USN Lower School Technology!

Tuesday, September 25, 2007

Happy Fall, Happy Fingers

We're typing apace in the Lower School lab, with 2nd and 3rd graders working on Type to Learn 3 and the 4th graders beginning their Keyboarding for Kids adventure. There'll be much more on "K4K" in coming weeks, but suffice it to say that we're gearing up for keyboarding homework! The chance to work every day, even if only for 15 or 20 minutes, is something not every elementary school child has, and for those kids who take it seriously, it's an opportunity that will change their academic lives for the better.

We're even typing in K and 1 this week, as we use the freeware "Drawing for Children" program to learn about fonts, font styles, colors, and sizes in 1st grade and simply learn how to use the ABC typing tool in K to type our names. The Kindergarten children are simply typing their names, just once, but the 1st graders are typing in as many sizes, fonts, and colors as they can do in their computer lab period. Next week we'll practice locating a file with Drawing for Children's "file open" function and we'll add even more instances of their names as time will allow. I think we'll end up with a really nice bulletin board out of the deal, don't you???

On the personal side, I put my son Colin on the bus this morning to travel to Pisgah National Forest in North Carolina where he'll engage in team building fun with his 6th grade peers for three nights in the woods. Wow. I couldn't help thinking how this must be the definition of ambivalence: We want them to grow up, but we don't want them to grow out of the best moments of childhood, and, hence, away. My HS senior daughter is in a country music video (for like a second and a half, but if you're watching for her you can see her pretty sunglassed self) that sums it up: Kenny Chesney's "Don't Blink," it'll be gone before you know it.

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Friday, September 21, 2007

Week of September 17

A good, solid week of work, with some "lagniappe" windfall software coming our way from that little island in the Indian Ocean, Mauritius.

First of all, the fourth, third, and second grades are all in various stages of working in Type to Learn 3, Sunburst's stellar little introductory keyboarding program. This is the first year I've introduced conventional keyboarding to second graders, and that's a bit of an experiment, though I'm encouraged so far by the children's enthusiasm and focus. It seems that there are always a few kids who just don't seem to be able to internalize a "desire to acquire" typing skills, but I understand the developmental readiness of our students varies in this arena just as it does in all others, academic and physical.

Next week, the 4th graders leave TTL3 behind in their introductory exploration of Keyboarding Online, or Keyboarding for Kids. I'll have a great deal more to say about this work beginning next week.

In the K-1 arena, we began exploring a different set of skills, diving into the software program "Around the World with Twelve Songs" from our buddies Boowa and Kwala. I received this site-license version of the software from my friend Jason Barnard, the co-creator and the voice behind the big blue dog Boowa. It seems an attendee of a teacher workshop I gave in Atlanta last November purchased 25 school site licenses of the program from UpToTen and Jason thought to himself, "I should send one to Scott" for helping design his world-popular UpToTenPremium at School program. Very nice of him!

The program leads children through the website's first online book, which details the adventures of our favorite cartoon pair from the day Boowa discovered Kwala on the beach, lost and confused, and set off with her to find her family. The neat addition of a gentle British-accented reading voice and highlighted text as the syllables are read is an important one. As a child hears words spoken while reading the text simultaneously, phonemes come alive in recognition memory, and reading skill is gently enhanced.

I don't detail the program here in order to encourage its purchase by any of my families: Your child has access to it here at school, and in fact we will have it on the K and 1st grade classroom computers as well as in the lab, by the end of next week. For those reading this blog from other locations (see our "Clustrmaps" Visitor Locations map in the sidebar!) I say "go for it!" It's a very sweet and engaging and pedagogically valid early reader software. It has the MisterMerrick Seal-of-Approval!

No pics this week: I'm finishing up work on the new 2nd grade projector laptop/projector cart. By next year, every classroom in the school will have its own ceiling mounted projector for technology-enabled presentations and lessons; and we're making strides this year by positioning two such carts on each floor, with ceiling-mounted projectors in every 4th grade room already!

Cheers, and have a happy and safe fun weekend,


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Tuesday, September 11, 2007

Typingtypingtyping--Plus Drawing for Children!

It's a landmark decision: I've followed, for a good while now, discussions about children as young as 1st grade learning to touch-type fluently; but what has always kept me from teaching keyboarding earlier than 3rd grade was an abiding belief that until children have a reason to type enough to learn the wrong way, they are not ready to work on acquiring that skillset. Well, our school's emphasis on writing this past year leads me to believe that it would serve our 2nd graders well to get them into "proper" patterns of touch-typing technique. Hence the introduction I'm leading them through, this week, to Type to Learn 3. So far, I'm very encouraged by their interest and focus. Stay tuned!

By the way, it's not my policy to encourage purchase of this program for home use: USN's invested in it already. If you feel the need for your child to practice typing at home, there are a lot of fun (Spongebob, Mario, etc.) programs you can purchase to allow them to do that, and we'll be looking at some fun free online options in future weeks.

3rd and 4th graders continue their TTL3 work, and Kindergarten and 1st graders will be discovering the great Windows freeware drawing program, "Drawing for Children." There's a link to its download site at the Webliographer in the "Keyboarding" topic, if you want it on your home computer. Technically speaking its downside is that it stores saved pictures in very large (~1.2 Mb) bitmaps, but its cost (free) and its commensurate availability to all students with Internet access trumps that disadvantage.

A couple bonus pictures taken during Mr. Hooper's kindergarten class's discovery of Drawing for Children. Ever wonder why I do this work? Here's one reason:

and another:
and perhaps my most compelling reason is illustrated to the left: helping children know that it's okay to help one another!

Saturday, September 08, 2007

A Fun Week, September 4-7!

Hey, ya'll. The fourth and third graders this week are continuing along their keyboarding skills trajectory with Type to Learn 3 and the second graders just finished their two week experience with Type to Learn, Jr. Next week, the second graders will join the other two grade levels in Type to Learn 3, toward beginning to learn home-row key typing, a critical skill for the 21st century. Note: The links to these programs are provided here for your information only and I do NOT encourage or even suggest that you purchase these programs for home use.

Kinder and 1st graders continue to re-hone their web-surfing skills by visiting the fabulous UpToTen Premium at School computer skills portal. Here are some of the computer-speak terms learned or reviewed these past two weeks:

  • desktop
  • browser
  • icon
  • maximize
  • click
  • double-click
  • cursor
  • drop-down arrow
  • menu
  • scroll
  • scroll bar
For those of you who may not want to wade back through previous posts here, this is a skillfully designed website that's offered free to schools all over the world. Created and maintained by Jason Barnard and his staff on the tropical island of Mauritius (an island off the coast of Madagascar in the Indian Ocean), USN has the distinction of having registeried at the website as school number 1. Considering that since that registration (*pops out into another browser tab to check the current total*) UpToTen has registered 5,141 other schools, I'm pretty proud of that fact. I'm also proud that I was asked to help tweak Jason's educational design for that part of his wonderful website, and that I could thus contribute in some small way to its success.

I'm also happy that the "Boowa and Kwala Club" registration is free. Visit's "Parents" page to learn more. While you're there, visit the Boowa and Kwala Club page to register for a free parent's account so that your child may visit the website with access to the club's advanced options. While the "at School" features are only available "at School," club membership will provide your child with a virtually unlimited wealth of kindness-themed, safe, age -appropriate online fun.

That's all for now!