- Associated Press - Tuesday, December 2, 2014

PETAL, Miss. (AP) - The only sound in teacher Barbara Oberst’s digital literacy class is the light tapping of dozens of fingers on computer keyboards. About 20 sixth-graders are concentrating intently on their computer screens as they practice their keyboarding skills.

“We know that this is the digital age,” Principal Gloria Wyatt says. “We know to be college- and career-ready they have to be proficient in these skills.”

All fifth- and sixth-graders at Petal Upper Elementary School take digital literacy every day. They learn everything one needs to know to use a computer properly.

“We teach Internet safety. We teach the use of strong passwords and of not sharing your password,” Oberst said. “We teach about keyboarding skills, cyberbullying and how to determine a legitimate website.”

Digital literacy begins in elementary school and continues through eighth grade. Second- and third-graders go to digital literacy class once a week. When the fifth- and sixth-graders get to Petal Middle School, they take Information and Communications Technology I and II.

Students need to be digitally literate to take the upcoming Common Core assessments, which are administered on computer. To prepare them for this, the students are using a web-based program called Reading Plus, which helps them with the how, what and why of what they read while broadening their interests and building knowledge.

The students must answer questions on their reading, composing directly to the computer screen. Their keyboards are covered by three-sided black boxes, so they have to type from memory.

“They will have to type a large portion of their answers, and I want their little fingers to know where to go,” Oberst said. “This is the first year they will have to create and compose, and this will prepare them for that, but the larger goal is to get them college- and career-ready.”

The students will practice additional skills, such as reading two documents and viewing a video, taking computer notes as they go. Then they compose their response to a question on the material.

Sixth-grader Robert Lee wasn’t thinking about the Common Core when he said the keyboarding exercises had helped him with his personal devices.

“I’m always using my phone at home,” he said. “It’s easier to do it.”

Classmate Christian Perry said he enjoys the exercises.

“I like that we get to type on computers,” he said. “It’s really fun to do.”

Oberst said the class gives students an instant feeling of accomplishment that adds to their enjoyment.

“They know what they’re supposed to do and they do it,” she said. “They enjoy that feeling of success “I’ve achieved something, and I’m growing.’”

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Information from: The Hattiesburg American, https://www.hattiesburgamerican.com


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