Let the Students Type
I’ve been thinking how best to go about sharing a particular thought without overly upsetting other teachers, or “preaching” to the point that other teachers agree, but don’t really want to listen anymore. I suppose it would be best to setup the post by describing the event that led to it.
Last week I asked if teachers had any students that would care to have articles about technology published in the MACUL Journal, as the quarterly journal has a “Student Spotlight” section. I got a few responses from teachers that wanted to have their students write about their technology experiences both in school and at home, and I got a few responses from teachers that wanted to share student work (poems, stories, etc.) that had been written on the computers. While inquiring about a few of the projects, I learned that the stories and poems had indeed been written by the students, but teachers, parent volunteers, and para-pros had done some of the typing of the work. I was floored! My initial reaction was surprise. Here I was asking for student work about or written with technology, and many of the pieces of work had been completed without the students even having touched a computer!
By no means does this speak poorly of the teachers, as I know that elementary teachers are extremely busy constantly shifting gears between subject areas, recess, specials classes, and a host of other events which demand their time. I also know that several classrooms across the nation contain just a couple of student computers, some having none at all. The desire to “push ahead” to the next lesson, the next objective, and the next scheduled event often leads many teachers to delegate the typing of student work to adult helpers, or even themselves. I also know that many teachers have to deal with a wide range of technology literacy in their students, so it can sometimes be easier to let an adult, or someone much more proficient than the students, type everything up.
But what I’ve found myself wondering is, how many students with limited technology skills would be improved by having the time to type up their short stories, sentences, or poetry? Sure, it might take a lot of time to have your students type up a few sentences that they could easily write by hand in a fraction of the time, but how much better prepared would we be making students for the next technology-oriented assignment by giving them the time to type on their own? How much better would students be at navigating office software and other programs if they had to go through the process of saving, opening, and manipulating files every few days instead of every few weeks when you had lab time? I often see 4th and 5th graders that struggle with typing, simple editing, and saving files simply because they haven’t had the exposure. Allowing students to type up their own work may slow down your class in the short run, but it will greatly improve your students’ productivity and technology skills in the long run, allowing for much more creative and less time consuming work in the future.
At least, that’s just what I’ve been thinking lately.