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Old skills make a comeback for the youngest students

Common Core accelerates keyboarding instruction in elementary schools
Students in the Highlands School District in Brackenridge, Pa., start computer classes in kindergarten to learn the typing skills needed for Common Core assessments.
Students in the Highlands School District in Brackenridge, Pa., start computer classes in kindergarten to learn the typing skills needed for Common Core assessments.

Kindergarteners nationwide are stretching their small hands across keyboards to learn the basics of typing in preparation for the online Common Core assessments.

The new standards don’t introduce keyboarding until the third grade, the first year students are assessed. But elementary schools are starting earlier to make sure students are competent in basic computer use before the exams that begin next school year.

The Common Core online assessments for third graders will require typed writing samples and the ability to click, drag, and type answers. More broadly, for curriculum, the new standards state that students should be able to do online research and integrate what they learn into classroom assignments.

“It’s more than just keyboarding—it’s taking those fundamental computer skills students need to be successful as 21st-century learners and combining them with cross-curricular activities needed for the Common Core,” says Ian Miller, the supervisor of elementary reading and early childhood programs in the Highlands School District in Brackenridge, Pa., one of many districts now offering kindergarten computer courses.

The Highlands district implemented K2 computer classes after Superintendent Michael Bjalobok was hired last March. Bjalobok immediately brought in an elementary computer teacher to focus on Common Core skills.

The youngest elementary school students learn the home keys, how to log on and off the computers, and how to find desktop icons. The computer teacher also integrates regular classroom lessons into computer class. For example, in kindergarten, students identify letters and sounds on the keyboard, and practice typing.

In second grade, students play a game that involves typing vocabulary words. In grades three through five, students get even more online writing experience by creating their own books in a publisher program.

Elementary students spend between 40 and 80 minutes every other week in computer class, as the teacher rotates between three buildings. “He’s here on a limited basis, but provides that foundation and cross-curricular activities, so when students go back to the classroom they know how to use that technology effectively,” Miller says. Most classrooms in the district have two or three computers, he adds.

Early computer classes also help level the playing field for students who do not have access to technology at home, Miller says. About 57 percent of students in the district are eligible for free or reduced-price lunch. Students from low-income homes are less likely to have access to technology, according to the Consortium for School Networking.

“One of the reasons why we want to get our technology in the buildings is so we can allow all our students to have access,” Miller says. “Technology will be an essential piece of their lives, and we want to make sure we’re making the necessary adjustments for students to be as successful as they can be.”