You made those letters with that thing?

We take many things for granted. As a middle school teacher, it can be easy to take for granted that students can read.  It is only when something out of the ordinary happens that I am forced to question and think about the basics. Wait a minute, can this student read? Students can slip through the cracks at times and play the game in order to not be singled out. It is our job as teachers to find these students, of course, and help them through their struggles.

But how about digital literacy?  We have labeled young people as “digital natives” and think that they are technologically advanced just because of when they were born.

Although it may be true that young people pick up on aspects of technology before previous generations do, this is mainly because they are immersed in a culture full of electronics. Yes, students are able to quickly navigate through menus, search the web, and create more than young people have ever before.

But these talents are not genetic. Students must learn how to use these tools in order to be efficient and avoid frustration. As of right now, I find that many of my students do not have one of the basic skills necessary to efficiently use a computer: typing.

I recently had a seventh grader asking me to type sentences without looking at the keyboard. She was amazed that I could do such a neat trick and actually get the words right!

We are arming students at younger and younger ages with computers, but we are not helping them develop the skills that they need.  We can argue about the merits of handwriting and whether or not cursive should still be taught, but it cannot be denied that students will need to be able to use a keyboard. The hunt-and-peck strategy has got to go, and we need push students beyond their boundaries.  We need to adjust the teaching to match the technology. If we give a fourth grader a computer, they should begin learning about how to use it effectively.

I am a technology lover, but part of my love for technology is that I can use it in order to make life easier. We are taking for granted that students can type quickly and correctly, and students are slipping through the cracks.


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