By Demetra Adams
As the computer science and technology teacher, it’s my responsibility to ensure each of our students is prepared to use the devices that will be available to them throughout their academic careers at Collins-Rhoades Elementary School. Our students have access to desktops, laptops, and iPads. In grades K–5, they use each nearly every day, so there’s a lot to learn from day one.
Unsurprisingly, my kindergarten students need the most help. Many of them have personal devices like iPads or other tablets at home, but they may never have used a keyboard or mouse before. We begin by working on how to use the mouse and perform basic tasks, like taking information printed on a card, such as their username or where their parents work, and type that using the keyboard. In the past, I’ve spent much of the first quarter working on those goals, but I’m looking forward to streamlining that process a bit with TypeTastic, which has mouse skills instruction included in early units right alongside keyboarding.
For keyboarding itself, my goal for these youngest students is simply for them to be ready and able to type words. It doesn’t sound like the most challenging goal, but these students are just learning to read, so being able to recognize the shapes of the letters we’re asking them to type and find them on the keyboard is great progress. Outside of my once-per-week class, they get plenty of computer time, but none dedicated solely to typing instruction.
Another tricky hurdle for some of my youngest students is logging in to different devices or programs. Again, tablets pose less of a challenge, in part because students are generally more used to them, but also because a full-sized keyboard is pretty big for those little hands and they have to push the buttons down to input anything instead of just touching what they want. And, of course, those who are still learning their letters may not know what the letter “a,” for example, means, though they can still recognize its shape. The login process is not complicated, but for a classroom of kindergarteners who’ve never had to do it before coming to school, logging in each day can eat up a significant chunk of a 30-minute period.
For direct keyboarding
instruction, we use TypeTastic for about half the term. Since they’re still
learning their letters, the focus is mainly on getting them used to the
keyboard and having a feeling for where the letters and numbers are, rather
than typing at speed. But they love it!
I begin by projecting my own desktop onto the screen with the Smartboard. I want them to be able to see each step, from opening the app, to logging in, to beginning the lesson. Once they’re up and running, they all think of it as a game and love to shout out when they make progress like, “I made it to number two!”
Aside from typing and mousing instruction, we cover basic concepts related to digital literacy and citizenship, such as how to navigate the internet and keeping your passwords strong and safe.
We have a technology-rich curriculum at our school. Throughout their time with us, these students will go on to learn coding and robotics concepts with resources such as Kodable and code.org. They’ll even work on screenless coding with tools like the Dash robot and Play Tray, and engage in lots of other device-free STEM learning in makerspaces with LEGOs, Play-Doh, and magnetic tiles—but using a keyboard and mouse are fundamental tools for success in our school, just as they are in modern life.
Demetra Adams teaches technology and computer science at Collins-Rhodes Elementary School.