The Comprehensive List of Digital Skills Students Need

Following the access and connectivity divide, digital readiness poses the next major hurtle to digital equity.


What Is Digital Readiness?

Digital readiness encompasses the prerequisite digital skills that people need to take advantage of technology in useful, meaningful, and innovative ways.

The digital readiness gap impacts Americans of all ages, including “digital natives.” Without these digital skills, students will face challenges as they need to perform research and produce creative artifacts in school, as they navigate a digital world for community building and social interactions, and as they enter the workforce and are expected to employ technology as a means to accomplish projects and communicate professionally.


What Are Digital Skills?

Though digital readiness is broad and ambiguous, there are concrete digital skills that are foundational to this concept. In the remainder of this article, we will unpack and explore these.

Derived in part from standards like ISTE and the ISTE NETS, CSTA, and computer science and technology sets published by individual states, the digital skills that follow are at the core of digital readiness.

For this article, we will categorize digital skills within five overarching categories:

Operation & Application: Use common technology devices with proficiency, select appropriate tools for given tasks, and leverage technology throughout the learning process.

Inquiry & Innovation: Collect, organize, and visualize information with technology programs and produce creative digital artifacts to convey understanding and inform audiences.

Problem Solving & Critical Thinking: Leverage technology in the problem-solving process and model computational processes to uncover, apply, and scale solutions.

Online Communication, Collaboration, and Research: Develop learning networks to communicate information in a variety of online formats, curate and synthesize resources, and collaborate with others using digital mediums.

Digital Citizenship: Model safe, legal, and ethical behavior when using technology.


The Digital Skills List: Operation & Application

Use common technology devices with proficiency, select appropriate tools for given tasks, and leverage technology throughout the learning process.


Students develop proficiency in touch typing to optimize expediency and fluency navigating technological systems.

  • Identify, explore, and understand the layout of common QWERTY keyboards.
  • Use common hotkeys and shortcut key combinations.
  • Apply optimal posture and ergonomic strategies such as correct hand and body positions and smooth and rhythmic keystrokes.
  • Demonstrate proper touch keyboarding techniques and correct hand placement.
  • Gain proficiency, accuracy, and speed in touch keyboarding.

Computer Fundamentals

Students communicate the function of common computing devices and components, appraise technology resources to accomplish a variety of tasks, and demonstrate a sound understanding of the nature and operation of technology systems.

    • Demonstrate proficiency when using common technology devices, including basic skills like:
    • Turning on a computer and logging in.
    • Using a mouse.
    • Recognizing basic computer icons.
    • Saving documents and changing file sizes.
    • Understanding computer and network storage.
    • Creating, organizing, and manipulating shortcuts.
    • Identifying and employing basic features of an operating system.
    • Creating and maintaining files and folders.
    • Practice responsible usage and care when using electronic devices and troubleshoot problems with hardware and software using available resources.
    • Model the basic infrastructure of networks and how networks allow for online research, communication, and collaboration.
    • Make informed choices among technology systems, resources, and services in a variety of contexts.
    • Demonstrate an understanding of how changes in technology impact the workplace and society.
    • Identify and assess the capabilities and limitations of emerging technologies.
    • Utilize technology to facilitate personalized and interactive learning.


The Digital Skills List: Inquiry & Innovation

Collect, organize, and visualize information with technology programs and produce creative digital artifacts to convey understanding and inform audiences.

Technology & Productivity Tools

Students enhance learning, increase productivity, and promote creativity.

      • Assess the appropriateness of software applications to accomplish a defined task.
      • Collaborate in constructing technology-enhanced models, preparing publications, and producing other creative works.
      • Use a variety of electronic formats (e.g. web publishing, oral presentations, journals, and multimedia presentations) to summarize and communicate results.

Spreadsheets & Databases

Students understand that spreadsheets, databases, and other similar digital tools are used to collect, organize, process, analyze, and visualize real-world data.

Word Processing

Students use word processing software to translate information into organized, effective documents that serve specific purposes.

      • Create, edit, and publish documents that demonstrate effective formatting (e.g. font, color, orientation, alignment, margins, spacing) for specific audiences.
      • Create documents for specific purposes including content for a web page, resumes, business letters, and multi-page papers with citations for school assignments.
      • Leverage intermediate features in word processing application (e.g. tabs, indents, headers and footers, end notes, bulleting and numbering, tables).
      • Use a word processor as a tool to enhance learning, increase productivity, and promote communication and collaboration.
      • Strategize visual design to emphasize key information and improve readability with formatting features such as columns, tables, and styles, as well as the use of images and other graphic elements.
      • Proofread and edit writing using available resources, including spell check, grammar, and autocorrect, and understand the limitations of these tools.
      • Collaborate with peers and leverage functionality like comments and track changes.
      • Leverage a word processor as a part of the problem-solving process to construct technology-enhanced models, prepare publications, and produce other creative works.


Students create linear and non-linear presentations tailored to specific audiences that present research, tell a story, or exchange ideas using slideshow software and applications.

      • Evaluate for organization, content, formatting, and appropriateness of citations to maximize accuracy and design.
      • Implement a process to practice, polish, and add notes to strengthen the delivery and dissemination of information.
      • Apply basic design elements including font, color, alignment, white space, and layouts, as well as develop templatized layouts, to improve slideshow content.
      • Make strategic use of visual and audio elements, such as graphics, audio effects, transitions, animations, and video components, to add interest and express meaning.
      • Design presentations with specific audiences in mind.
      • Use teacher developed guidelines to evaluate multimedia presentations for organization, content, design, presentation, and appropriateness of citations.


Students communicate ideas visually and graphically using appropriate digital tools and applications.

      • Create and edit files in various formats, including audio, video, moving images, text, and graphics.
      • Demonstrate how the use of various techniques and effects (e.g. editing, music, color, rhetorical devices) can be used to convey meaning in media.
      • Demonstrate an understanding of basic design principles and strategies to increase the effectiveness of a digital product as viewed by different audiences and in different contexts (print, web, screen, and monitor).
      • Create original works, responsibly repurpose and remix digital resources, and incorporate various files into new creative multimedia works.

Visual Mapping

Students plan and create visual digital products that express thoughts, illustrate complex processes, and share stories in a sequential manner.

      • Gather and organize information.
      • Visually present information for specific audiences.
      • Create, edit, and publish thoughts and ideas visually.
      • Brainstorm; capture ideas, understanding, and information; and explore complex concepts visually.


      • Identify and explain terms and concepts related to spreadsheets (e.g. cell, column, row, values, labels, chart graph).
      • Use spreadsheet tools and features to facilitate the collection, analysis, and presentation of information, including:
      • Text formatting features (e.g. merge cells, wrap text, font, color, alignment).
      • Advanced formatting (e.g. reposition columns and rows add and name worksheets).
      • Data entry (e.g. auto fill, import, and export functionality).
      • Various number formats (e.g. scientific notations, percentages, exponents).
      • Mathematical symbols e.g. + add, ‐ minus, *multiply, /divide, ^ exponents.
      • Functions of a spreadsheet application (e.g. sort, filter, find).
      • Computing methods and formulas (e.g. sums and averages).
      • Create data visualizations for specific audiences and purposes by assessing the most appropriate type of chart to represent given data.
      • Collect real-world data and analyze the results to draw conclusions, recognize patterns and relationships in the data and make predictions.


      • Identify and navigate common examples of databases from everyday life (e.g. library catalogs, school records, contact directories, and search directories).
      • Use effective search strategies for locating and retrieving electronic information in common databases (e.g. using Boolean logic and filters).
      • Plan, create, modify, and edit fields and records in a database.
      • Use the sort, filter, and query tools to produce reports to share and analyze information.
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The Digital Skills List: Problem Solving & Critical Thinking

Leverage technology in the problem-solving process and model computational thinking to uncover, apply, and scale solutions.

Computational Thinking

Students wield technology resources for problem solving, critical thinking, and informed decision making.

Problem Solving

      • Demonstrate a disposition amenable to open-ended problem solving (e.g. perseverance, creativity, patience, and adaptability).
      • Understand that a problem can have many solutions, and that solutions can be adapted or modified to solve similar problems using modeling, simulation, creating prototypes and by refining solutions after testing.

Critical Thinking

      • Determine what is known and what needs to be known regarding a problem and develop a problem statement in order to solve a problem or complete a task.
      • Identify complex, interdisciplinary, and real-world problems that can be solved computationally.
      • Demonstrate that solutions to complex problems require collaboration, interdisciplinary understanding, and systems thinking.


      • Decompose complex real-world problems into manageable subproblems that could integrate existing solutions or procedures.

Pattern Recognition & Abstraction

      • Create and interpret visual representations such as flowcharts and diagrams to organize data, find patterns, make predictions, or test solutions.
      • Collect data or identify relevant data sets, use digital tools to analyze them, and represent data in various ways to facilitate problem-solving and decision-making.

Algorithmic Thinking

      • Identify algorithms in everyday life
      • Determine how algorithms can be used to accomplish tasks and solve problems.
      • Understand how automation works and use algorithmic thinking to develop a sequence of steps to create and test automated solutions.


Students plan the development of a computational artifact using an iterative process that includes reflection on the process and modification of it, taking into account key features, time and resource constraints, and user needs and expectations.

Algorithmic Thinking

      • Define an algorithm as a sequence of defined steps or instructions to be followed and identify how algorithms relate to computer programming and allow for automation.
      • Develop and execute an algorithm that includes sequencing, loops, and conditionals to accomplish a task, with or without a computing device.
      • Systematically test algorithms to identify and correct errors, including those involving operators, conditionals, parallelism, and repetition.


      • Construct programs that include sequencing, events, loops, conditionals, functions, and variables
      • Evaluate existing technological functionalities and incorporate them into new designs.
      • Abstract common features from a set of interrelated processes or complex phenomena and create modules and develop points of interaction that can apply to multiple situations and reduce complexity.
      • Evaluate and refine a computational artifact multiple times to enhance its performance, reliability, usability, and accessibility.
      • Describe, justify, and document computational processes and solutions using appropriate terminology consistent with the intended audience and purpose.


      • Solicit and incorporate feedback from, and provide constructive feedback to team members and other stakeholders.
      • Include the unique perspectives of others and reflect on one’s own perspectives when designing and developing computational products.


The Digital Skills List: Online Communication, Collaboration, and Research

      Develop learning networks to communicate information in a variety of online formats, curate and synthesize resources, and collaborate with others using digital mediums.

Internet Usage

Facilitate communication, research, and collaboration with digital tools.

Online Communication

      • Be polite and respectful in all digital communications.
      • Describe and practice “etiquette” when communicating and sharing information online.
      • Recognize and describe the potential risks and dangers associated with various forms of online communications.
      • Compose, send, and organize e-mail messages with and without attachments.

Online Research

      • Explain the differences among various search engines and how they rank results.
      • Use search strategies to acquire and organize media and digital content through information sourcing.
      • Evaluate resources for validity, accuracy, relevance, and credibility.
      • Analyze and explain how media and technology can be used to distort, exaggerate, and misrepresent information.
      • Recognize the ethical and legal implications of plagiarism of copyrighted materials.

Online Collaboration

      • Recognize and protect against the potential risks and dangers associated with online communication and participation in online communities (e.g. discussion groups, blogs, and social networking sites).
      • Use web 2.0 tools (e.g. online discussions, blogs, and wikis) to gather information and publish digital media.
      • Create, share, and utilize collaborative workspaces, documents, or other digital tools for asynchronous and synchronous collaboration with remote learners
      • Reflect on their responsibilities and rights as creators in the online spaces where they consume, create, and share information.


The Digital Skills List: Digital Citizenship

Model, safe, legal, and ethical behavior when using technology.

Online Safety

Students demonstrate an understanding of safety and ethical challenges and responsibilities.

      • Understand how to be safe and make responsible and ethical decisions online and in a digital world.
      • Understand the importance of communicating and reporting inappropriate content and illegal activities in a digital society.
      • Identify and understand the positive and negative effects of digital technologies and devices and how technology can impact all aspects of life and society.


      • Recognize online threats to privacy and practice effective strategies to secure and protect personal data from data-collection technologies and malicious software.
      • Manage online information and use strategies, like creating strong passwords, to keep it secure from online risks.

Digital Footprint

      • Practice self-reflection and consider how sharing online can impact themselves and others.
      • Understand the role an online identity plays and the permanence of choices and decisions when interacting online and cultivate a positive digital identity.


    • Identify cyberbullying and describe strategies to deal with such a situation.

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