This series of articles is about using technology to empower class teachers to teach children who would otherwise not succeed in the school environment.
This post by Jeff explores the frustration of introducing technology to the classroom,and is still receiving comments 17 months later. To justify its presence in the classroom, the technology must solve a problem that exists in today’s classrooms, with today’s curriculum and teaching methods. There needs to be a clear definition of the problem, and a logical application of technology to solve it.
A laptop computer can be used to teach writing skills to children whose handwriting skill is not sufficient for their learning needs, and can improve their handwriting.
Dean Shareski says:Using technology means doing things differently and eliminating practices that don’t help kids. I’m trying to show people why it’s essential and what it replaces.
Dennis Harter is on the right track when he says
But there is a part of technology that we have only begun to tap into that is transformational. There are things technology can do for us now, that simply were not possible before.
In this case, technology allows an approach to teaching writing that is not possible with a pencil and paper.
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. Sentence construction can be broken down into discreet steps, and leverages from a child’s verbal language skills. When they start school, children already use extensive language skills. They do not know the technical terms for the parts of a sentence, but they certainly know how to use them. The “Davidson Method” of sentence construction uses the advantages of a keyboard and screen (any computer with a text editor) and scaffolds a child’s existing verbal skills into the written form.
Davidson Method of Sentence Construction
1. Choose an action word, a verb, an -ing word (every sentence must contain a verb!)
2 Ask who or what thing is doing the action. (noun,object)
3. Ask who or what thing is the action being done to. (noun, subject)
dog chasing cat
4. Describe the things (adjective, phrase).
black hairy ferocious dog from next door chasing mangy yellow cat
5. Ask when or where or how the action is happening (adverb, phrase).
yesterday afternoon black hairy ferocious dog from next door quickly chasing mangy yellow cat across the park
6. Check that the tense of the verb matches sentence. Does it sound right?
Modify verb (auxiliary verb, compound verb)
yesterday afternoon black hairy ferocious dog from next door was quickly chasing mangy yellow cat across the park
7. Add words to make it sound right.
yesterday afternoon the black hairy ferocious dog from next door was quickly chasing a mangy yellow cat across the park
8. Add commas and full stops. (Punctuation)
yesterday afternoon, the black, hairy, ferocious dog from next door was quickly chasing a mangy, yellow cat across the park.
9. Add a capital letter to the first word.
Yesterday afternoon, the black, hairy, ferocious dog from next door was quickly chasing a mangy, yellow cat across the park.
This method allows a sentence to be built logically rather than sequentially, the screen holds the parts in place rather than trying to juggle all the pieces in memory while attempting to write neatly.
It is a step by step recipe.
It is easier to choose a letter from a keyboard than try to remember the shape of a letter.
Correction is neat and does not require the whole page to be rewritten.
Spelling can be checked as a separate step.
The sentence can be copied by hand to paper when complete to practice handwriting, and it is relevant to the child because it is their sentence with their ideas. There is no need to print the sentence.
There is no dumbing down of the ideas in the sentence to match writing or spelling skill.
Proofreading and editing are being taught as an integral part of writing.
It should be emphasised that this does not replace handwriting. Handwriting must still be taught in the normal way. It does make handwriting more effective by allowing some ideas to be taught and practiced in isolation, thereby increasing focus and effectiveness.
It should also be emphasised that a competent and dedicated teacher is still required to lead the child, to encourage, to nurture. The keyboard and screen is just a different writing tool, with features that a good teacher can use when required.
Computers can be used to increase learning outcomes in KLAs -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. Avoid the temptation to reinvent the school system and philosophy of education in order to justify spending money on ICT. Instead look at the problems that are in our classrooms and see if technology can help competent and dedicated teachers find a way forward.
In the comments section please practice a sentence using the step by step method outlined above. It is a great way to explore the structure of language, and to improve your own writing skills. The next article is “The dumbest laptop ever” and outlines the necessary characteristics for a laptop to succeed in a kindergarten class.