Elementary students in schools across the country are focusing more on basic computer skills such as typing to match requirements under national Common Core Standards. Since the new standards require students to be able to use a keyboard for assessments, keyboarding skills that have been taught in various forms for decades in middle or high school are now an essential part of elementary schools' curricula, according to Lyndsey Layton of The Washington Post.
The Common Core Standards require students in every grade to use the Internet for research and use digital tools in their schoolwork to incorporate video, sound and images with writing. The standardized tests, which will be given in 2014-2015, also require students to be able to manipulate a mouse, click, drag and type answers on a keyboard and, starting in third grade, write online.
Third-graders will be asked to write three short pieces, according to Laura Slover, who heads one of two consortia that are designing the tests. They will read a nonfiction selection and a literary passage and write about each, and they will be asked to write a story based on a real or imaginary experience, Slover said.
"Writing is a critical skill, and young students should have the opportunity to write frequently about meaningful topics," Slover said. And when the writing tests are administered online, that means the students will be using a keyboard.
Most kids are âdigital natives' — students who have grown up in a technology-infused environment — and are comfortable with smartphones and tablets, which are operated with a swipe of a finger. But teachers said keyboard typing is different and kids will have take some time to learn how to compose text on a keyboard. Kathleen Regan, the director of curriculum and instruction at New Jersey's Glen Rock Public Schools, said children must be able to compose text without looking at keys so they can focus on their writing.
"All these elementary teachers are dying, worrying how they're going to get their kids to meet these new requirements," said Jaqui Murray, a California teacher who writes the popular Ask A Tech Teacher blog. "It's a huge deal. You can't have kids go into these tests and not do well because they can't keyboard."
Starting next month, Glen Rock Public Schools will roll out keyboarding in its four elementary schools.
"On the Common Core assessments, some of these writings are going to be document-based questions or sorting through different types of text," Regan said. "The last thing you want is for the kids to be struggling with the mechanical skills."
The Common Core Standards, developed by governors and state education officials, are designed to create consistent math and reading standards from kindergarten through 12th grade.F orty-five states and the District of Columbia adopted the Common Core standards in both math and English and agreed to test students beginning in the 2014-15 school year.
Academic standards vary widely among states, and that patchwork nature has been partly blamed for mediocre rankings of U.S. students in international comparisons. Minnesota adopted the Common Core for English only. Alaska, Nebraska, Texas and Virginia have not adopted the standards.