How to introduce assistive technology if they don’t know how to assist themselves?
I just had an interesting conversation with a colleague about introducing formal typing skills at the kindergarten level. Something I have definitely thought about, but haven’t pursued. She was talking about the challenge of teaching older primary students who need assistive technology, but who do not know how to use it to its fullest abilities. For example, they are able to use the touch screen functions for selection, but have difficulty using the iPad or computer to type out their work instead of writing it by hand. For students with printing difficulties, this is a helpful skill to have. Although there are many benefits to using a speech-to-text program, many new roadblocks are encountered if the student is not able to use the keyboard beyond the one finger point.
What is my role as a kindergarten teacher with regards to computer skills?
Currently, my students are taught mouse skills, so that they are able to successfully play games on the computer. iPads are new to my program this year, and I am navigating through ways to best use this technology with my young learners. We completed a fun book-making project that involved them taking pictures of shapes around the school, and the SKs use apps that I have selected. The physical keyboard and the touch-screen keyboard have not even been introduced!
There are professionals who are adamant that keyboarding is not taught in Kindergarten (see, “Just say ‘no’ to keyboarding in kindergarten” by Rae Pica), but there are a multitude of games, apps and programs that are geared for just that purpose. Do I introduce typing to students who are still mastering printing, or leave it for later years?
How do I help my students?
The Ontario curriculum does not offer formal typing skills until Grade 9, and I strongly feel that this is too late. Students are expected to produce typed products in elementary school, and old habits can be hard to break. I would be curious to learn about the ways educators around the province are tackling this hurdle.
Although I do not think I will be pursuing this topic for my action plan, I am definitely going to be reflecting more upon how I can provide the building blocks for students of all abilities to use technology to success in all of it’s forms. Perhaps games that encourage the students to locate keys on the keyboard, or typing their names makes the most sense for students this age. An informal introduction without talking about the ‘home row.’
The biggest point that resonated with me in the article by Rae Pica was the importance of formally developing fine-motor skills. So I think it’s time for me venture over to Pinterest, and grab some ice cube trays, tweezers and pom poms!