Junior Years – Building Skills and Habits for Success

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Guest Post by Matthew Jorgensen, Microsoft Teacher Ambassador Queensland


Technology is often hard to implement in Primary Years. The touch screen, drag and drop device wave has catered for technology integration in our young students, but they need to be able to use a more productive ecosystem of hardware, operating systems and apps as their work gets more sophisticated. There is evidence that a reliance on easy-to-use touch screen devices, as opposed to those with keyboards, can be detrimental to a child’s development. The earlier we can enable student confidence with this more productive ecosystem, the better equipped our students will be to complete advanced tasks such as programming and multimedia creation.

iPads are often used with younger students because of their ease of use. However, this can be a negative if they are the only devices that our young students use. Literacy expert Sue Palmer explains  ‘we are giving our kids instant gratification all the time … and it makes it harder for them to persevere with something that takes a while to learn. There is a real fear that too much engagement with this quick-fix technology is making it more difficult for some children to read and write.’ (Source: Daily Mail)

Microsoft’s Windows 10 operating system has some great accessibility features that can assist students to perform those rudimentary tasks that our littlies sometimes struggle to execute. One such feature is the array of sign in options. If typing a password with a keyboard is beyond the age group, students can use a simple PIN (Personal Identification Number) to gain entry to the computer.

Even better than using a pin, students can use a picture log in. This works by choosing a picture and then performing 3 gestures on the picture that will act as a sequence which will allow access to the computer.

Edward C. Baig notes that ‘people will still need a more traditional computer. And the virtual onscreen keyboard that pops up when needed is fine for e-mails or scribbling notes, but I wouldn’t want to regularly write articles using it.‘ (Source: USA Today)

Windows 10 allows for an attachable keyboard for longer typing sessions, and a number of touch screen input options to use without the keyboard. To use the Surface in touch mode, simply remove the keyboard and choose Tablet Mode. The user then has a range of input methods to add text which customises the experience for the child.  Those options include:

Touch Keyboard – Standard The default layout provides a simple typing experience
Touch Keyboard – Full-size This layout gets you closer to a standard, hardware keyboard
Split Screen Keyboard The split screen layout is great for those that grip a tablet with a hand on either side
Pen Layout The Pen layout keyboard allows those with supportable hardware pen devices to add handwritten notes that Windows 10 automatically turns into text

Windows 10 is built for the touch generation, and when the touch device has a pen, young students can develop their tactile and fine motor skills. Students can use OneNote to practice their handwriting by tracing over the top of a template. Take that a step further, they can then press ‘Ink to Text’ and see how neat their writing is!

Sticking with OneNote, many of us will be familiar with the Learning Tools Add in. This awesome feature can help students improve their reading and writing skills. This includes gifted learners, students with learning differences or a combination of any of the broad range of unique student abilities.

Feature Proven Benefit
Enhanced dictation Improves authoring text
Focus mode Sustains attention and improves reading speed
Immersive reading Improves comprehension and sustains attention
Font spacing and short lines Improve reading speed by addressing “visual crowding”
Parts of speech Supports instruction and improves writing quality
Syllabification Improves word recognition
Comprehension mode Improves comprehension by an average of 10%


Apps are an ever-growing element of the Microsoft in Education mission. One easy to use app is Kids Story Builder. Students can use the device camera to take a photo and then record audio over the top. This is a great tool that allows students to demonstrate their learning and vocabulary without the constraints of time an accuracy associated with writing tasks.

So as you can see, there are a number of ways that teachers can cater for younger students inside the Microsoft in Education world. Young children love using technology and may surprise you with their ability to perform tasks that might be considered challenging. Balancing the easier to use tools with more complex hardware, applications and processes is simple with Microsoft in Educations tools.

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