Do you remember having ‘computers’ on your weekly class schedule? Every 7 days you would make 2 trips to the computer lab (a room with 30 or so computers) to learn how to type, to use the internet, word processing skills, and about other computer programs. It was also quite common to have one (and sometimes more) computers in your classroom too. I graduated from high school being very comfortable with my typing, word processing, and internet searching skills.
During report card time in my internship, I decided to take a look at my report card from grade four to compare with the grade four report cards that I was filling out. The marking was the same, full of As, Bs, Cs, Ds, and Fs (As and Bs only for me of course). With my report card comments, there was a letter attached addressed to my parents. This letter was typed in complete sentences, with little to no spelling errors, and written in paragraph form. I had typed this letter in grade four. I remember typing it too; learning how letters should look using Word and checking my spelling with Spell Check. I knew how to do all this in grade four! Shouldn’t that mean that the grade fours I was teaching should be at least building these skills?
It is becoming more and more common in schools to not have computer labs. The computers in the lab were given to classes and schools purchaced lap top carts. The school I interned at had two carts, which spent most of their time in the senior end of the school. The junior classes hardly used them at all, and the computers in the classes were used for interactive games (discovered by the teacher) or not at all. My class used the lap tops a few times to make wacky web tales and brainstorming mind maps. Sometimes, if someone finsished their recount or journal response early, they were allowed to type their work on the computer. And there they were, using one finger, not sure where the enter key is or how to erase a spelling mistake. They had not been exposed to the land of the computer, and if we are not exposing them in schools, where will they become familiar with it? Kids play games on their computers at home, not practice their typing skills. There may be a few homes that have interactive typing games, but a few is not enough.
What is going to happen if we do not have computer class for the students to learn the proper use of this box with a brain? Will computer labs become a room from our past, a room that schools do not have anymore? Do we as educators just assume that these skills will just be magically learned, or are we expected to schedule the time to teach Mavis Beacon Teaches typing in our very busy day plan, which gets difficult when having to book the lap top cart a week (or sometimes more!) in advance?
Personally I would like to see the return of computer labs, a place where students go to specifically learn the tricks of the trade… why are they disappearing anyways??