THE BLOG

Common Core Testing Teaches Tots to Type

02/09/2015 04:52 pm ET | Updated Apr 11, 2015

The value of keyboarding classes has been debated for many years. While many feel that formal instruction is important in developing good habits, others argue that kids are typing on phones and tablets and using voice-to-text applications that make keyboards irrelevant. Common Core testing is now shaping that debate by positioning keyboarding skills as something else; an indirect way to measure student achievement.

Device Choice Impacted by Common Core Testing Requirements

The Common Core testing takes place online. Several devices can be used, including iPads. But, what many schools didn't know until recently is that a physical keyboard is a mandatory test requirement. So much for touch typing on the screen. Students are now faced with the prospect of using an input device they have little experience with, a keyboard. This has school administrators calling for keyboarding classes and computer labs like we had back in the 1990's.

In terms of typing, this is a growing pain. If it hasn't been a priority for schools, they are realizing now that it is one. -Luci Willits, Smarter Balanced Assessment Consortium

The need for keyboarding skills will also impact device choice. The Common Core initiative will push schools to abandon tablets and buy laptops for their 1:1 programs and computer labs. This will take time, and it will be especially difficult for those systems that have invested heavily in tablets.

Mobile Carts vs. Computer Labs

The popular approach of tablets for students, and mobile labs for classroom integration doesn't address formal keyboard instruction. Common Core has intentionally made keyboarding an important skill, and unintentionally reversed years of progress towards integrated technology in the classroom by scaring schools into adopting computer lab models where students will focus on computer skills with little, or no curriculum connections.

Of course it doesn't have to be an either/or situation when it comes to labs and carts, but the reality is school budgets don't usually support enough technology to do both. Especially, at the elementary level. Common Core testing begins in grade three.

Elementary Students and Keyboarding

A child's lack of fine motor skills can make it difficult to use a keyboard. That's part of the reason so many elementary schools have adopted iPad's and other touchscreen devices. Most experts agree that children are ready for keyboard use by second or third grade, but it can often be a frustrating experience.

Regardless of how students learn to type, one thing is clear. Engagement in meaningful keyboarding activities is the best way to learn keyboarding. Online discussion groups, non-repetitive lessons, and authentic tasks are far more enjoyable and meaningful. Teachers can continue to help students most by designing engaging and meaningful lessons focused on curriculum content.

Common Core is a Trojan horse full of unintended consequences. While the efforts are noble, and the intent is good, the current program is neither fair nor practical. Not all schools are not equipped to test online, and many will sacrifice valuable instructional time and resources to comply with federal mandates. But keep the faith, for as Greek philosopher Heraclitus once said, "There is nothing permanent except change."