Touch typing : #EdTech :: handwriting : creative writing - why teaching the basics is still important
A few weeks ago, a teacher friend of mine shared a technology question on Facebook. She asked "Is it still important for us to teach touch typing in computer class?" She tagged me and a few other friends who are kind of "techy teachers", and the discussion that followed was interesting.
The majority of teacher said, "Yes learning touch typing benefits students." However, the overwhelming majority also said "No, it should not be ALL you learn in a computer class." So I got to thinking about it and realized that touch typing is to technology skills in the same way that handwriting is to creative writing. Important, but not the MOST important.
How is Touch Typing Similar to Handwriting?
Teaching touch typing basics helps students to use a computer more effectively. If students know where the keys are, they can type in anything faster and clearer - whether it's an essay or just their search criteria for YouTube.
Having clear and legible handwriting allows students to write a story more effectively. Not only can students proofread their own work better if their writing is clear, but they can receive help from others better. Also, when students are NOT publishing their work on technology (And let's remember student writing only began being published on computer in the 90's.), their neat handwriting allows them to get their ideas out to other people.
Why Do We Need To Teach the Basics?
I often hear "Is it really important to TEACH these touch typing skills? Won't students just pick them up?" Yes, my father can type on a keyboard in that hunt and peck fashion and he can get by. Yes, a students can often look at a letter and draw a similar one on their paper, even if they loop around the circle 3 times before giving the a a tail. Yes the basics can be picked up without direct instruction. But when they are picked up this way, students:
So it IS important for us to teach students touch typing basics, just like it is important for us to do some handwriting practice. If you're not sure where to start with touch typing - this blog post on Keyboarding Websites will give you some ideas.
Why Do We Need to Allow Time for Application?
Since touch typing is such an important skill, many teachers decide it is the ONLY technology skill needed. This is definitely not true either. Students who only work on touch typing exercises and touch typing speed tests are not truly learning to type, and they're DEFINITELY not truly learning to use the computer. Students need some time to work on touch typing - maybe 5 - 10 minutes a day, and then they need to move on to using that knowledge to do research, write papers, create presentations, make movies, etc.
If you're not sure what to do for application projects, you might consider:
What's happening in your classroom? Do you teach typing skills? Do you teach handwriting? If you're not teaching these basic skills, why not? I'd love to hear what's going on in classrooms around the world, so please leave us a comment.
My school district sponsored a fantastic technology conference this summer with ideas on technology for teachers and students. I was lucky enough to present at this conference, and you can find a video of my presentation in this past blog post. In addition to being able to share information about using technology in math instruction with other teachers, I was able to attend all of the other sessions. The amount I learned from the other teachers was tremendous. So today I'd like to pay that forward and share some of what I learned with you guys.
Here are 10 different tech tools that I'd never heard of before this conference.
1.) Peardeck - This presentation tool allows you to upload Power Point or Google Slide presentations. You can then share these presentations with your students in a format that they cannot edit. However, they can follow along on their own screen. Additionally, you can add questions and polls to make your presentation more interactive, as well as allowing for formative assessments.
2.) Adobe Spark - Getting students to work on graphic design is always a great way to add to research presentations because it increases engagement and exposes students to methodologies that they can use as grown ups. With Adobe Spark, students get to use graphic design to create webpages, images (think pinterest infographics), flyers, photo collages or narrated videos. It's almost like Publisher online! I'm going to have my students start out the year by creating a picture collage about themselves WITHOUT using any pictures of themselves. How could you integrate this?
3.) DeckToys - The big trend at my school for the one-to-one classrooms is hyperdocs. If you haven't checked out hyperdocs yet, they're worth a look and I'll have a blog post coming up shortly that addresses just them. However, at the conference we learned about a took that takes hyperdocs to the next level (and beyond), if you have the time to make them. In a hyperdoc, students use a document with embeded links to guide them through a lesson or a unit (similar to a webquest). With DeckToys, the students do all of the same things, but it feels to the students like they're playing a video game.
From the student side, they see a map with tasks that they have to complete in order to move on to the next task. As a teacher, you can embed videos, create drag and drop games, flash cards and questions as the tasks. It's a fairly straightforward system. I created a game for our first story in a couple of hours. While I probably won't use a DeckToys for every lesson, it's definitely something I want to include in my students' learning. I'd also love to turn the tables and get my kiddos creating their own games for each other!
4.) Scratch and Starlogo Nova - Coding! There are so many ways to work on coding with students, but these two sites were presented at the conference. Both allow students to use "puzzle pieces" to create code for a small avatar. This visual model guides students through boolean operators (AND, OR, NOT) and If....then statements. If only as an "early finisher" activity, these are great sites and every class should get a chance to experience them!
Learning & Practicing Websites
5.) Wordsmyth - Unlike the other websites on this list, this website was not the focus of an entire session. It was one of those websites that came up in conversation, but it's awesome. Wordsmyth is a great online dictionary that includes 3 levels of definition for each word, synonyms, pictures, pronunciation and word parts. I completely plan on using this website within my vocabulary instruction this year!
6.) Quizlet - With this website you can create and share flash card sets with your students. These can be vocabulary words or any other matching activity. Students can practice the flash card set in multiple ways including matching, typing, playing games and even taking a quiz. It's a great way to introduce students to a new topic or to review before a test. Students can even take a turn creating their own quizlets!
Google Chrome Extensions
7.) Google Keep - This is one of those tools that will truly change the way you organize your time. I have started using it at home, and it's incredibly helpful! But the truth is it's just a virtual form of post it notes. It's funny how the simple ones are always the game changers, right?
Within Google Keep, you (and your students) can create and share to-do lists or take notes. You can also save specific websites and documents as links into these online post it notes. And you can color code different categories or subject areas.
In the classroom, this means students can take notes on a research topic and share it with their group mates. It means they can create a group to-do list and each check off tasks that get done. It also means YOU can make personalized or group lists and share them with your students. You can then see their progress through the list.
Outside of the classroom, you can create and share lists with your PLC or grade level team. You can use different colors to quickly see school checklists next to at home checklists. I even use it for my grocery list! (It's so satisfying to see items I've purchased disappear from my list!)
8.) Stop Motion Animator - Stop Motion Animator is not actually new to me, but I've only used it on a tablet in the past. I had no idea that there was a Google Chrome Extension that would give you access to the program - as long as your computer has a camera. The presenter who showed us Stop Motion Animator was actually using it with PreK students and the results were amazing. The students used stuffed animals and their Chromebook to create a video re-telling of a story they had read. It was simple to do. They worked in groups, and they showed real understanding of the story. If PreK students can do that, I can't wait to see what my 3rd graders can do when I set them lose on it.
9.) Snap & Read - Another Chromebook Extension that will change the lives of your students, especially your struggling readers. This extension allows your students to have any website or PDF read to them. Read that sentence again - an extension that will read aloud to your students ANY WEBSITE, ANY PDF, ANY DOCUMENT. It also has a feature which will simplify texts, define terms and translate texts into languages.
Think about how much easier it will be for a student with dyslexia if they can have their exit tickets given to them in PDF format and then have this extension read it to them, as many times as they like. They can do research just like the rest of the class and they won't feel like they're different. Honestly this is the tool I got the most excited about because I had 4 students this year who could have benefited greatly from this tool.
10.) Co-Writer - This Chromebook Extension is the opposite of Snap and Read. Instead of reading for your struggling students, it will write for them. Students speak into a microphone and the program writes out the sentences they say. It will read it back to them and allow them to change their spelling and grammar as needed. But the idea is that students can go ahead and write out their essay without stressing out over every single word.
I know this is a long, somewhat overwhelming list. It's a whole conference full of materials! But please bookmark it so that as the school year begins you can revisit the list and see which of these tech tools will best help your students. Also, feel free to share it with your PLC or teaching team. The more we learn from each other the better we all do for our students!
Beyond Word Processing: Why We Should Replace Typing Time with Technology Infused Math Lessons - and How We Can Do It Without Losing Our Sanity
This summer I had the opportunity to present about math technology in the elementary classroom at my district's Technology Conference. We have a wide range of technology in my district, ranging from a couple of computers to one on one Chromebook classrooms. So I needed to present ideas to these teachers which would help them learn about technology and math in elementary no matter what technology they had.
Technology at the elementary level is often used for typing essays and doing research. My presentation was about why and how we should be using it for technology based math lessons too! After the presentation I had multiple teachers stop and thank me for the information and ideas I had shared with them. So I decided to share a similar presentation here for you. I have recorded my presentation and below you will find the video, as well as the links to websites that I discuss in my presentation. I hope it will help you to infuse technology into your math lessons, making your technology time more impactful.
SAMR Technology Model
In my presentation, I use the SAMR model for technology. This model encourages teachers to look at the different ways they are using technology. It explains that technology can be used as a:
substitution for what you are already doing, like using virtual flash cards instead of paper ones or typing up something that could easily be written on paper.
augmentation to what you are doing, where the technology gives the assignment a little boost, but isn't irreplaceable. For example, websites like Khan Academy help us differentiate and using formatting tools makes our essays look better, but neither can't be done with paper/pencil tasks.
modification of an assignment that begins to take the task to the next level. This is where the assignment begins to NEED technology in order to work. You can do modification tasks like creating presentations or completing complex projects without technology, but it would be a lot more work. Modification often allows us to be willing to try out more complex tasks with our students because the technology is making the task easier for us and our students. A lot of project based learning and connecting with other classes falls under modification.
reinvention of a task into something unheard of before technology. These are the tasks that you wouldn't be able to complete WITHOUT technology. This is where coding and video making start to come into play and this is where students start to truly immerse themselves into the technology. This, of course, is also where some of the highest levels of thinking happen.
In my video I make it very clear that although we should all aspire to use technology as a reinvention tool when we can, teachers and students should be working at all levels of the SAMR model, just as we work at all levels of Bloom's Taxonomy. Here is the video with specific examples on how to do just that:
Links and Resources
Within the video, I discuss a wide range of websites and technologies. Here are quick and easy links to those resources:
- Websites for "online flash cards": Math Magician, Sumdog
- Google documents
- Online Math Games
- Math teaching videos and activities with Khan Academy
- Math practice websites that track student data and allow for specific differentiation:
Free: Prodigy Zearn
Paid: IStation IXL
- Google Forms
- Google Sheets
- Presentation Sites: Prezi, Google Slides
- Video creation websites: Powtoon, Screencast-o-matic, IXplain
- Video game creation websites: Tynker, Scratch
- Website creation and online portfolio websites: Google Sites, Live Binder, Weebly
The challenge from my video is also a challenge for my readers: Come up with a way that you can use technology in your math lessons at least once a week (once a day if you have a one-to-one ratio) during the upcoming school year. Please feel free to post your ideas here i the comments so we can learn from each other!
In the meantime, here are a few resources from my Teachers Pay Teachers store that may help you along the way:
Math and Technology Project Matrix (Free)
Technology Integration Bundle
Tutorial Video Creation Planning Sheet
Have a great day!
As a teacher, I have always tried to communicate a lot with my students' parents. I have a class website with a blog feature where I keep a weekly log of what we are working on in class. I have open conversation with my parents via e-mail and phone calls. However this year I started on a team that uses Class Dojo and I have been so impressed at how much Class Dojo has increased my parent communications.
I know that Class Dojo is not a new website. I know many teachers who use it effectively as a way to help students monitor their behavior by giving out positive and negative dojo points. However, one of my favorite features of Class Dojo isn't the student points. It's not even the instant message with my students' parents (although that's been great for parent communication too!)
My favorite feature is the Class Stories section. This provides teachers with something similar to a Facebook newsfeed about what's going on in class. During the day, I take at least one picture of what is going on. Then, during planning or at the end of the day, I post the picture with a caption that prompts parents to ask their children something. For example after reading the second chapter of The Case of the Gasping Garbage, I asked the parents to ask their students what made the garbage gasp. I have had great feedback from the parents on posts like this. The parents like knowing what's going on, but they also like having specific questions to ask their children that go beyond "What did you do at school today?"
In addition, I can take pictures of important forms that have gone home and post them to the story as a way to remind parents of things that are coming home before they even get there. This helps a lot with papers that get "lost" on the way home from school.
Do you use Class Dojo in your classroom? Do you have any secrets to using it to increase class communication? Let's learn from each other, leave a comment so we can all use this app to the fullest!
You’ve picked out the perfect technology project for your students. You’ve given them a planning sheet with all the steps, and you’ve even given them an advance copy of the rubric so that they know what you are looking for. Everyone lines up and you set off for the computer lab OR you start your center rotation and they are working at computers in your room. The kids get on the computer and ask you – What’s my username and password? That’s when it hits you – you forgot to set up their accounts!!!! Oh the horror of wasted technology time due to missing usernames and passwords! The solution? Take time NOW to create accounts (or have students create accounts) for programs you think you will use during the school year.
Setting up student accounts ahead of time gives you and your students some distinct advantages:
1.) You’re ready for all kinds of projects – planned and unplanned (you know those great teachable moments!)
2.) The kids can play with the programs outside of school, or when they have finished their work, allowing them to figure out the programs BEFORE they have a big project due with this program.
3.) Students can show their parents the types of programs they will be using – helping parents to see that the technology they will use will not just be playing games, but will be using technology for educational purposes.
4.) When assigning a project, you can give students a choice of ways to present their work, empowering students to take control of their own learning. I started this with my Virtual Field Trip Project last year and the results were amazing!
Consider letting students create their own accounts, as long as they report their passwords to you.
1.) Demonstrate HOW to create an account before you ask students to create their own account.
2.) Have students use a password pattern so that they don’t forget their password. Find more details on this at my blog post about 10 Tips to Make Technology Integration Easier.
3.) Keep a record of each students’ usernames and passwords, in case students forget them or you need to get into their account for any reason.
So, what accounts should you have set up in the beginning of the year?
Even after 12 years of teaching, two of which were spent teaching only technology, I still forget some of these basics at the beginning of the year. So, I thought this list might be helpful if you are looking to add more technology to your day.
1.) Model EVERYTHING: I always forget exactly how much needs to be modeled until I start a new school year. At the beginning of the school year, you often need start with “This is a computer. This is the mouse and here is how you click and double click.” Don’t assume they know anything, because someone won’t. It won’t hurt those who do know to sit through one modeled lesson on how to access information, where to click etc. If you have access to a projector, it is nice to be able to show information on a projector. If you don’t, sit everyone around your computer and do it this way. (I’ve done this multiple times!)
2.) Take time to play with new technology yourself: A colleague of mine and I were talking the other day about those lessons where you set up the projector, ready to model a new technology and then the technology that you thought looked so simple does not work the way you had planned. I’ve done it, she’s done it, we’ve all done. Besides the fact that it is a waste of time, it is actually a good example to the kids that we are learning right along with them, lol! However, if you want to prevent this fate, the best thing to do is play around A LOT with whatever new technology you are trying to implement BEFORE you actually implement it.
3.) Teach basic steps – logging in, saving etc.: While you are modeling, be sure to take time to model how students are to log in, how they are to save their work, how they will open it up again next time etc. etc. If you are starting a new interactive website (LiveBinders, Storybird, EduBlogs etc.), give them their first time on the website to practice logging in. I always give students 2 days to create anything, and make it clear to them that if they have an issue logging in, they are to let me know on the FIRST day, so that we can fix the problem BEFORE there is an issue.
4.) Decide on password pattern and keep it the same: While you are modeling, go ahead and decide on a password pattern. Teaching students that passwords are their own and are private is important. However, in a classroom, I generally keep everyone’s password in a specific pattern (ie. msrakiJoseph123), so that when they forget what their password is, I’ll know what their password is. I also have them use the same password for everything,so that they don’t have 10 thousand things to remember. I do this for students below 6th grade. After 6th grade, you should begin to talk about the importance of having different passwords for different websites, but truly if they can’t log in to a site, they can’t do their work, and it becomes an issue of what skill you want to teach at this time. If you have an issue of students logging into each other’s sites “on accident”, an easy way to prevent that is to put a name into the password – first, middle, last, doesn’t matter, no one types someone else’s name on accident. If you have an issue of students logging into each other’s sites on purpose, then it is time to change passwords to include something like a student number or code word that is individual to that student.
5.) Don’t overwhelm yourself – or your students – choose one new thing at a time: There are so many amazing websites, apps and programs out there, it is easy to get overwhelmed. Generally, when this happens, people do one of two things. 1.) Some people put their hands up and try nothing. 2.) Some people try to do everything at once and then wear themselves and their students out. Choose one cool new thing to try, do it and do it well. Once you, AND YOUR STUDENTS, have the hang of it, try something else. Build your technology base a little at a time, and you’ll be amazed at all your students can do at the end of the school year.
6.) Create cheat sheets: Write out the steps students your students will need to do in order to use their new technology. Use screen shots (print screen and then CTRL V) to help students visualize what they are supposed to do. Here is a link to a cheat sheet I made for my students to help them start their EduBlogs.
7.) Remember that not all students come with the same background knowledge: Just like with math and reading, each student will come to you with a different amount of background knowledge regarding technology. Some students have been playing on the computer and iPad since they were 3 and they know exactly how to do things. Other students may come from a home where kids aren’t allowed to touch the computer. The amount of exposure, and the type of exposure that students have before they come to you will impact how quickly they will pick up new technologies. Give a technology survey, like the one included in my Beginning of the Year Forms, at the beginning of the year – ask students if what devices, how many devices and what kind of devices they have at home (computer, iPad, iPod, Kindle etc.), ask students how often they are allowed to use these devices. This information will tell you a lot about who will need help in those initial days of a new technology.
8.) Be prepared to go over the steps again, and again, and again: You’ve modeled, you written out the steps, you’ve made the cheat sheet, and still you will be asked “What am I supposed to do again?” Don’t lose it, just know that technology is a skill like everything else, and you’ll have to go over it multiple times before you students have it down.
9.) Think about the end product – how will they save? Where will they put it? Before you set students out to create a project, begin with the end in mind. Will they need to save? How and where will they save? Will they need to publish? How and where will they publish? Showing students these skills ahead of time will save you a lot of product when everyone is finishing their projects (at the same time) and they don’t know what to do.
10.) Share the success stories: One of the best parts about using technology is how easy it is to share, so be sure to share student work. E-mail it to the parents, post it on your blog, share it with your class on Edmodo. Students can also add their work to an Online Portfolio, and have a compilation of their work at the end of the year. Show your students how to share their own work and watch how they begin to create new, interesting projects, even after the assignment has ended.
What tips help you make technology integration successful in your classroom? Please feel free to add more tips in the comments, so that we can all learn from each other.
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