What Kids Do in Computer Labs…

Well, it goes like this: My son, who is in third grade, gets home and is telling me about his day. I know, he won’t ZZZ.jpgbe doing this much longer. He tells me that he had computer lab today. He tells me they worked on keyboarding skills. He tells me they work on keyboarding skills every time they go to the computer lab. He tells me it gets boring doing it for 30 minutes. He tells me that even if you finish the lesson early, you have to go back and do it again. He tells me that every 5 weeks they get free choice. This is his experience with computers at school.

What does this tell you?

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10 Comments on “What Kids Do in Computer Labs…”

  1. Debbie Rogala Says:

    The school needs a new technology teacher !!! Goodness, I seriously doubt keyboarding skills are needed in this day and age when children learn to use a keyboard rite about the time they learn to talk. I am sure I would be bored as well. Maybe the school district needs to look at the tech program and what is being taught. This is a huge failure of the district and the teacher.

  2. Andrew A. Peterson Says:

    This tells me that the administrators and teachers involved are not themselves early adopters, so they have no business creating technology curriculum.

    I remember taking a “computer class” in 6th grade and I distinctly remember it basically being weeks on end of remembering facts about the history of computing: punch cards, C, C++, DOS, what is silicon, what are transisters, etc. All this was absolutely worthless to my future working with computers.

    The problem is that it’s really only a small number of us who can see to some degree where computing is going. Actually there are really only a small number of us who have any idea where it is currently! Most of us are fairly technophobic and only use email and visit websites because it seems like we have to. We’re being dragged kicking and screaming into the Web, or at least the Baby Boomers are.

    I consult on ‘social software,’ and I’m a high school drop-out. Certainly I learned none of what I know from the class I mentioned earlier. From that class I can only think of two bits of information that I retained:
    1. Punch Cards exist/existed
    2. Silicon Shrinks somehow or something like that

    My brother was in college taking classes to get a degree in “Instructional Design,” and from what I could tell, his professors were generally totally behind in their own understanding of current technologies.

    Maybe this problem that schools have with technology is just part of a bigger problem in our government in general:
    Our legislators, executives & judges are not required to understand current technologies. Really, I see no way for them to be when technology is a realm of such rapid change.

    I don’t know what the answer is, but it’s very scary to me to think that members of our government are increasingly so ignorant about aspects of policy that are increasingly so important to us.

    And back on the subject of schools, perhaps we should have different standards in place for who is allowed to teach students about technology, since technology itself is moving so fast. It seems to me like requiring teaching credentials of our technology experts almost insures that they wont be experts by the time they are ready to go in front of a class.

  3. donniesblog Says:

    It tells me that your son is locked in a WARP: Wondrous Applications Remediated Pathetically. Its a common theme in the public school system. Because, various employment institutions value stupid things like typing skills and “practice” of the same, your son will be locked in a 1950’s approach to 21st century skill building. Its easy to blame the teacher, administrator or board member; but realize that their ability to teach is far behind the rapid improvement of technology.

    Yank your kid out and apprentice him under your guidance (a return to the beginning of the guilded age of IT instruction) ~ only then will you see your child blossom magnificently!

  4. Dr. Ransom Says:

    @Debbie – yes, I am not sure what is going on, but I do plan to have a polite conversation with the principal to get perspective on the curriculum and how technology is envisioned as part of learning at the school.

  5. Dr. Ransom Says:

    @Andrew – you bring up a good point about preparing teachers for the word at present, when that reality will be somewhat out of date by the time they enter the classroom. I think that it is so important to prepare teachers to be participants in the culture that they will be working with and in, as well as being learners rather than just information sponges that result in a degree. Because, we are living in an age where things are changing so rapidly and we can’t let that throw us of and get stagnant or fixed in what is comfortable. I tell my students all the time that they have to be flexible and adaptable at picking up new tools as they emerge and perhaps abandoning old ones. And, they must be participants in this read/write world if they are to continue to be relevant in the classroom. Finally, they must be participants in this read/write world if they want to experience the power of connections and networks without limits or borders. In the end, it is the teacher who closes his or her classroom door and does things that are comfortable and familiar for the rest of their career that worry me the most.

  6. Stephen Ransom Says:

    @Donnie, it is interesting to watch the education community struggle with things like keyboarding vs. handwriting (both being taught concurrently now), while ignoring real powerful learning opportunities that can be achieved with computing technologies. I am not against keyboarding instruction or handwriting instruction – both are still important and have value. But, it is the unbalanced approach that concerns me. Stay tuned…

  7. greg kinslow Says:

    I would love to hear how the meeitng went. I am assuming you will go in there with some solutions. I am also assuming you dont want to overwhelm the principle with alot. What would be a non-overwhelming solution that the principle might comprehend? Another assumtion, he is probably not to aware of how technology can enhance the educational experience. I guess the best solution is to educate from the top down. Good luck Dr. Ransom.

  8. Stephen Ransom Says:

    @Greg – I am sure that I don’t have the whole story yet… and that perhaps even the principal may not be aware to the full extent what students are spending their time doing. To the computer lab model defense, it is a very ineffective model – going to the computer lab once a week for 30 minutes to “do computer”. We live in the time where we should never have to leave the classroom and schedule another room weeks in advance to continue learning. This all-to-common situation makes it virtually impossible to use computing technologies to support day-to-day instruction and learning in the classroom.

  9. Valerie Shaw Says:

    I teach communications in a small charter school on a Native American reservation, and keyboarding is part of my curriculum, as it is (or was, until the recent revision) part of the National Educational Technology Standards. I will still teach it, however, as keyboarding is an essential skill for using computers as well as for getting yourself through high school and college. However (and it’s a big “however”), keyboarding takes up a small fraction of my curriculum, where at different grade levels, students are exploring different aspects of technology and communications according to the benchmarks prescribed within the technology standards. Students are involved in relevant word-processing projects that actually reflect real-world events, desktop publishing projects used to publicize school activities, multimedia projects of all kinds, collaborative online projects and other interactive activities, and using databases and spreadsheets to track data to create graphs and charts, and designing tables and rubrics, among many other things, not to mention honing skills in areas like graphics and animation, as well as visiting really awesome comprehensive sites on the Web like Nationalgeographic.com (where they can build simulations of tornadoes and earthquakes) and Discovery.com (where they can take quizzes and watch educational videos on just about anything). There’s more to tell, but you probably get the drift, and if my keyboarding skills weren’t up to par, I wouldn’t be able (or willing) to tell you about all this. One of my eighth-graders now types at 53wpm; it’s her second year with me, and we spend 8 – 12 weeks on keyboarding, 2 – 3 days per week, 20 – 30 minutes of the class practicing with some excellent interactive software and Web sites (try bbc.co.uk/schools/typing). Keyboarding can be fun, too.

  10. Stephen Ransom Says:

    Valerie,
    I have no issues with keyboarding per se, and I totally agree that keyboarding proficiency is very important. However, my son is not getting anything like you describe in terms of integrating technologies and resources as part of learning. The whole curriculum is…. keyboarding. He is now in 4th grade, and guess what the technology curriculum entails? You guessed it – keyboarding! They have a mobile laptop lab and gets rolled in to do… keyboarding. Then, it gets rolled out. This state of affairs is a crime and a great waste of technology infrastructure and dollars.


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