Saturday, September 26, 2015

Elementary Typing Dilemma- I have probz.

3 years ago we ditched the elementary computer lab (which I still lament at times) and I changed from a "related arts teacher" to a "technology coach." Picking up the coaching model has had great results in the elementary school in taking giant strides in seeing technology integration. All grade levels use the iPad carts for some level of instruction (but that's a whole other blog post in the making).

The one thing that seems to have gotten lost in the shuffle between routine tech classes and "as needed" tech teaching/support is KEYBOARDING. Research shows that the best way to implement keyboarding is for students to get in 20 completely engaged minutes 3 days a week. Even when I was a related arts teacher, that didn't happen but grades 1-5 got anywhere from 20-35 minutes once a week for the entire school year back then.

We've had 3 years since the lab disappeared. In year 1, we just dropped keyboarding but by the end of the year it was obvious to me and to the teachers that this was a mistake. When a teacher assigned just one paragraph of typing, being in that classroom watching students hunt and peck like chickens and ask "Where's the question mark?" made my skin crawl, my eye twitch, and my pride yell "NOOOOO!" And as predicted, the next school year the sixth grade teachers begged me to find a way to put keyboarding back into the curriculum.

Last year I sat down with 4th and 5th grade teachers and thanks to their ability to see the need for keyboarding instruction, they figured out a way to get it back into the curriculum for 6 weeks. The problem is, they all had to give up valuable instructional time to do it. As flexible as this was of them, I realized it wasn't fair for me to limit their instructional time for this. And whether you believe me or not, keyboarding doesn't teach itself even if there are great technology resources out there. Most of this article resonants with my heart right now.

So this year I thought we had an answer and I was so very excited. Keyboarding would be brought into the Library/Technology Related Arts rotation but this just isn't happening well for a myriad of reasons, including my failure to follow up on a regular basis. The bottom line is the rotation schedule truly limits how much time can be used for keyboarding. When I look at what is best for our students, I have to be honest and say a love of reading is more important to me than fast typing skills. (It hurt to type that a bit though because it feels like I'm giving up).

My desire is that my fifth graders leave elementary school typing 25 words per minute or faster. If they can do that, they will be able to type faster than they can write and in our 1:1 environment, that's imperative. Maybe it will just happen this year with my fifth graders because they had 6 week so f instruction last year and they all have iPads for instruction this year with required to bring keyboards. I just don't know!

Do I need access to more technology? Do I need a stand-alone keyboarding instruction time? Do I just ask parents to have students practice keyboarding as part of homework (I HATE this idea)? Do I set minimum typing wpm expectations for grade level and leave it up to families? Do I force it? Do I let it go? Do I limp along this year and come up with a better plan for next year? I don't want to lose what the coaching model does for our school- if I start teaching it weekly it has the potential to change what I have worked hard to achieve for the last three years.

The struggle is real and the answers aren't clear. Any suggestions/ideas are appreciated!

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