Touch Screen is the New Touch Typing?

Touch Screen is the new Touch Typing.

While schools have made an effort to integrate computers and mobile technology into the curriculum - with some great success stories readily available for all to see and read - can the same be said for the skill and art of typing?

It appears the more formal and traditional typing class has gone. Now, I am not saying that we should have 50 minutes worth of typing scheduled into the timetable, but how are we able to prepare students for the further if we move away from necessary skills?

It seems that a considerable emphasis, rightly or wrongly, is placed on students creating and consuming.  Young people have become significant users of the technology around them: moving icons and text with the simplest of finger swipes, professional style photos without an actual camera and Snapchat filters, to name a few.  Arguably, the keyboard has become somewhat of an under-utilised accessory with more and more students clicking or dragging the correct answer on an online exam, browsing the school's digital library or scrolling through celebrity news.  Has the interface changed so dramatically, that typing and the keyboard are no longer necessary?

But, wait.

"The skill of writing something using a computer."

And a skill it is ... 

If I am not mistaken, students are still submitting essays, whether they are written by hand, with pen and paper or typed using - yes - a keyboard.  An opinion, maybe, but students need to know how to use the keyboard to write their extended essays, science reports, or English coursework.  Let me take this further.  How much time might be saved over the course of one school year if students were able to touch type and not just touch a screen? 

"It is established that normal users using a QWERTY on a touchscreen device are limited to typing at a rate around 20 words per minute, which is slow compared to the entry rates users can typically achieve on physical keyboards." (The University of St. Andrews, 2013).

Assuming that without keyboarding skills, students run the risk of falling behind in their classwork leading to a downward spiral in academic performance, college applications and workforce performance.  When will you next check that your students can, in fact, type and are not just punching keys?

Mr Towse


2013 | Thumbs Up For Faster Texting | University Of St Andrews. (n.d.). Retrieved from,217680,en.php

Seesaw 5.0: It's a Game Changer!

Can You See What I Saw: One Year On!

"Seesaw 5.0 is an absolute game-changer!"

Last year, sat in a hotel lobby in India I was a part of the Summer cohort of Seesaw Ambassadors. One year on and it has gone from strength to strength, and shows minimal signs of stopping. Seesaw and Seesaw 5.0 is an absolute game-changer in education.  Seesaw fails to surprise me; it just keeps getting better and better!

As a Seesaw Ambassador based in Tokyo, Japan, I am available to lead training sessions for individual staff and as school wide PD.  I am excited for the year ahead as my school has committed to rolling out Seesaw for 2017-18.  

I was reading through the IBOs The Role of ICT in the PYP and this particular paragraph resonated with me....

"It is worthwhile to note that there will be opportunities for student-initiated, spontaneous inquiries into the use of ICT that are not directly related to any planned units of inquiry or single-subject areas. For example, a student contributing to a class blog may want to start his or her own blog as a personal reflection journal. These are valuable teaching and learning opportunities in themselves, and provide teachers and students with the opportunity to apply the pedagogy of the PYP to authentic, of-the-moment situations."

I would like to break this down further...

a student contributing to...his or her own blog as a personal reflection journal.

After using Seesaw with students for a little over a year increasingly, I noticed how students shift from the consumer of technology to creators and are empowered when using Seesaw. My mantra is giving students the opportunity to think, create and publish, and Seesaw does it all.

Getting Started

Things to consider:

  • Introducing to Students
    • Get them using it, don't just talk to them about Seesaw- After all, it is a student-driven learning journal.
  • Building Routines
    • Embed it into classroom routines; take a look at what you already have and see how it might enhance current practice
  • Digital Citizenship
    • use this opportunity to talk digital literacy and commenting with Seesaw

Seesaw 5.0

What to expect:
  • Seesaw has just got a make over, and the new look is slick!
    • Customise theme and icon; pick a colour theme and class icon to personalise your class.
  • Simplified class experience;  no more digging to find the tools you need: Journals, Blog, Skills, Inbox and class settings are all on one screen.
  • *Game Changer* Announcements & Messages
    • The ability for teachers to send notifications and messages is brand new in Seesaw 5.0
  • New Family App (Formerly Parent App - FYI it just requires an update!)
    • Feed or Calendar view; Filter by folders; Inbox: This section shows all announcements and private messages from their children’s teachers.

Seesaw Plus

Seesaw Plus is a paid offering with additional tools to support formative assessment and student growth.  With Seesaw Plus you'll have access to a private teacher-only folder, private teacher notes, and skills view. A perk for Seesaw Ambassadors!

To get yourself an extra month of Seesaw Plus, Scan my QR Code!

Otherwise....there is always this email I have been using with my contacts....

Hi - I’ve been using Seesaw - an awesome, free digital portfolio and parent communication tool.

Sign up today using my link, and we’ll both get an extra month of their premium features for free!

For now, I will leave Seesaw 5.0 with you, and I hope this blog post was of use - feel free to share :) 

Looking for individual PD or planning a whole school session, as always Tweet me @MrTowse

What Happened When I Asked My Class to Google Me!?

Well, I have just finished another set of lessons, and in this latest cycle, I have worked with Ms Carnright, ES School Counsellor, and our homeroom teachers in grades three and four.

During this cycle, I attended Tokyo's Google Office and YouTube space, where I learned that when it comes to career aspirations, being a YouTuber is amongst the top three pathways. Based on this information, I wondered: how many of the students I teach are on this same pathway? A simple Google search and browse of YouTube and I soon uncovered the answer to this very question.  Before I continue, a little disclaimer: I fully embrace the power of social media. However, we do not allow students to create personal channels using their educational domain email. [Insert PSA announcement].

Thinking back, it was not until I moved to Tokyo as an Ed Tech Specialist that I discovered the power of social media and YouTube. While training to be a teacher in England, I learned that social media could make or break careers. In fact, even before that it was part of my program director's selection process, Facebook quickly became very public and social media quickly became everyone's business. I have previously blogged about the power of Twitter and how I had a "false start" before taking off - Tweet Tweet!

Heading into these grade three and four collaborative lessons, I decided to Google myself to see what I could find. At first glance, I am a professional cricketer by name, though clearly this is not my chosen profession. The graphic above is my digital watermark. I use Blogger, so you'll find my blog homepage, top hitting posts and authored posts, my Twitter profile is a hit as is my YouTube channel and Google+.  (Feel free to let me know if you find any other hits - FYI, I am not a cricketer). Listening to Dr. Alec Couros who stated, "who doesn't have an online presence nowadays?", and knowing full well that our students (especially the older ones) Google us, I believe it's our responsibility to ensure we leave a positive digital legacy. 

I wanted to use the time with students for them to reflect on their online presence. Working with Ms. Carnright, she and I explored with the girls the notion that our presence, both online and offline, should evoke pride and a positive response from others . How we portray ourselves on social media represents who we are and what we stand for, whether that is our intention or not. As part of this lesson, students were asked to create a digital graphic which was a representation of their digital lives (see images below). 
Unfortunately, we live in a world where everything isn't a bed of roses, and some people make the choice to leave comments, remarks and pictures that are hurtful and unwelcomed. Through contextual and embedded digital citizenship lessons, I believe that we can prepare our students to handle the degree of anger, insults and hatred that is strewn across the internet. Cliche maybe, but I ask myself: "Would I want my Nan seeing this post?"

So, give it a go.  Google (or any other search engine will do) yourself. What do you notice?  What is your online story?  Moreover, does it say what you want it to say about who you are?

I will leave it there for now, but as always I would love to connect and hear your thoughts.  How are you preparing students to be responsible digital citizens?

~Mr Towse

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