Posts Tagged ‘writing skills’

Kindergarten Laptop Class

February 15, 2009

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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