These opinions are my own based on my personal school-based experiences and recent postings from other therapists on social media
When is it time to discharge?
This is always one of the biggest questions when it comes down to CSE Meetings and whether or not to recommend services for students next year. Of course, in a school-based setting, the big ‘money makers’ are handwriting and now keyboarding. Before making that decision, I think that it is important to look at the student’s level of function in a particular environment. I feel that when we report progress a rubric is very important but so is the environment or context in which the skill is performed. When I look at either handwriting or keyboarding I look at the following:
Can the student perform the task automatically with my assistance in a therapy room?
Can the student perform the task automatically in the therapy room without my assistance?
Can the student perform the task automatically in a classroom with my assistance?
Can the student perform the task automatically in a classroom without my assistance?
This is an important factor that is left out of documentation on goal progress. Anyone that knows about me, knows that I love to use rubrics. I love documentation to be clear and concise, understood without my being there to explain. So I often base my documentation on the level of self-sufficiency-does the student have the power to perform the task over a wide range of activities and settings. In other words, is the handwriting or keyboarding at the level of being automatic? The DeCoste Writing Protocol is an evidence-based tool with some very good research supporting its development. Based on this research, both handwriting and keyboarding should be at the level of automaticity. If these skills are not automatic, then the focus in on the motor components of the task and therefore the student cannot meet the cognitive demands of the writing task. Basically, we will not know what the student has absorbed because he or she cannot get it on paper.
I remember hearing somewhere that in order to do your best on a test, you should take the test in the same location that the teaching or learning took place. Could that mean that a student may hand write better if he or she is in the room where they actually learned the skill? It is certainly an interesting point and possibly one for a good research study. Our goal is to have the student generalize the skills to all handwriting or keyboarding tasks-to become proficient. The Written Language Production Standards provides us with what is expected of a student with regard to handwriting and keyboarding at a particular grade level. Does your student meet those standards? Do you think that your student is capable of meeting those standards? Why or why not? Is the student capable of meeting those standards in a variety of settings without your support? Why or why not? I feel that I am not doing my job well, if I can’t answer these questions, my student is not performing as expected within the classroom and I have not offered alternatives.
There is also something else to consider and that is the student’s expectations and preferences. Is this student so overwhelmed with handwriting or keyboarding that they have just given up? I use The Student Interview to explore the student’s preferences and understanding of their own skills, i.e., what the student thinks they can do to what the parent thinks they can to and compare that to what I and the teacher see them do. The level of anxiety and frustration that a student experiences with not being able to express themselves on paper should be considered.
So while I would always like to think that OT RULES and I have all the answers, I don’t. What I do know is this, keep the student involved with determining goal progress, assess the skill across settings and keep the student in mind when determining where to go next, if anywhere. If you think that you can discharge a student when they can type 10 words a minute and they are in the 4th grade or above, think again. That student is not ready to handle the keyboard in the classroom.
Keyboarding in early elementary grades continues to work on developing familiarity with the keyboard. That means knowing all the letters and learning about where they are on the keyboard. It also means learning what fingers to use to strike each letter. Another factor is should the keyboard be a virtual [like an on-screen keyboard] or a standard keyboard. Well, a very small study (N=18) conducted by Brady Cline [http://www.bradycline.com/2013/in/ipad-typing/], showed that, “This small study makes it clear that the perception that students type faster on traditional keyboards is not correct for our current elementary students. In fact, students were slightly faster on a virtual keyboard than on a computer or iPad keyboard. ” I am all thumbs when typing on a virtual keyboard myself, but I don’t practice much. On a traditional QWERTY keyboard, I can type approximately 100 words per minute if my hands are positioned correctly and the keyboard is aligned with my midline. For me, if my body and the keyboard are not aligned, my error rate goes well beyond what is considered to be typical (93% accurate). So I believe that keyboarding should begin with learning the right body alignment and hand placement on the keyboard. About.com [http://video.about.com/familyinternet/Computer-Ergonomics-for-Kids.htm#vdTrn] has a nice little video about proper positioning when using a computer for kids.
Should we forgo handwriting replacing handwriting with keyboarding? NO! I am so happy to see that in the State of Utah,
The State School Board voted to approve the additions to the Utah Core Standards that include teaching manuscript and cursive writing and also include building fluency in reading cursive writing. Handwriting (both manuscript and cursive) is an important skill for students to learn. Teaching and practicing writing allows students to write letters correctly and efficiently. Fluent writers are able to focus on generating idea, producing grammatically correct text, and considering audience. Even when a student moves to a computer or other device, that writing fluency is important to the composing process. [http://www.schools.utah.gov/curr/langartelem/actions-and-programs/handwriting.aspx]
Keyboarding is handwriting’s complement for 21st century environments, and it is a practice that will become increasingly important for students’ writing success. Children access all types of technology at home—even before they attend school—and schools can provide the developmentally appropriate instruction to bolster their fluency and efficiency in using keyboard-input devices to make them truly “bilingual by hand” (Berninger, 2012). [WRITTEN-LANGUAGE PRODUCTION STANDARDS FOR Handwriting & Keyboarding (Grades K–8)]
I am so happy to see that Utah embraces the fact that students need handwriting but also need computing skills. Utah has a wealth of information on keyboarding and reinforces the concepts of computational thinking with computers. So with all that being said, during the next few years (K-3) children should be focusing on the following:
familiarity with the keyboard
touch typingskills for accuracy [speed is generally not assessed until the end of the 3rd grade or the beginning of the 4th]
familiarity with program features, such as spell check
Familiarity with a presentation and simple gaming style programming [PowerPoint, Xtranormal, etc]. The program chosen for the student should reflect his or her interest and skill.
At this age, keyboarding should be fun, creative and expressive. Children should experiment with different fonts, like different handwriting styles.
For the purposes of this series on Keyboarding, I will be referring to the standard QWERTY keyboard and 2-button mouse (with center scroll). The information in this post comes from my memory of past investigations of keyboarding and computer skills. I researched this topic quite extensively, reviewing the programs of a large number of districts throughout the United States and the standards outlined in ISTE, all of which I found on-line.
The Early Years (Pre-K)
Early computer skills include:
Developing accurate mouse skills (accurately reaching and clicking on the target)
Activating programming buttons using the mouse
Developing attention to the screen and the activity
Using ‘POWER’ keys, such as ‘ENTER,’ ‘TAB,’ and ‘SPACE BAR.’
Beginning letter recognition by depressing the requested key on the keyboard
When working with little ones, I used to use “Reader Rabbit.” The kids loved the “Follow Me Theater.” This is still available from Amazon and has worked on my Windows 7 computers, I am not sure about Windows 8. This is the type of programming that can support learning, imitation and fine motor movement, in addition to learning mouse skills. By Kindergarten, kids should be able to recognize and find all the letters in their first name. He or she should also be able to capitalize the first letter of their name and use lowercase for the remainder of the letters. Children , at this age, should be able to recognize and identify at least 20 letters [upper and lower case]. It is also a good idea, at this time, to experiment with different fonts–form consistency.
Be very careful not to make the computer the only activity that your child enjoys. Limit computer time to 10 minutes or so. Encourage plenty of gross and fine motor activities to prevent your child from developing a sedentary lifestyle.