How to Prep Students for the IC3 Spark Certification with AES

The IC3 Spark digital literacy certification has become a popular addition to digital literacy and computer classes across the country.

Even though it’s easy to find out what’s on the exam, it’s not always easy to know how to teach the topics!

While there are test prep materials available, those resources don’t actually help you build a curriculum and teach daily lessons.

That’s why hundreds of teachers use the AES digital curriculum system, Business&ITCenter21, to teach their classes and prepare their students for the IC3 Spark exam!

On this page you’ll learn how Business&ITCenter21 aligns to the IC3 Spark exam objectives.

You’ll also learn how to prepare your students for the IC3 Spark exam by using Business&ITCenter21.

But first, let’s discuss how the IC3 Spark exam is structured!

How Is the IC3 Spark Exam Structured?


The IC3 Spark exam is made up of 12 objective domains:

  1. Operating System Basics
  2. Computer Hardware and Concepts
  3. Computer Software and Concepts
  4. Common Application Features
  5. Word Processing Activities
  6. Spreadsheet Activities
  7. Presentation Activities
  8. Browsers
  9. Digital Communication
  10. Digital Citizenship
  11. Safe Computing
  12. Research Fluency

Each domain has detailed objectives that dictate exactly what your students should know to pass the exam.

How Does Business&ITCenter21 Align to the IC3 Spark Objectives?


Business&ITCenter21 is split up into modules, which are collections of lessons, assessments, and activities that you can use to teach a topic.

Below, you’ll find each IC3 Spark domain and the Business&ITCenter21 modules that align to their requirements.  

Domain 1. Operating System Basics

The Operating System Basics domain includes three objectives related to operating systems, computer files, computer configuration, and more.

Teachers use two specific Business&ITCenter21 modules to teach these topics:

Domain 1 Objectives

Business&ITCenter21 Modules

1.1 What is an OS and what does it do?

Computing Systems

1.2 Manage computer files and folders

Getting Started with Microsoft Office

1.3 Manage computer configuration, control panel, and OS drivers

Not Covered


It’s crucial for younger students to learn the basics of how operating systems work, as it sets them up to better understand more advanced computing concepts later on!

Domain 2. Computer Hardware and Concepts

The Computer Hardware and Concepts domain is made up of three objectives related to common terminology, computing devices, and the reasons for using certain devices.

You’ll find two Business&ITCenter21 that can help teach these concepts:


Domain 2 Objectives

Business&ITCenter21 Modules

2.1 Common computer terminology

Computing Systems

2.2 Types of devices

Computing Systems

Living Online - Social Communication

2.3 Computer usage

Not Covered


Though these objectives seem simple, many students taking the IC3 Spark exam aren’t familiar with the actual terminology used when using computers.

Understanding the basics of computer hardware ensures your students are able to properly use devices like mice, monitors, and more when using computers!

Domain 3. Computer Software and Concepts

The Computer Software and Concepts domain focuses on choosing the correct type of software to execute specific tasks.

You’ll find one Business&ITCenter21 module that teaches students to make those decisions:


Domain 3 Objectives

Business&ITCenter21 Modules

3.1 Software usage (using the right tool for the right task)

Getting Started with Microsoft Office


This is one of the most important domains on the IC3 Spark exam.

Knowing which software application to use is crucial for every student to learn – especially before jumping into using the applications later on in your class!

Domain 4. Common Application Features

The Common Application Features domain has four objectives related to standard features and navigation menus found across computer application suites.

You’ll find curriculum to teach these topics within four Business&ITCenter21 modules:


Domain 4 Objectives

Business&ITCenter21 Modules

4.1 Common features and commands

Getting Started with Microsoft Office

Word 1: Essentials

Excel 1: Essentials

PowerPoint 1: Essentials

4.2 Formatting

Word 1: Essentials

Excel 1: Essentials

PowerPoint 1: Essentials

4.3 Navigating

Getting Started with Microsoft Office

Word 1: Essentials

Excel 1: Essentials

PowerPoint 1: Essentials

4.4 Working with multimedia files

Word 1: Essentials

Excel 1: Essentials

PowerPoint 1: Essentials


Overall, it’s crucial for your students to learn these concepts and features – otherwise they’ll be lost once they actually start using the individual applications!

Domain 5. Word Processing Activities

The Word Processing Activities domain focuses on the basics of creating documents and organizing information within Microsoft Word.

These skills and concepts can be taught using two Business&ITCenter21 Modules:


Domain 5 Objectives

Business&ITCenter21 Modules

5.1 Organizing data

Word 1: Essentials

Word 2: Fundamentals

5.2 Layout

Word 1: Essentials

Word 2: Fundamentals


Overall, the IC3 Spark objectives help students learn the ins-and-outs of working in Microsoft Word.

It’s important for students to know these basics, as it sets them up for success when taking more advanced computer courses!

Domain 6. Spreadsheet Activities

The Spreadsheets Activities domain has two objectives related to working with spreadsheets to enter and display data.

Within Business&ITCenter21, you’ll find three modules that teach these skills:


Domain 6 Objectives

Business&ITCenter21 Modules

6.1 Spreadsheet layout

Excel 1: Essentials

Excel 2: Fundamentals

6.2 Data management

Excel 1: Essentials

Excel 2: Fundamentals

Excel Skills Project


Knowing how to use spreadsheets is an important skill, as it’s become a requirement in a variety of careers across many industries.

However, because Excel is an unfamiliar application to many middle school students, the IC3 Spark exam focuses on the absolute basics of working in a spreadsheet.

These basics will set your students up to learn more advanced Excel skills in their future courses.

Domain 7. Presentation Activities

The Presentation Activities domain includes three objectives focused on the fundamental skills needed to create presentations within Microsoft PowerPoint.

These skills can be taught using three Business&ITCenter21 Modules:


Domain 7 Objectives

Business&ITCenter21 Modules

7.1 Inserting content

PowerPoint 1: Essentials

PowerPoint 2: Fundamentals

7.2 Slide management

PowerPoint 1: Essentials

PowerPoint 2: Fundamentals

7.3 Slide design

PowerPoint 1: Essentials

PowerPoint 2: Fundamentals

PowerPoint Skills Project


Though many students have created PowerPoint presentations prior to entering your class, they likely didn’t know many of the fundamentals.

These IC3 objectives ensure your students not only know how to use PowerPoint – but how to use it effectively and appropriately!

Domain 8. Browsers

The Browsers domain has two objectives that help students understand the differences between web browsers and the Internet.

These skills and concepts can be taught with one Business&ITCenter21 module:


Domain 8 Objectives

Business&ITCenter21 Modules

8.1. Internet vs. browsers

Web Research

8.2 Navigation

Web Research


Knowing the basics of working in a browser will help set the groundwork for students to learn many other digital literacy topics, such as web research and safe computing!

Domain 9. Digital Communication

The Digital Communication domain includes two objectives focused on the main types of digital communication – email and “real-time.”

Business&ITCenter21 has two modules that help teach students to use digital communication:


Domain 9 Objectives

Business&ITCenter21 Modules

9.1 E-mail communication

Email and Electronic Calendars

9.2 Real-time communication

Living Online - Social Communication


With more schools and companies relying on technology, it’s critical for every student to know how to use email, text, and video to communicate effectively!

Domain 10. Digital Citizenship

The Digital Citizenship domain is made up of two objectives that help students learn to be responsible and ethical when using digital tools.

You’ll find two Business&ITCenter21 modules to help teach digital citizenship topics:


Domain 10 Objectives

Business&ITCenter21 Modules

10.1 Communication standards

Digital Citizenship

Computing Systems

10.2 Legal and responsible use of computers

Digital Citizenship

Computing Systems


With technology at their fingertips 24/7 and a false-sense of anonymity, middle school students don’t often think about the consequences of their actions online.

The IC3 Spark exam includes these concepts to help decrease problems like plagiarism and cyberbullying.

Domain 11. Safe Computing

The Safe Computing domain is solely focused on ways to stay safe when using the Internet.

These skills can be taught using two Business&ITCenter21 modules:


Domain 11 Objectives

Business&ITCenter21 Modules

11.1 Secure online communication or activity

Digital Citizenship

Computing Systems


Younger students aren’t always aware of the potential dangers of sharing personal information online.

That’s why the IC3 Spark includes a domain dedicated to helping students protect themselves when using the Internet!

Domain 12. Research Fluency

The Research Fluency domain has one objective related to using search engines to find information.

Business&ITCenter21 has one module to help teach those skills:


Domain 12 Objectives

Business&ITCenter21 Modules

12.1 Using search engines

Web Research


The Internet is major research tool in schools everywhere, but younger students don’t often know how to find information effectively. That’s why it’s such a crucial piece of any digital literacy course!

So now that you know which modules will help you prepare students for the IC3 Spark exam, you’re likely wondering how to use them!

How to Prep for the IC3 Spark Exam with Business&ITCenter21


When you’re preparing students for the IC3 Spark exam with Business&ITCenter21, you can get the best results using these modules in this order:

  1. Digital Citizenship
  2. Web Research
  3. Living Online - Social Communication
  4. Email and Electronic Calendars
  5. Computing Systems
  6. Getting Started with Microsoft Office
  7. Word 1: Essentials
  8. Word 2: Fundamentals
  9. Excel 1: Essentials
  10. Excel 2: Fundamentals
  11. Excel Skills Project
  12. PowerPoint 1: Essentials
  13. PowerPoint 2: Fundamentals
  14. PowerPoint Skills Project

This sequence will gradually introduce your students to the concepts they have to know for the IC3 Spark exam before filling in the gaps with important details.

Here’s what you can expect from each module:

1. Digital CitizenshipDigital Citizenship Icon

Objectives Covered: 10.1, 10.2, 11.1

In the Digital Citizenship module students learn about the responsibilities of using digital resources in a respectful and ethical manner.

Specifically, it will help your students learn about:

  • Digital literacy
  • Digital communication
  • Cyberbullying
  • Online safety

Overall, Digital Citizenship is a great module to begin any class focused on digital literacy and the IC3 Spark exam!

2. Web ResearchWeb Research Icon

Objectives Covered: 8.1, 8.2, 12.1

The Web Research module teaches students how the Internet works and ways to use the Internet for research.

Specifically, the module includes curriculum to teach students about:

  • The Internet and World Wide Web
  • Web browsers
  • URLs
  • Internet search techniques

It's important to note that the Web Research module goes more in-depth than what’s required on the IC3 Spark exam objectives.

Depending on the other requirements of your course, you can pick and choose which activities you want to use.

3. Living Online - Social CommunicationSocial Communication Icon

Objectives Covered: 2.2, 9.2

The Living Online - Social Communication module focuses on using social media and smartphones in a responsible way.

Within the module, your students will learn about:

  • Digital footprints
  • Using social media appropriately
  • Navigating smartphones
  • Smartphone security

Overall, the Living Online - Social Communication module has a variety of class activities that you can mix and match to provide an engaging learning experience about such an important topic!

4. Email and Electronic CalendarsEmailAndCalendar

Objectives Covered: 9.1

In the Email and Electronic Calendars module, students learn about using email and calendar applications.

Specifically, you’ll find curriculum that teaches students about:

  • Sending emails
  • Organizing and managing emails
  • Using email attachments
  • Creating electronic calendars
  • Scheduling events

When using this module, we recommend that you mainly focus on the lessons and activities related to email, as the IC3 Spark exam doesn’t include any objectives on calendaring.

5. Computing SystemsComputing-Systems-Icon

Objectives Covered: 1.1, 2.1, 2.2, 10.1, 10.2, 11.1

The Computing Systems module introduces students to the basics of working with computers.

Within Computing Systems, students learn about:

  • Operating systems
  • Hardware and software
  • Network computing
  • Computer troubleshooting
  • Safe computing

This module works best when you start out with the Computing Systems Matching Game activity. This activity will give you a good idea of how much prior knowledge your students have in this topic area.

If most students are new to these topics, you’ll want to take your time introducing each concept.

If most students are familiar with the concepts, you don’t need to spend as much time on the basics.

6. Getting Started with Microsoft Officemicrosoft-office-365

Objectives Covered: 1.2, 3.1, 4.1, 4.3

In the Getting Started with Microsoft Office module, students learn about the purpose of each Microsoft Office application.

Specifically, you’ll find curriculum that teaches students about:

  • Using the right application for the right task
  • Working with files and folders
  • Common features of Microsoft Office applications
  • Navigating in a document
  • Printing

Even if your students are familiar with Microsoft Office, we recommend using this module because it will prepare them for the classes ahead where they will work with specific Microsoft Office applications!

7. Word 1: Essentialsmicrosoft-word-365

Objectives Covered: 4.1, 4.2, 4.3, 4.4, 5.1, 5.2

In the Word 1: Essentials module, students are introduced to the basics of working with Microsoft Word.

Within the module, students will learn how to:

  • Navigate within Microsoft Word
  • Enter and formatting text
  • Use cut, copy, and paste
  • Use review tools

Word 1: Essentials sets your students up with the basic knowledge they need to use Microsoft Word.

Because of this, all students should complete the work in this module before moving onto other modules.

If any of your students complete this module quicker than anticipated, you can give them an opportunity to try out the Google Docs 1: Essentials module to compare and contrast the applications!

8. Word 2: Fundamentalsmicrosoft-word-365

Objectives Covered: 5.1, 5.2

The Word 2: Fundamentals module gives students a more in-depth look at the features in Microsoft Word.

Specifically, students learn how to:

  • Create lists
  • Format paragraphs
  • Create tables
  • Use MLA guidelines

Overall, using this module ensures your students learn the more detailed features of Microsoft Word needed for the IC3 Spark exam.

If your students complete this module quicker than anticipated you can use the Google Docs 2: Fundamentals module as a supplemental piece of your curriculum.

9. Excel 1: Essentialsmicrosoft-excel-365

Objectives Covered: 4.1, 4.2, 4.3, 4.4, 6.1, 6.2

The Excel 1: Essentials module teaches your students about the basics of using Microsoft Excel.

Within the module, your students will learn how to:

  • Navigate Microsoft Excel
  • Select rows, columns, and cells
  • Enter data in a spreadsheet
  • Format cells
  • Use formulas and functions

If you have any students who have never used Microsoft Excel, this module is a must!

For students familiar with using Excel, this module is a great refresher on the basics.

10. Excel 2: Fundamentalsmicrosoft-excel-365

Objectives Covered: 6.1, 6.2

In the Excel 2: Fundamentals module, students learn about more advanced formulas, functions, and features within Microsoft Excel.

Specifically, students will learn how to:

  • Use relative and absolute cell references
  • Sort and filter data
  • Use conditional formatting

This module includes a lot of detailed information, some of which is not found on the IC3 Spark exam.

It’s smart to review the lessons and projects to determine whether to skip any based on your student learning objectives.

11. Excel Skills Projectmicrosoft-excel-365

Objectives Covered: 6.2

The Excel Skills Project module provides a deeper understanding of Microsoft Excel by having students complete detailed hands-on projects.

This module is not recommended for middle school students, but it covers information about graphs required in objective 6.2 for the IC3 Spark exam.

12. PowerPoint 1: Essentialsmicrosoft-powerpoint-365

Objectives Covered: 4.1, 4.2, 4.3, 4.4, 7.1, 7.2, 7.3

In the PowerPoint 1: Essentials module, students learn the basics of working with presentations in Microsoft PowerPoint.

Within the module students will learn how to:

  • Navigate in Microsoft PowerPoint
  • Use presentation themes and templates
  • Manage slides
  • Insert text boxes and images
  • Copy, cut, and paste objects

Overall, PowerPoint 1: Essentials is the perfect way to introduce your students to the basics of using Microsoft PowerPoint.

Because the next module builds on this one, we recommend all students complete PowerPoint 1: Essentials before moving forward.

13. PowerPoint 2: Fundamentalsmicrosoft-powerpoint-365

Objectives Covered: 7.1, 7.2, 7.3

The PowerPoint 2: Fundamentals module teaches students how to create effective presentations within Microsoft PowerPoint.

Specifically, students learn how to:

  • Develop effective presentations
  • Create presentations
  • Add media to slides
  • Use hyperlinks and buttons
  • Use charts and graphs

When using PowerPoint 2: Fundamentals, it’s smart to allow some extra time in your course syllabus to let your students get creative.

This helps them be more engaged in the presentations they will make, which can result in better retention of information!

14. PowerPoint Skills Projectmicrosoft-powerpoint-365

Objectives Covered: 7.3

In the PowerPoint Skills Project module, students learn how to create a Microsoft PowerPoint presentation from scratch.

This module is not typically recommended for younger students, but it covers the IC3 Spark exam requirement of animations found in objective 7.3.

Get Your Students Ready for the IC3 Spark Exam!

Now that you know how to use the AES digital curriculum to prepare your students for the IC3 Spark exam, there’s one last thing to do -- try out the curriculum for yourself!

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