Kindergarten Laptop Class

Perhaps the most powerful yet most overlooked advantage of a computer in developing writing skills is as a glorified typewriter. It waits as a blank page which can be written upon, corrected neatly, proofread, edited, added to and rearranged with a minimum of effort, and without rewriting. It allows an approach to teaching writing that is impossible with a pencil and paper, and may have its greatest impact in the earlier years of school.

It is important not to be distracted by technology, and get carried away with multimedia, interconnectivity and internet access. The keyboard and screen can be used to empower children to master the written word, and produce written output at a level necessary to cater for their learning needs. It can be used to teach sentence construction, grammar, punctuation and spelling, the mundane but essential building blocks of written literacy, without being dependent on good handwriting skills which may be slower to develop.

Production of written output is essential to the learning process in school. A child who cannot write cannot learn effectively, so one of the first tasks of school is to teach the child to write. Writing is a complicated process requiring the simultaneous execution of several difficult activities. There is the content, there is the sentence construction, there is remembering to go across the page from left to right, and remembering what shape the letter “e” is. There is the physical movement of pencil on paper.

The coordination and complexity involved in handwriting has been compared to that involved in driving a car.Up until now, all these skills had to be taught simultaneously, and were deeply dependant on how quickly the handwriting skill developed.

It is no wonder that some children are slow to develop adequate handwriting skills, which retards the whole of their school career. Teachers are aware of students whose written output does not match their intelligence, comprehension or verbal language skills.

This can be because their handwriting skill is not adequate for their learning needs.

A keyboard and screen allows the middle order writing skills to be taught in isolation to handwriting. Middle order writing skills include such things as sentence construction, grammar, punctuation and spelling. Handwriting must still be taught, but it is no longer the limiting factor. Handwriting skills may develop with maturity and practice, so that when a student is required to produce handwriting for an exam, not only do they have handwriting skills, they also have something worth writing.

It has been remarked that the provision of laptop computers to year 9 students as part of the Rudd Government education revolution in Australia is far too late to make a significant difference, but that laptop computers could make a huge difference if introduced much earlier in the education process.

This is the first of a series of articles to explore the introduction of laptop computers in a kindergarten class. It outlines a significant classroom problem, and the application of technology to solve it. Future articles will examine 
Benefits; Alternatives; Implementation; Obstacles; Hardware considerations; Software considerations; Teacher training and retraining; Limitations; Costs and funding.

In the comment section please note your reaction to using computer tecnology to improve learning outcomes in Key Learning Areas –here-now-today in ordinary classrooms, and bring relief to children who are struggling or giving up because they cannot write fast enough or neatly enough to produce the written output required to cater for their learning needs.  Alternatively, comment on the idea of giving a laptop computer to every child starting school in Australia.

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3 Responses to “Kindergarten Laptop Class”

  1. bmcallis Says:

    Hi Andrew,

    Great post which has lots of thought provoking insights. I agree that laptops have the potential to help students who have difficulty handwriting develop their writing skills. It would be interesting to do some research in this area and see how much it could benefit these students.

    I know in our high school we have a number of students who use notebooks as they have very poor handwriting but are quite competent using a keyboard and this allows them to demonstrate their understanding much more effectively.

    I wonder if there would be any grants or funding available for a research project in this area?

    Look forward to your future posts!!

  2. Victor Davidson Says:

    Laptops such as the EeePC to Kindergarten students would have revolutionary benefits for all the reasons you mention. The devils are in those old bogeys of infrastructure and implementation. As with the Year 9 laptop program, all teachers must be issued with a laptop and trained in their use. And that is before programs of the kind you mention above are introduced. At this point the nurturing of Kindergarten laptop skills is left in the random hands of concerned parents and Teacher Librarians. That said education is changing rapidly and we must be prepared for policy to change too.

  3. Andrew Cosgrove Says:

    Thanks for joining the discussion.
    Some reseach or a pilot study would certainly be useful to confirm initial experimentation, perhaps in a remedial class. Once benefits can be shown then the devils in detail can be addressed, and implementation edges into the realms of possibility. This is not so much about putting laptops into classrooms as empowering class teachers to teach children who would otherwise not succeed in the school environment.
    The next in the series contains a practical example of what can be done with a screen and keyboard.

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