Key ICT skills in the Primary Classroom

Teaching Strategies

By Michael Hilkemeijer


As primary schools continue to advance into the digital era, into a time of knowledge wealth, governments such as that in Australia are strongly encouraging the use of technology in primary education. In the past decade, its primary curriculum has reflected this by including ample opportunities for teachers to integrate ICT in primary education.


However, the effective use of ICT in primary schools in my view is not so much about the development of ICT skills for primary students, but to develop their ICT capability. There is a growing consensus that it is the development of ICT capability rather than ICT skills for students that should be the focus of ICT in education. This is because anyone can know an ICT skill or a number of ICT techniques. Yet, to be ICT capable is to ‘know that you know’ such ICT techniques and be able to decide whether these ICT techniques are appropriate to the context and will develop the right ICT solution.


There are so many benefits of ICT in primary schools and developing student ICT capability should be a priority for teachers. You may have already noticed that other benefits include motivation and engagement just to name a few.


What will make this article different from the rest is that it will answer your questions about not only technology in primary schools, but I will share with you my top ICT teaching and learning strategies to help you successfully integrate ICT in the primary classroom today.  


Let us first examine what is ICT in primary school?


ICT in the classroom

There are different types of ICT for primary school education, however, the ones which you will learn about here will enable you to develop ICT skills for primary students through the process of learning how to develop ICT capability.


ICT skills and techniques is just one component of ICT capability and it is essential that you go beyond this and plan and seek to develop all components of ICT capability. These include routines, processes, concepts and higher order thinking skills.


Information and Communication Technology in primary schools include:


Word Processing

ICT skills for students here include saving documents, typing skills and particularly sending documents to a printer. Children are expected to exit primary school with the following capabilities:

  • Changing font, font size, bold, italics, highlight and font colour;
  • Justifying, changing spacing, indenting;
  • Setting up bullets and numbers, re-starting numbered lists;
  • Inserting and modifying a table;
  • Inserting a blank page and understanding why this is used;
  • Inserting a picture – embedding it tightly with text, understanding how to resize and re-position it;
  • Inserting graphics, tables, smart art and symbols;
  • Understanding how to set up a header, footer, page numbers;
  • Inserting hyperlink, setting how the linked pages opens;
  • Using templates.


As a teacher, what then do you need to know for when teaching ICT in primary school?


You will need to apply your knowledge, skills and understanding of word processing in two distinct ways. The first way is when you teach with ICT such as word processors and the other relates to your professional practice. For the purpose of this article, however, we are focused on the latter.


What ICT skills do teachers need for when teaching ICT in primary schools such as word processors? For you to be able to teach with ICT effectively in this instance will require you to have knowledge, skills and understanding of the following ICT skills for teachers:


  • Creating, opening, saving, closing, deleting and printing documents;
  • Selecting font, font size, colour, style (italic, bold), line spacing and justification;
  • Inserting, deleting, selecting, cutting, copying, pasting and undoing;
  • Utilising help;
  • Inserting bullet points, tables, clip art, borders, shading and columns;
  • Altering page orientation (landscape, portrait), background colour, page size and margins;
  • Altering defaults;
  • Forcing page breaks;
  • Utilising tabs and indents;
  • Utilising spelling- and grammar-checkers (including how to switch on and off), thesaurus, print preview, highlighter and talking facilities (including how to switch on and off) and find and replace;
  • Connecting alternative input devices (overlay keyboards, touch screens);
  • Constructing and utilising on-screen word banks;
  • Inserting page numbers;
  • Inserting text, graphics, tables and documents from other applications.


Additional teacher ICT skills may also include:

  • Inserting symbols, headers and footers;
  • Creating macros and templates;
  • Utilising dynamic links between documents;
  • Customising the word processor;
  • Merging documents;
  • Formatting graphics;
  • Protecting documents.


Graphics programs

Classic examples of this type of ICT in primary education include drawing and painting programs which are very useful for creating images for literacy learning. Teacher ICT skills include:


Painting programs –

  • creating, opening, closing, deleting and printing documents;
  • selecting file type and saving documents;
  • selecting page size, margins and page orientation;
  • inserting, modifying and deleting background colours and textures;
  • selecting, modifying and utilising tools from the tool bar (spray, round brush, draw a circle);
  • utilising fill;
  • utilising the pipette/choose a colour tool;
  • utilising undo/redo;
  • selecting, modifying and utilising the text tool (font, font size, colour);
  • selecting areas (for cropping, scaling, reshaping, deletion);
  • selecting, modifying, utilising and saving repeated images (stamps);
  • selecting and utilising more advanced features such as tiling, flipping and rotation;
  • switching grid on and off;
  • utilising zoom/magnifier and understanding how it differs from image resizing;
  • inserting, deleting, manipulating and saving imported images;
  • exporting images to other applications;
  • clearing the screen;
  • utilising help;
  • altering defaults;
  • customising set up;
  • connecting alternative input devices (overlay keyboards, touch screens, graphics tablets);
  • protecting documents.

Drawing Programs –

  • creating, opening, saving, closing, deleting and printing documents;
  • selecting page size, margins and page orientation;
  • inserting, modifying and deleting background colours;
  • selecting, modifying and utilising tools from the tool bar (line, arrows, shapes);
  • utilising fill;
  • utilising undo/redo;
  • grouping and ungrouping elements;
  • selecting, cutting, copying, pasting, cropping, resizing, reshaping, reordering and rotating elements and drawings;
  • switching grid on and off;
  • utilising zoom/magnifier;
  • exporting drawings to other applications;
  • utilising help;
  • altering defaults;
  • customising set up;
  • connecting alternative input devices (overlay keyboards, touch screens, graphics tablets);
  • protecting documents.


It is important to note that teacher ICT skills should reflect what students need to know. So ICT skills for primary students will also include many of the above.




Teaching with and about spreadsheets should involve teacher capabilities such as:

Selecting appropriate opportunities to enhance or extend children’s ICT learning;

Exploring the full range of data-handling activities such as facilitating hypothesis, decision making, organising and analysing;

Making explicit links between related knowledge, skills and understanding across the primary curriculum.


Teacher ICT skills and that of students should include:

  • creating, opening, saving, closing, deleting and printing documents;
  • selecting worksheet and cell size;
  • selecting font and font size;
  • inserting, modifying and deleting row and column labels;
  • inserting, modifying, moving and deleting textual and numerical data;
  • inserting, modifying and deleting formulae and functions;
  • using fill down and fill right functions to replicate formulae;
  • inserting and deleting cells, rows and columns;
  • formatting data, e.g. left alignment, centring around decimal point;
  • searching and sorting data;
  • adding, modifying and deleting borders and shading;
  • selecting, modifying and displaying graph types;
  • formatting graphs to include axes labels, key and text;
  • exporting graphs and spreadsheets to other applications;
  • importing information from other applications, e.g. clip art, data;
  • utilising help;
  • altering defaults;
  • customising the spreadsheet program, e.g. switching off functions not needed;
  • utilising alternative input devices, e.g. data-loggers;
  • protecting cells and documents.



Teacher Knowledge of ICT Resources and ICT tools

When there is so much ICT for primary school that is out there, I know that as a teacher myself that you can become overwhelmed. The information presented so far hasn’t even covered the true extent of what is ICT in primary education.


Don’t worry…there is more.


Don’t panic either…here’s why.


First of all remember that it is impossible to know all there is to know about ICT in primary school. Later, I will go into more detail about what you can do when teaching ICT in primary schools.


My best advice to give you is to choose just one or two ICT tools and resources that both you and the students are familiar with. Familiarity, however, involves more than just knowing how to use program for a variety of tasks. It means reflecting on the processes it helps the student to carry out and the ICT techniques with which particular effects can be achieved. It also has to do with considering how you would introduce the program to the students. Have you been clear about the ideas before they start? Where might they experience difficulties?


It is more important for you to be knowledgeable about one program that your students will use than to have an acquaintance with a large number. This is also better for the students as they will be able to work with a small number of versatile programs and progressively develop their ICT skills. ICT skills for primary students are, therefore, best developed in carefully structured activities in this process. If you continue to try to develop ICT skills for students in a large number of programs then these skills will be superficial at best.




Searching the Web

Information literacy skills is critical for students living in a knowledge society. Advanced web-searching skills are significant and includes two aspects that need to be covered.


Practical ICT skills for students:

Skills that make web searching more efficient are – Boolean operators and truncation, knowledge how to read URLs (what the difference is between ‘http’ and ‘https’; what does www mean?), and search techniques (how to limit the results).


Boolean searching involves the use of operators such as AND, OR and NOT. These can be used to redefine searches by combining or excluding words or phrases.


Critical ICT skills for students

Understanding domain names and what they mean; knowing which are more trustworthy; knowing which are more useful for information and research.


Animation ICT skills for students

This is one of my favourite ways to develop ICT capability in subjects as it involves:

  • Crafting a story;
  • Planning the story on a storyboard;
  • Planning materials;
  • Planning the filming;
  • Collecting the digital images;
  • Finishing off the visual footage and then recording a narration or soundtrack;
  • Writing a script for the narration or soundtrack;
  • Merging the visual footage with the sound files;
  • Finishing the final product and exporting it into a format that is easily used.



Graphing Programs

Many of the programs already discussed have one core aspect in common and that is the fact the ICT skills for primary students learned are all transferrable. This means that they can be applied to any context and graphing programs are the same.


Teacher ICT skills include select the appropriate opportunities to enhance and extend children’s learning with it, modelling appropriate use of ICT, demonstrating and intervening and making explicit links between knowledge, skills and understanding in key learning areas. This is thus the beginning of how to teach ICT in primary schools.


The modelling of ICT skills for primary students need involve knowing, understanding and demonstrating appropriately the following:

  • creating, opening, saving, closing, deleting and printing documents;
  • adding, modifying and deleting data;
  • plotting and replotting graphs;
  • selecting and displaying graph types, including more than one graphical representation of the same data;
  • selecting and modifying constituent elements of graphs, such as changing the colours of bars in a bar chart to correspond with the data represented;
  • selecting, resizing, cutting, copying and pasting graphs;
  • selecting and modifying graph scales and autoscaling;
  • selecting two-dimensional or three-dimensional representations;
  • inserting graph titles, axes labels, key and text;
  • selecting font and font size for graph and axes headings;
  • exporting graphs into other applications;
  • importing information from other applications, such as clip art;
  • utilising help;
  • altering defaults;
  • customising the graphing program, switching off functions not needed;
  • utilising alternative input devices (particularly data-loggers);
  • selecting appropriate colours or patterns depending on printer availability (black and white or colour);
  • protecting documents.



Presentation Software

Classic examples of this program are PowerPoint, Keynote or Prezi and include similar ICT skills for primary students such as saving documents but may also involve:

  • How to select a layout, insert new slides, slide formats;
  • How to change font, font size, colour, bold, italics, justify, insert bullets, number lists, indenting, slide orientation;
  • How to insert a table, image, clip art, smart art, graphic, movie, sound file, hyperlink;
  • How to design your own slide design;
  • How to use animations;
  • How to create handouts and notes pages.




The ICT skills for students here are similar to that of word processing and publishing as blogging is in fact  a form of online word processor.



Developing more than just ICT Skills – Teaching ICT in primary schools


The use of primary school technology can make a big difference in teaching ICT techniques when your goal is to develop all the components of ICT capability. The following will show you how to teach ICT in primary schools. These ICT teaching strategies are evidence based and proven to have been successful in what I consider to be the development of ICT skills for primary students in ICT capability facilitation.


First of all, routines that are ICT techniques or skills that don’t require conscious thought, is what you need to establish when using ICT in the primary classroom. On the other hand, ICT techniques or a single ICT skill do require a conscious thought. It is when ICT techniques become automatized that they then become routine.


An example of an ICT technique in early childhood education, for example, would include inserting an image into a document.


It is important that you don’t misconceive the teaching of ICT in primary schools with just teaching and demonstrating ICT skills for primary students. ICT capability involves also processes, concepts and higher order thinking skills. ICT techniques are the explicit, deliberate manifestations of ICT capability.


To teach ICT skills when developing ICT capability you need to do the following:

  • When introducing new software tools to children, start by discussing what it can do and how it can be achieved, rather than merely demonstrating a fixed sequence of techniques to achieve a single outcome.
  • Students need to associate the actions involved in a technique with the effect it achieves.
  • Having a name for the technique and/or effect is helpful.
  • The name should be seen not as something extra to learn but as a means of communicating and thinking about the action and its effect.
  • This is especially so if the name is used in menu options, but is also helpful where the movements, buttons or shortcuts are used.


  • Techniques which has not become routines may be carried out in different contexts using the affordances on the screen (icons, menus) or with help from adults or peers.
  • Monitoring and intervening - Useful to have a checklist for each class to enable you to keep track of which student are confident in using the ICT skills and techniques.
  • Give students needing help only the minimum of support. This should be withdrawn as soon as possible.


  • Processes – more general and are made up of several techniques.
  • An understanding of relevant concepts is needed in order to analyse a situation and identify the particular techniques required to reach the desired goal. 
  • Students need to work on a task which is NOT set out step-by-step. This allows them to try out new ideas and you can observe their approach and intervene when they fail to make the expected progress.
  •  The minimum level of support should be given. Structure the activity by questioning, prompting and showing if necessary. 
  • Withdraw as much support as possible to see what the learners can achieve unaided. à a student’s understanding of a process such as developing a poster using a desktop publishing program, or modelling with a spreadsheet, cannot be represented by a checklist. It requires a description of the way in which they approach a task and the support that they need.
  • Conceptual understanding – focus on the concepts behind the ICT skills for students. Whole class teaching can be used to discuss examples and non-examples, both with and without ICT, in order to highlight the important features of the concept. Challenge naïve ideas about handling ICT tools and techniques, both in whole class teaching where appropriate, and when monitoring the individual.


ICT skills in education are best taught when developing ICT capability in meaningful subject-related learning activities as young children begin to learn metacognitively – they know that they know - how to use ICT techniques and skills that are appropriate to the context.


To learn more about how you can develop ICT skills for primary students click this button now to visit our range of online PD workshops for primary school teachers today.