Friday, October 25, 2013

Keyboarding: It isn’t sexy, but neither is eating.

We kicked off keyboarding this week with our third graders.  Keyboarding will be king until the way we input information into computers shifts.  And while speech recognition is getting pretty awesome - it still doesn’t work in a crowded room.  The skill is really important - especially as I watch my 5th grade students peck inefficiently on their new Chromebooks. We can do better. 

So this is our plan: Every third grade student cycles through the lab every day for twenty minutes during a two week immersion period.  We’ve purchased a school subscription to Typing Club, a web based typing app.  It is free for individuals, but we needed the centralized management of the school edition.  I’m happy to report that the pay version is a more robust than the free beta was last year. Typing Club can use Google Apps as a passkey which is also really convenient for us. We’ve pushed the Typing Club Chrome App to our students’ Chrome browsers.  They have to configure the Chrome App (command+click on the App, go to “options,” and then point to our Typing Club domain) but that is easy enough.

During the first week, students practice typing position and the home row. During the second week, I tape a thick piece of paper to the keyboard and require the kids to cover their hands with the paper.  The paper has a keyboard printed on it for reference if they have to look down. After week two, the immersion period is over and we move into homework mode.  Each student must use typing club at home twice a week for fifteen minutes.  It’s easy for teachers to hold students accountable via the Typing Club report feature.  We also send this letter home, which helps communicate the "what and why" of the plan.   We are just entering week two.  The kids have gotten into using Typing Club, they like competing against their own scores.  The program is straightforward and doesn't have the glitz of some of the competition.  I actually like the clean interface and I think it keeps kids focused on what they need to do.  A game or two would be a nice reward, though, and this is missing. Hopefully they will add some moving forward.  Bottom line: the programs works well, it’s simple to set up, and it’s easy for kids for use. I'll let you know how it goes.

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