Tuesday, October 15, 2013

Keyboard Training in Elementary Schools Moving Forward

On October 15, 2013 an article, For elementary students, keyboards trump pencils, appeared in The Hartford (CT) Courant newspaper. (The article originally appeared in The Washington Post and was authored by Lyndsey Layton.) Layton describes how a major shift is taking place in elementary school education: the teaching of keyboarding starting as early as kindergarten. This impetus resulted from the future implementation of standardized tests linked to the Common Core scheduled for 2014-15. These exams “... will require students to be able to manipulate a mouse, click, drag, and type answers on a keyboard; and, starting in third grade, write an outline.” Fourteen states have agreed to pilot a study to help “iron out the wrinkles” of the plan. Included is a creative writing exercise where students are expected to type a story based on experience or from their imagination. Obviously, students taking the Common Core exams who have mastered keyboarding will be at a decided advantage.
Some critics will maintain that elementary grade children are too young to master typing. I totally disagree. Failure to teach keyboarding at an early age will result in students learning inefficient skills where eyes are fixated on the keyboard and less on the screen. This causes more frequent eye shifts, typing errors and reduced speed. In 1993, I was placed in charge of a computer program in a renovated elementary school in Fairfield, CT. Third grade students would come to the computer lab each school day and receive keyboard training for about one half hour before beginning their regular instruction. The program was successful with the large majority of students mastering touch typing.
It is unfortunate that educators have to wait for something to be mandated from some external authority before it is put into practice. Many K-12 educators were too slow in recognizing the importance of the role computers would play in everyday life. Yes, there were exceptions; in the early 1980s some educators were brave enough to request placing computers in classrooms. Today, the new crop of teachers are decidedly more computer literate than those they replace.

Saturday, October 5, 2013

An Informative and Stimulating Day at UCONN

Yesterday I attended the CLAS College Experience, The Environment: Politics, Health & Nature – a conference provided by UCONN for their alumni. Faculty presenters included Prakash Fashwan, Ph.D., assistant professor of political science who spoke on “Green Consumption: Potential and Pitfalls of Market-based Environmental Goods and Services.” Debarchana (Debs) Ghosh, Ph.D., assistant professor of geography followed with her presentation, “You Are What You Eat – And Where You Live.” The final presentation, “Can We Predict Species Responses to Climate Change?” was given by Mark Urban, Ph.D., assistant professor of ecology and evolutionary biology.

I would like to thank all UCONN staff who made this program possible. All presentations were stimulating and informative. The hospitality was especially commendable. I would welcome more of these programs in the future.

Suggestions and recommendations:
The organization of the program should offer two presentations by UCONN professors detailing their research or lecturing on a timely topic. A third event that I would like to see is a discussion group on a subject of broad interest moderated by a professor or administrator. Some suggestions are: (1) the impact of massive open online courses (MOOCs) on academia, (2) the advent and implications of the “digital library:” dissemination of literature (including textbooks) via the Internet to e-books, laptops, tablets, phablets, etc. and (3) the ramifications of changes in sources of energy on the world economy. Other topics for discussion can be solicited from alumni.