By Beth Colbert
Keyboarding is an essential skill at Bentonville School District, where I serve as software administrator. We are a 1:1 district, so typing skills are a requirement for day-to-day schoolwork, and state tests in Arkansas require students to have functional typing skills by grade 3.
To help our students learn those skills, we are always on the lookout for new tools to offer students new challenges and new approaches to keyboarding. As the person who has to manage those new tools, I want to be sure that we have the technology and support required to get 18,000 students rostered and signed in, and then to maintain functionality across the district.
Keyboarding Is an Essential Skill
Our state standards require students in grade 2 to type a paragraph. In grade 3, they need to be able to type three-quarters of a page. When they take our state tests, the ACT Aspire assessment, they also have to use a keyboard.
We have Chromebooks in the classroom for students in grades K-4, and those students also have regular trips to the computer lab, which has desktop Windows machines. We have a 1:1 computing program, and students begin taking their devices home in grade 7.
Between testing, state standards, and daily interaction with computers in and out of the classroom, we expect a lot of keyboarding from students. To get them up to speed, our computer lab teachers use keyboarding software with their students in grades K–4. The computer lab is part of a rotation within each building that includes art, music, and physical education. Students visit the lab once a week or once every seven days, depending on how many students are in their building. Recently, they piloted TypeTastic and loved it so much they freaked out when the trial ended because they thought they might not have access to it.
It’s great to have that kind of buy-in from teachers and students before adopting a new piece of software, but beyond academics and teacher and student enthusiasm, one requirement on my end is that new tools include Clever integration. With 18,000 students, the ability to automatically roster students with Clever is an absolute must-have.
Thankfully, TypeTastic recently added such an integration. With that piece in place, the rollout was as simple as we’ve come to expect from Clever partnerships. We pushed it out on Clever and shared the rules with teachers. Our students are already used to going to Clever to find whatever they need, so they were ready to go before we even started.
We’ve had one syncing issue and only minimal issues with students not appearing in the proper class, but nine times out of 10, it’s because that student isn’t in our student information system, doesn’t have a schedule, or Clever simply hasn’t had time to update and add the student yet.
More broadly, we did have some minor confusion from teachers about assigning things or otherwise working in TypeTastic, but the company has been great about helping address those issues quickly.
The first concern with educational tools is of course whether it will meet academic needs. But from a software administration perspective, the academic value of a program might as well be nonexistent if we can’t ensure teachers and students are able to access it when they need it. So far, TypeTastic have given us both the content and the convenience we were looking for.