More on Typing

About ten days ago, I wrote about teaching typing: https://1to1ipadprogram.wordpress.com/2015/09/14/to-teachlearn-typing-or-not-to-and-at-what-stage/

The main point I was trying to drive at is that with students (no matter what the age, even adults), when you do something once and don’t do it for a long time, it is hard to recollect and the point is lost unless it is practiced regularly, which is when it truly sticks. Like the whole process of logging in. If we teach students how to login and logout: the first time, it feels like this is so hard. Then it is a little easier and it keeps getting better. It reminds me of the 10,000 hour analogy from Malcolm Gladwell’s book: The Outliers. The more one does something, the better one gets at it or is expected to since one must make it a habit to learn from one’s mistakes and teach students accordingly.

The third grade students are now into day #7 of their typing. The first week we had parents come and help start up the computers. We figured that it would save us some time. On the first day, with several new students, with the confusion over upper and lower case, zeroes and the letter “o”, by the time the first class left, we were just glad that most of them had logged in. I had logged help desks for those whose accounts were not activated. So they temporarily used Dance Mat Typing.

On Day 2, the logging in was pretty independent other than new student accounts.  I was only there to check in. On Day 3, everyone’s accounts were set up and fine. They really didn’t need me at all. The teachers then said to me – they now get why we must do this every day for a period of time. If they had called it quits at the end of day one, we would never have reached this point. On Day 4, when I saw the independence levels with everyone, I asked the students if it was alright that we stopped asking the parents to come in, that they would be responsible for bringing out their computers and getting started and they were like “YES”.

So in week 2, the students have come in, got out their computers, logged in successfully, started typing, all on their own. The only reminder they need at the start is that this is completely independent work and that they will be administered a test at the end of next week to see how quickly then can write a paragraph. Now, that test is something I just made up in order to get the students focused on the task at hand. However, they all seem highly motivated and are working hard towards it. More updates when we see how the typing has truly facilitated their work.

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To Teach/Learn Typing or Not To And at What Stage?

Just as handwriting was and is an essential skill for everyone to learn and for teachers to teach starting from a developmentally appropriate age, so now is typing or keyboarding essential as so much work gets done on digital devices. With devices used in the classroom for writing, what is an appropriate age for students to learn and teachers to teach typing? What is a good program? What age is considered developmentally appropriate? What about iPads and typing? Is the skill truly an essential one? These and many more questions are asked about typing each day by educators and parents alike. With the Smarter Balanced Testing being introduced where students must type essays starting from third grade, these questions have become even more frequent and opinions can be strong and vary. Also, with the testing starting in third grade, should typing begin there or an earlier age?

I am no expert on this and whatever I state here is solely my opinion based upon what I have experienced with students and what I see coming down the road with technology, not on behalf of the school or district.

In Palo Alto Unified School District, we use a program called TTL4, which tracks students by grade level, ability and has game-like but rigorous steps to pass from one level to another. Students can be bumped up levels by an admin of the program. It can be tedious but extremely useful when done effectively. However, it is available only on a computer and not on iPads. WIth the 1:1 iPad program, I am still trying to figure out if I should look at some typing apps. At the end of the day, students need to know the location of the letters/numbers/characters, irrespective of the device.

Developmentally, the first graders don’t have the hand span required for typing across a computer keyboard. Some of them are learning to recognize letters. Also, we teach them to capitalize the first letter and put the rest in lower case. So it can be confusing for them to see all the uppercase letters on a Mac keyboard. While typing this, I am trying out a Chromebook for the first time seriously and am pleasantly surprised to see the lowercase i and l, both of which are super confusing to the little ones on most keyboard.

Students really learn hand-eye coordination, quick letter recognition, left and right hand coordination, and of course, self-confidence. Even those who struggle with fine motor skills can achieve levels with the typing programs. And that in turn translates to better writing skills in general: lots of reasons why students prefer typing to writing eventually.

When it comes to iPads, students have to be able to translate the big keyboards to the iPad native keyboard, which is really hard for first and several second graders to do. It is important though that students start with typing their names as early as kindergarten. What I have seen is that students are highly motivated to do so because who isn’t proud of writing their name on a piece of work they have produced? Plus, it motivates them to look for the letters, the position of the letters and a sense of achievement of having done it on their own. After they have done so a few times, students can start with typing short phrases.

By third grade, most students are reading a certain level of text, based upon their ability, but certainly know the sounds and letters really well for the most part. Their hands are physically more well developed and they are able to focus for longer periods of time on academic activities. A focused period of 15-20 minutes each day for three weeks to get students really familiar with the keyboard.

When students enter fourth and fifth grades, teachers do expect that a certain level of typing has been taught/learned by the students and that they can handle the amount of typing students do on electronic devices. Following are a few reasons why writing on an electronic device is preferred both by students and teachers:

  • Students who might otherwise write a few sentences will write paragraphs when typing, such is their motivation and engagement.
  • Several students don’t like to see their mistakes, clutter on a page. This way, students can revise their documents and it all still appears clean. If needed, students can refer back to previous versions, since most of them use Google Docs to write.
  • This enables students to publish their writing to an audience larger than just their teacher. I have had students ask me in class when they have finished with a piece of their final writing whether they could share it with a sibling or parent and have done so while in class. As a parent, I would be thrilled to receive something from my elementary child during my work day.

As a former fifth grade teacher, I can also say that even if students haven’t gone through the rigor of typing in earlier grades, they pick up really quickly with the number of assignments that they type up. Once they move to middle school, almost all their assignments are typed. Handwriting must continue for obvious reasons, the main practical one being finger muscles need that movement. It has to be a fine balance, just like with devices.

Would love to hear various opinions, thoughts, programs being used and feedback. Tomorrow, the third graders start with their intense keyboarding practice each morning for the next three weeks. I will report on the progress when done.

More on Teamwork, Perseverance & Resilience

Making a scribble bot is one of the most basic forms of robots. It has become even more popular with the spread of the Maker Movement. The reasons to do this particular activity at the beginning of a school year are many including but not restricted to teaching:

  • Cooperative work/Teamwork
  • Community building
  • Perseverance (very rarely does it work at the first shot)
  • Resilience (for the same reason)
  • Independence & self-confidence
  • Basics of circuitry
  • Fun!

Last week all the three fourth grade classes worked on this activity in the Maker Studio.

The activity can be done in one of two ways:

  1. Give directions to the students and they follow them.
  2. Provide the materials and ask the students how they would go about it. What could they do with it?

The fourth grade teachers and I decided to go with the former as the students needed scaffolding. This is the video that I normally like to show them (there are many out there but this one explains the process really well). At the end of the video, we discussed the fact that the instructor in the video makes it look easy and that it is more than likely that their bot will not work at the first try. We then brainstormed strategies for problem solving, as well as discussed what they could do when they forgot the directions.

We also discussed why the students had brought their iPads (assigning 3 to a group, 1 person in the group was assigned to carry his/her iPad).

It was quite amazing to see that the simplest of answers (that they could use the iPads to take photos and videos of the activity in question) took a long time to guess in some cases. It was a conscious decision to have 1 iPad per group as 1 per person could cause the focus to move to the iPad pictures rather than the activity.

They also did get back stating that they could re-watch the instructional video if they forgot the steps or were confused. Giving them that option is important as some students do need the extra processing time or just need to review the directions. It did take some prompting to let them know that they were not coming to any of the adults unless they were absolutely frustrated which could happen.

It was important to discuss what happens to the bots at the end. They don’t go home because the motors stay in school as do the batteries for reuse.

One of the many examples

What is teamwork? That was a discussion worthy of time before students took off on making the bots.

Each of the three classes performed differently. One was quick to get going and all the teams got their bots working. One class had just one bot working of the lot whereas the third was done by all teams but one. In some cases the students found that the bot worked initially , then didn’t. The interesting aspect was when asked how many would return the next week to get it working or get it better, there were some who just didn’t want to try again.

Teamwork in action

Teamwork in action

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Teamwork in Action

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Teamwork in Action

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Teamwork in Action

When the activity was completed, the pictures and videos got uploaded to Schoology. A discussion for debriefing/reflecting the activity was also uploaded to Schoology for each of the students to respond to and of course, having the pictures and videos there to remind them of the activity will help immensely.

Varied patterns

Varied patterns

Varied patterns

Varied patterns

Varied patterns

Varied patterns

Varied patterns

Varied patterns

Varied patterns

Varied patterns

Teamwork

Teamwork is a life-long skill, something that we all need as adults each day of our lives and a skill that really needs a lot of patience, good will, give and take and lots of humour too! The book, The Innovators, by Walter Isaacson, has its first chapter on teamwork – how innovations cannot take place without teamwork. In schools, we say that one of the skills needed by students is teamwork.

Students cannot pick up teamwork overnight. School is so different from home. Whether an only child or not, children have a really difficult time sharing their possessions and learning the give and take, no matter what it is. In a 1:1 iPad situation, we as educators, need to consciously bring in activities where cooperation and teamwork can be developed. Also, this is a tone that needs to be set early on in the school year, when teachers do many community building activities with the students.

This fifth grade teacher worked on a specific team building lesson. She brainstormed with her students what team building means.

Teacher pointing to her Teambuilding chart

Teacher pointing to her Teambuilding chart

She even added a heart and a hi-five!

The students then worked on their activity.

This activity was one involving these plastic cups and a bottle. You could pick any activity.

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9-4-15 - 4         Once the activity was completed, the students responded to a discussion on Schoology. This was done on the iPads. Not only did every student get a role to play, each student got a voice through the Schoology discussion, as well as digital etiquette in practice during the usage.

I also want to add that various teachers teach teamwork in different ways. This was an example from today.

Also, to remind everyone, given that these students are in their second year of 1:1 iPad implementation, they were able to get onto Schoology and respond appropriately to their assignments and discussions from almost the first week of school. They are also way more aware of poor choices they made the previous year with respect to digital etiquette. They have learned through their mistakes and wouldn’t we much rather they fail a few times in elementary school and learn through those failures than move seamlessly?

The Brilliant Bees Session II

If you missed last week’s update, please read here to find out what The Brilliant Bees is all about. Today, there were three more students who showed up asking if they could join in even if they weren’t there last week. My mantra is not to turn away help, and never students. You never know whose life may be ruined for a long time to come or for a lifetime. They are too young and fragile. So they joined us. It was a super productive session.

The Brilliant Bees at work

The Brilliant Bees at work

As I had mentioned last week, we have a course registered on the district-supported LMS, Schoology. The assignment was put up. There were some questions as always, but it was: The directions are on Schoology… within minutes everyone was down to work and by the end of lunch, the iPads for one of the second grade classes were ready.

The Brilliant Bees at work

The Brilliant Bees at work

What exactly did the students do? One advantage of having 1:1 iPads is that students can be logged into their Schoology and their Google Drive accounts. At the beginning of the year, the 1st and 2nd graders are very young and the logging in process can take a while. What the classroom teachers at those grade levels and I decided was that for now lets have the iPads logged into the student accounts. A couple of months down the road, we can then train the students to practice logging and out of their accounts. If I had to sit and login to each of the 20+ iPads in every classroom it would take a really long time of course.

The Brilliant Bees at work

The Brilliant Bees at work

So, I created login cards for the 2nd grade students. The Brilliant Bees matched the iPads with the login information and logged into the iPads corresponding to the account. Again, these are students who have had 1:1 iPads the last year, used Schoology and Google Drive on the iPad the last year so they were very quick. Wednesday lunches are short, they need to go get their food and they were still able to  finish one class and do a few of the second. Hurrah to the Brilliant Bees for their help. They are more than giving back to the school at this rate.

Oh, and did I mention already in case the pictures don’t indicate that there are about an equal number of girls and boys which of course, makes me incredibly proud!

iPads, Selfies, Feelings and Back to School Night

One of the teachers at Barron Park had this brilliant idea: The students have iPads on their desks each morning, so they each take a selfie to begin the day. The students started last week and will have their growth over the school year.

The teacher with the idea

The teacher with the idea

When we talked about it, I suggested, why not have them take a selfie with their mood of the morning. We can then expand it to not just a selfie with a mood, but a daily diary with the selfie mood and a warm up write up about their mood and the reasons why. This is a personal diary to the next level with digital devices and the possibilities are endless.

Last night, at Back to School Night, another first grade teacher decided to implement the selfie idea with introducing it to the parents.

Teacher who got the parents to take selfies

Teacher who got the parents to take selfies

It was so wonderful to walk in and see all these parents taking selfies on their student’s iPad. If I was a six year old in that class, it would mean the world to walk in the next morning to see my parent’s selfie on my iPad. Here are some pictures from the same. I just loved that interactive activity with the parents. Enjoy the pictures…

Parents in classroom taking selfies

Parents in classroom taking selfies

Parents in classroom taking selfies

Parents in classroom taking selfies

What if we as adults did it on days we felt wonderful to remind us on days that are super stressful or hard? They would just brighten every moment!