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Type To Learn gives students basic 21st century skills

“Teach typing to every 3rd – 8th grade student over a two year period.”
 
Many of District 150’s priorities for 2014-2015 could not be accomplished without first giving attention to the typing priority. If the ultimate purpose of expanding AVID, IB, High Ability Learner and STEM programs is to propel more District students to college and beyond, learning to accurately and quickly type, use keyboard shortcuts and navigate with a mouse and pull-down menus is vital. Writing college research papers generally requires an accurate typing speed of about 40 words per minute (WPM). High school and college studies also require the knowledge of word processing, spread sheet and presentation programs.
 
Like learning to play a musical instrument, serve a volleyball or shoot a basketball, typing is a physical skill that requires repetition and drilling. Peoria Public Schools uses Type To Learn to introduce keyboarding skills to students. The Type To Learn software program has over 100 lessons for grades 1 – 8. Each lesson includes five skill-building games and provides students with research-based, sequential, cumulative touch-typing instructions.
 
Lavon Warfield  
Lincoln K-8 third grader Lavon Warfield, triumphant after
scoring 100 percent accuracy, is set to play Drone Control.
 
The Type To Learn program is available on all District classroom, computer lab and library computers and also can be used at no charge on a student’s home computer. Because the program tracks students’ skill levels, it allows schools to develop incentive programs and contests to motivate students. “I really have not had much need to motivate students to use Type To Learn,” reports Calvin Coolidge Middle School teacher Michelle Kuby. “Many students come in to class asking if they can use Type To Learn. They love the games and race against each other. They compete against each other and the student with the highest score receives ‘Coolidge Cash’.”
 
Kathleen Gondeck, K-4 technology teacher at Lincoln K-8 introduces students to Type To Learn in the first grade. “At that age, the children have really small fingers and their motor skills are still developing, but the Type To Learn program accommodates the abilities of young students,” says Gondeck. “They start with pre-Lessons A and B. Then they take a pre-test to assess their ability and then start on Lesson 1.”
As students follow the drills, a keyboard and two ghost-like hands, called avatars, appear on the screen to show students the proper placement of their hands on the home keys and the letter keys the lesson is covering. Gondeck says during Grade 1 and 2, students still tend to use only one hand or a “hunt and peck” style of typing. “I really see a difference at the beginning of third grade. Their skill level really improves and they begin to type with two hands,” she says.
 
As students complete each lesson, they receive an immediate report of the accuracy percentage and Words Per Minute (WPM) as well as an “award medallion” on the screen. Once a lesson is completed, they can pick from five games to play which continue to strengthen typing skills. For example, Drone Control, which helps students improve typing speed, requires the typist to type commands and information to the pilot of an unmanned drone vehicle. Drone Control is the most popular according to technology teachers. Another game, Dig This, which focuses on accuracy and smooth typing cadence, includes an optional metronome beat to help students improve cadence. Some of the games also include narrative descriptions, but if a child comes across an unfamiliar word, a click of a horn icon will allow them to listen to the narrative on headphones. Type To Learn lessons and games tend to be outer-spaced-themed which also makes them very kid-friendly, says Gondeck.
 
Type To Learn also allows students to develop narrative writing skills. Grade-level-appropriate writing prompts ask students to type original answers to prompts such as, “What kind of pet would you like to have?” or “If you had a robot, what would you tell it to do?”
 
WW T2L   WW t2L2
Woodrow Wilson Primary School third graders master typing with two
hands on the keyboard.
 
 
District students generally visit the computer lab every other day to use both Type To Learn and Compass Learning. Some schools, including Thomas Jefferson Primary School, also allow students to use Type To Learn at the end of class after they have completed all their assignments.
 
“The technology teacher, Mrs. Heerman, uses ClassDojo points for every lesson that they complete, which is a great incentive for these students,” says Thomas Jefferson teacher and key communicator Elizabeth Smiley. “If they earn 30 points on Type To Learn, they earn a free computer day for a class. Overall, Type To Learn is a great program!”
 
As Peoria Public School students progress through middle school grades, the basic keyboarding skills learned through Type To Learn are used to master software programs more familiar to many adults: students learn Microsoft Excel in middle school Paxton-Patterson labs and many classes use Microsoft Power Point for student presentations.