ technology thoughtfully to enhance their reading, writing, speaking, listening, and language use. They tailor their searches online to acquire useful information efficiently, and they integrate what they learn using technology with what they learn offline. They are familiar with the strengths and limitations of various technological tools and mediums and can select and use those best suited to their communication goals. " (p. 5) Throughout the Common Core Learning Standards for ELA and Literacy, technology is mentioned in seven different standards.

When designing a classroom activity that addresses Common Core Standards that allows students to utilize technology, so many technology tools are available. An effective lesson is not designed around a tech tool itself, but rather it highlights building relationships, engaging students, and teaching skills that will help students think deeply and succeed.

Below is a list of some popular technology tools that have been organized according to the Common Core Standards. Consider how to implement these tools in the classroom to enhance core skills.

Reading & Writing

Reading Closely:

ThinkCerca - Reading & Writing Tool

TED Talks

Actively Learn - Reading & Annotation Tool

Wonderopolis - Reading & Research Tool

Buncee - A Writing and Creation Tool


Popplet - Storyboarding & Semantic Maps

Pixton - Storyboard & Animation Tool

Edpuzzle - Embed questions and annotations throughout a video

GoogleDocs - Collaborative Writing & Individual Writing


iMovie Book Trailers

Twitter - Conversation Tool

Padlet - Collect Student Responses

Smore - Digital Newsletters

ThingLink - Visual Curation Tool


Socrative - Polling Tool

Easel_ly - Create Infographics

Evernote - Curation and Writing Tool

Edmodo - Collaborating, Communication, & Curation Tool

Trello - Visual Organization Tool

Speaking & Listening - Presenting Tools to Build and Present Knowledge

Prezi - Digital Presentation Tool

HaikuDeck - Digital Presentation Tool

Animoto - Movie Making Tool

PowToon - Animation Tool

Google Slides - Google’s Presentation Tool

PodBean - Podcasting

Response From Laura Taddei

Laura Taddei is co-author of Teaching the 4Cs With Technology: How do I use 21st century tools to teach 21st century skills? (ASCD), along with Stephanie Budhai. Taddei is a leader in higher education with a mix of administrative and teaching responsibilities and is currently an assistant professor of Education at Neumann University:

It was interesting while working on my book, “Teaching the 4 Cs with Technology,” to see how much tech fits into the common core standards. While writing the book, our goal was to align our suggestions and ideas with the common core standards as well as the Partnership for 21st Century Learning framework, and the International Society for Technology in Education standards. One thing is for certain, when we decide on what technology to use we need to think about how will students learn and will this technology improve the learning. The common core standards guide our teaching and help us determine what students should be learning. Our focus should always be on learning and not the technology integration (Budhai & Taddei, 2015).

The 4 Cs (critical thinking, communication, collaboration, and creativity) are integral 21st century skills our students need to practice and learn so they can be productive in both work and life. The Common Core standards as well as the Partnership for 21st Century Learning strive to ensure students have the necessary skills and experiences to transfer to successful career and life environments. Technology tools, when used appropriately, can provide students with opportunities to practice these skills. Below, I provide examples of using technology aligned with common core standards:

Critical Thinking:

Reasoning effectively is part of critical thinking and is also a common core standard that all students should possess and practice. Part of reasoning effectively is being able to understand diverse perspectives and communicate with different people. In addition, the Common Core Standards state that as early as kindergarten, students should have opportunities to research online. Technology can provide ways to meet these standards and here are some suggestions:

  • For younger grades, use technology to model the research process and research in a whole group or small group
  • For older grades or when it is appropriate, have students research on their own and share their research with each other
  • Use online discussion boards to help students demonstrate their ability to reason effectively and synthesize information
  • Use voice-recorded technology (such as Voicethread) and have students respond to higher level thinking questions by audio, text or video

Communication and Collaboration:

According to the Common Core State Standards (2015), students need to read, write, speak, listen and use language effectively. To be career and college ready, students also need to know how to effectively collaborate and work with diverse perspectives and cultures. Here are a few ways technology can assist us to meet these standards:

  • Google Apps for Education provide multiple ways for students to practice communication and collaboration skills
  • Using videoconferencing (Skype, Zoom, Google Hangout, etc.) as a tool to communicate and collaborate with another culture or community
  • Create a class wiki to collaborate and communicate with others (Wikispaces, Google Sites, etc.)


Finding an explicit mention of creativity within the Common Core State Standards was difficult. According to the Partnership for 21st Century Learning, although the CCSS does not explicitly mention creativity, schools and districts need to find ways to ensure these 21st century skills are addressed. A few examples of ways to use technology to help students develop and practice creativity skills:

  • Makerspaces are a great way to encourage all of the 4 Cs and common core standards as well as fostering creativity
  • Allow students to choose digital tools to show their learning - not everyone has to use the same tool
  • The common core standards do suggest students should be using a variety of multimedia tools to demonstrate their learning
  • Coding and robotics can be used to develop creative thinking and problem solving

On the wiki we created for our book, Teaching the 4 Cs with Technology, we provide specific examples of critical thinking activities aligned with the common core standards. We also provide other ideas within our book aligned with the CCSS. Please feel free to join our wiki to share your own ideas or use the resources we provide

Response From Melissa Oliver

Melissa Oliver is Coordinator of Instructional Technology for the Washington Unified School District in West Sacramento, Calif., and is a member of the Instructional Leadership Corps (ILC), a collaboration among the California Teachers Association, the Stanford Center for Opportunity Policy in Education, and the National Board Resource Center at Stanford. Melissa is a Google for Education Certified Innovator and Trainer, Google Apps Certified Administrator, Leading Edge Certified, and a National Board Certified Teacher in Exceptional Needs:

Technology is a tool to meet the Common Core Standards. Even though there are explicit mentions of discrete technology skills, such as using digital tools to produce writing that begins in Kindergarten, the greatest effect on learning exists when technology is effectively integrated in planning and instruction to support all the standards. Technology has the power to connect teachers and students with one another, peers, and experts beyond their individual classrooms and schools.

Students can learn from industry experts who are available for collaboration via video conferencing or social media. Collaboration is available on a global scale. Technology also provides increased access to information. Events happening locally and around the world are accessible in real-time. Art, cultural artifacts, primary source documents are digitized and available for analysis within classrooms to gain multiple perspectives. Virtual Reality provides the chance to visit historical sites, habitats, and more. Information no longer resides solely within the teacher or textbook. Learning extends beyond the classroom and allows us to learn both with and from one another.

Increased access to people and information is insignificant if new learning is neither created nor shared. The power of technology and the Common Core standards is when students create and share. The use of blogs, various media platforms, 3-D printers, and more provides students a platform to advocate and create change in their communities. They become active participants by contributing to the information base. Marvel Studio’s Girls Reforming the Future Challenge Winner, River City High School student, Maia Dua, created a seeing-eye robot that can be produced at a lower cost to increase accessibility for those with visual impairments. Technology tools help make learning more timely, relevant, and meaningful by providing an authentic audience and purpose for learning.

However, we must acknowledge that we have yet to achieve the promise that technology provides for learning. Throughout our country, inequities persist in our schools. The Infrastructure in many schools does not yet support the high-speed, reliable internet required. There are disparities around access to devices as well as how those tools are being used. And our families, teachers, and administrators need access to ongoing, quality professional learning if we hope to live up to the potential that technology offers to support learning in Common Core classrooms.

Response From Michael Casey

Michael Casey has over 35 years of experience in Education as a classroom teacher, Educational Technology Resource teacher, Program Manager for Educational Technology and as an Executive Director for Information Technology at San Diego Unified School District. He is currently the Director of Technology for Del Mar Union Schools and the President and CEO of Eire Group a technology consulting solutions group. He is co-author of Next Practices: An Executive Guide for Education Decision Makers (Rowman & Littlefield, 2014) and co-author of Vision: The First Critical Step in Developing a Strategy for Educational Technology (Rowman & Littlefield, 2014):

When asked to think about how technology fits into the Common Core Standards, it is difficult to think about how one could support obtaining the standards without the use of technology. Technologists for years have been evangelizing that technology is a tool in support of instructional pedagogy. It is not an end to a means within itself.

Technology, used effectively, will help students go beyond low level thinking skills such as memorizing facts, and foster their research, inquiry, communication, collaboration, creativity and critical thinking abilities. (21st Century Skills)

If we truly want to prepare students for a lifetime of learning and a competitive workplace we have to provide them the tools in which to succeed. There are over 100 technology standards within the Common Core Standards. Care must be taken that we do not teach technology in isolation, but rather within the context of all the Common Core Standards.

“Preparing students for the 21st century is not about buying the latest technology gadget, nor is it about acquiring technology for technology’s sake. It’s about blending the core subjects of reading, writing and mathematics with learning an innovation skills and life career skills.” (“N3XT Practices: an executive guide for education decision makers,” Casey and Vidal, Roman and Littlefield)

A school (district) should have a clear vision on how to use technology effectively. “Having a clear, articulated Vision about how technology supports your instructional practice and a coherent communication plan, will give you the platform from which to successfully create an environment that supports 21st Century learning. The fundamentals of students: Communicating; collaborating; using Critical Thinking skills and Creativity are anchored in your districts’ Educational Technology Vision.” (“VISION: the first critical step in developing a strategy for educational technology,” Casey and Vidal, Rowman & Littlefield)

Thanks to Julie, Michele, Laura, Melissa and Michael for their contributions!

Please feel free to leave a comment with your reactions to the topic or directly to anything that has been said in this post.

Consider contributing a question to be answered in a future post. You can send one to me at lferlazzo@epe.org.When you send it in, let me know if I can use your real name if it’s selected or if you’d prefer remaining anonymous and have a pseudonym in mind.

You can also contact me on Twitter at @Larryferlazzo.

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Education Week has published a collection of posts from this blog, along with new material, in an e-book form. It’s titled Classroom Management Q&As: Expert Strategies for Teaching.

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This Year’s Most Popular Q & A Posts!

Classroom Management Advice

Student Motivation & Social Emotional Learning

Implementing The Common Core

Race & Gender Challenges

Best Ways To Begin & End The School Year

Brain-Based Learning

Teaching Social Studies

Project-Based Learning

Using Tech In The Classroom

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Math Instruction

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Look for Part Two in a few days...






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