Everything I am I owe to learning touch-typing

Last night I met a middle school technology teacher and I asked her what her students learnt in class. She shocked me by replying “keyboarding”. The heightened level of shock may have been due to the St Patrick’s Day drinking that preceded my question but I had expected her to say digital literacy, e-safety, perhaps a little programming, or worst case scenario, that her students learnt how to use different software packages, perhaps Google Apps or Microsoft Office. The last thing I expected to hear was “keyboarding.

My shock turned to frustration on behalf of her kids. How boring to be drilling through qwerty keyboard exercises – exercises that haven’t significantly changed since I learnt to type in 1976! How can these kids possibly be engaged! They must be using games like tux-typing (open source option) or other games like 2Type (I first tried this out in 2005), or maybe they have gone all out and bought TTRS ? My new tech teacher friend (NTTF) responded that the problem with typing games are that the kids get too into trying to achieve success in the game and forget that they are aiming to “master the home keys”, though she did mention Dance Mat,  from the BBC and, ironically, just one small part of its great looking KS2 (grades 2-6) Computer Science and ICT course.

My NTTF obviously uses games sometimes but mainly relies on repetition whilst walking around the class correcting posture and fingering errors. Horrendous memories flooded back of drilling on a manual keyboard belonging to a big black monster object which looked similar to this:

From http://clickthing.blogspot.co.uk/2012/06/unsound.html
From http://clickthing.blogspot.co.uk/2012/06/unsound.html

Aaaa, ssss, dddd, ffff, asdf, asdf, qaz, wsx, edc, rfv tgb – oh the joy of graduating to “The quick brown fox jumps over the lazy dog”. If I can’t type that phrase now quickly and comfortably on a new keyboard then that keyboard just ain’t good enough. 

But this morning, when the effects of the St Patrick’s day Guinness had worn off, I questioned my knee-jerk response to my NTTF. After all it was only 10 years ago that I visited my own secondary school’s feeder primary schools in the UK strongly recommending that they use some of their ICT teaching time with their years 5 and 6 to teaching typing skills. My argument was that students who were able to touch type were more confident on computers in KS3 (grades 7-9) and finding it easier, and much faster, to produce the coursework requirements for GCSEs (grades 10/11) – and in the KS3 ICT curriculum at secondary school there was no space for teaching typing skills (there still isn’t).

Fom my own history – if I hadn’t done those drills back in 1976, I would never have become a typesetter, would never have got a job at The Independent newspaper, would never have learned web development, would never have become a teacher, would never have worked at the Open University and certainly wouldn’t be writing this!

Do I think children need to be able to touch type on a qwerty keyboard? Yes. Do I think they are learning a skill they will use for the rest of their lives? Probably. Could they learn a different keyboard layout, i.e. Dvorak or alphabetic, and also type faster? Possibly. Will we ever know? Not any time soon. For fun do check out the Open Steno Project – after all these guys are the very fastest typists on earth.

So on that basis, I think that parents need to help their kids learn touch typing, starting on small keyboards for small hands. Some interesting articles worth reading about this are listed below. But do I think middle schools should spend 90 hours of kids time learning to touch type — at the expense of some other very important digital literacy subject matter? No. Make it homework, make it a lunchtime club, make it a valued skill? Yes.

typing certificate
Health Warning – difficult application for anyone with Dyslexia – letters swim across the screen.

Teaching Keyboarding: More Than Just Typing by Linda Star, Education World
Elementary students learn keyboard typing ahead of new Common Core tests by Lyndsey Layton, The Washington Post

 

More about video for video feedback

I spent the last couple of days emerging again into the world of edtech having hibernated over the winter. On Tuesday I went to a Meetup in Portland that attracted way more people than the basement room was built for, nevertheless it was a good way to meet people – we were all close!

I met a couple of guys who had driven down from Seattle for the event. They talked me through their video platform startup, circleHD.com. It sounded pretty interesting and I am still testing it. The main positive points from an edtech point of view, was that a teacher could have a free account, could store videos and share videos from their platform and, and this is the important bit, get some analytics from views. They say that are also including an annotation – which I haven’t found yet but will come back and write more when I have.

movenote in action
Capture from movenote review page

Yesterday I attended AcceleratED16 – a conference for education adminstrators (senior leadership team in UK speak) organised by OETC (an organisation that promotes edtech and arranges discounts for its members).

During one of the sessions on the professional development track Jennifer Scypinksi demonstrated using movenote to deliver a weekly newsletter presentation to staff.

I have been looking at it today in order to evaluate its use as a feedback tool to students. And I think it could be very good indeed. I have made one recording so far, though I nearly gave up because I had to fiddle around for hours to get Adobe Flash Player to listen to my microphone (switched from Chrome to Firefox in the end to get it to work). I am generally pleased with the result and I think it has real possibilities. I will need to rerecord this one because I’m not happy with the camera position.

After that I am going to compare movenote to screencastify and will post the results here.

#altc winter conference 2015

All the links from my presentation at #altc, given today

The background story went more like this though….

3.45am huge crashing sound, monsoon rain and howling gale…. really scary…. followed by

3.55am BLACKOUT …. phoned it in (on 1 bar phone access) …. went back to bed…. lay there….

4.35 am decided to drive to Starbucks, could still get there by 5.30am if I moved it…..

5.05 on my way out the door, the leccy flickered back on…..

5.07 and off….

5.20ish and on…..on…. phew… omg… I needed coffee so bad!

pouring coffee
animated coffee (lost attribution, so sorry!)

5.45am (have faffed around with mic for 10 minutes – I h8 windows 8)

6am Gave presentation , lots of people, not a lot of questions.

6.30am phew its over….. another cup of coffee

6.45am some really useful comments on my draft paper (see link above)

Thanks #altc… that was fun!

software to use for video feedback (assessment)

This goes alongside my paper about using video feedback for assessment with students. This is the correct link.

Evaluating software we can use to give video feedback to students:

Created with Compare Ninja

#dlrn – indie edtech – punk

 

There’s a bit of a jam going on, interpreting the riffs created by Jim Groom and Adam Croom (is the poetry why these guys got together in the first place? I’d like to think that.) at #dlrn. Doug Belshaw, Greg McVerry and several followers of #dlrn15 and #indieedtech joining in.

It’s Sunday here, raining steadily outside so instead of that hike I’d promised myself I have been inspired by Adam to watch the BBC’s Music for Misfits: the Story of Indie in three parts. It’s been helpful, partly because I was able to get to grips with my niggling discomfort with Adam’s USA centric presentation of Indie music; it turns out the UK and USA stories are very different. Jim and punk, well that’s another story – punk was all about DIY – fashion, art, even enterprise which eventually killed it. So these guys were conflating edupunk and indieedtech and all I kept coming back to was the phrase “long tail of edtech” and even Minds On Fire (Seeley Brown and Adler 2008). No mistake, I loved the #dlrn15 presentation and was carried away by their brilliant and fun analogies, but I was wondering where all the other genres, the little guys, fit in, you know, like _____ (insert own preferred genre) jazz?

So one of the things that the BBC programme made clear about the 80s indie scene in the UK was that it was funded, for distribution purposes, by the huge companies – EMI – Heavenly, Sony – Creation. The Indie scene changed and is still changing, but we still need people to find the quality. Is this is a bit like VC or HE funding the thinkers and dreamers Mike Caulfield mentioned during the final #dlrn session? I had forgotten that entrepreneurial part of the tale, instead remembering the earlier 70s indie story as being one of self-publishing and distribution (Zoo Records), which did resonate more closely with Jim and Adam’s narrative.

I was reminding myself about edupunk and it became clearer why Mike Caulfield stated that edtech was stuck in 2008; possibly the statement that kicked me in the gut harder than any other during #dlrn. Jim first coined edupunk in 2008, the Minds on Fire article was published in 2008, MOOCs erupted 2008, but does that really mean that there have been no new edtech ideas, or is it something else, what else is Mike thinking of? I resisted Mike’s statement which has kept echoing around my brain; selfishly personal because I don’t want to feel that now, when I finally have some time and space to think, write, connect about edtech rather than adopt, teach and fight for it, there isn’t anything new to think about. Really? No, I just don’t and will not accept that. It’s why I keep listening out for new voices in music – I don’t care about the big genres, any genre will do, just let me hear something that moves me or gets me moving. Like 3 For Silver (genre = anti-Americana), playing at the harvest festival in Camas a couple of weeks ago. First I saw the bass… DIY’d out of a galvanised wash tub and then I heard the guy sing, this band were so brilliant even my metal head partner (Metallica fan) was dancing rather than head-banging. But each to their own, you might hate the sound, who knows.

Perhaps the big idea side of edtech has slowed down (too much money embedded in the body not enough in the long tail), but perhaps it just means we now have to play the music; we have to use the ideas and technologies to educate, to reach the promise that many of us embraced edtech for in the first place. To fund the long tail with our time and energy. To turn our thinking onto the pedagogy, on using the tech, improving the tech, in order to spread education, openly beyond the cultural silos of the English-speaking nations, so abundantly represented at #dlrn.

An evaluation of the use of screencasting and video for assessment feedback in online higher education

1st Draft Video Feedback Paper

This is the first draft re-write of a paper I wrote last year. My intention is to present this within the context an evaluation of specific software and applications that teachers can use for making screencasts and videos of feedback for their students.

 

Final poster

I am including this here, because otherwise the process would seem somewhat incomplete. I have used printers (Redcliffe Imaging Limited) I found via Google, who also offer a 30% discount to education users and also to NHS staff. They were incredibly efficient, returning my poster in a day. It has been printed on material so that I can fold it easily and carry it in any bag – not a cheap option but hopefully a sensible onefinal.