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Fairbanks North Star Borough School Board looks at keyboarding class

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Posted: Tuesday, October 15, 2013 12:00 am

FAIRBANKS — Students in Fairbanks North Star Borough schools might soon be doing a little less writing and a little more typing.

The school district is set to implement a new keyboarding curriculum at each of its elementary and middle schools — if the school board approves it today.

The new curriculum, called Typing Agent, will teach students to produce and publish written work on the computer through its Internet-based software.

Typing Agent wouldn’t be the first keyboarding program used in FNSB schools, but it would be the first to be implemented district-wide, according to Curriculum Coordinator Kathy Port.

Port said the district purchased a master license for a different keyboarding program about a decade ago. That program had several drawbacks and was only used in some schools.

Since it was not Internet-based, students could not take their work home with them. Beyond that, Port said, only three of the schools using the typing program were using it to track students’ progress.

The other schools simply had the program set up on standalone computers where students would

practice typing without any kind of progress report.

“Some schools were using free online programs. They were doing keyboarding but not anything that was district wide. Some were using a program that came for free with keyboards 10 years ago,” Port said. “It was time to upgrade to something that was district wide that was online,” Port said.

The new curriculum allows students to log into their own accounts from locations outside school, such as their homes or the library, to practice typing. The program also has a gaming component that teachers can turn on or off to make the learning more fun and to give students an incentive to reach a goal.

It also is compatible with iPads, which the district has begun using in several schools in recent years.

To utilize the program, the district purchased 7,000 licenses. Port said that number came about because the district estimates it has 1,000 students per grade level.

Each license costs 68 cents per year, adding up to a total cost of $4,760 annually.

The new curriculum comes, at least in part, as a response to the new Alaska state standards, which dictate students “demonstrate sufficient command of keyboarding skills to create a piece of writing,” by sixth grade and “use technology ... to produce and publish writing,” by eighth grade.

“Keyboarding is very much embedded in the standards so kids can succeed in digital projects,” Port said.

The state standards dictate the teaching of keyboarding skills as soon as third grade to achieve the necessary skill by the time students enter high school. Students in kindergarten through second grade in FNSB schools would not be taught keyboarding.

“There’s just too many other things going on for students that age to keyboard efficiently,” Port said.

Although the board has not officially approved the action for district-wide use, Port said, schools have already begun to implement the new curriculum.

Superintendent Pete Lewis recommended the board adopt the program for the whole district, and the school board’s curriculum advisory committee endorsed the recommendation at its Sept. 5, meeting.

The school board as a whole will vote on the program’s adoption at its regular meeting today.

Contact staff writer Weston Morrow at 459-7520. Follow him on Twitter: @FDNMschools.

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