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Byron Elementary balances keyboards and pencils in curriculum


BYRON, Minn. (KTTC) -- Keyboards and computers are replacing pencils and paper in classrooms more and more every year. All across the country, spiral notebooks have been largely replaced by iPads and laptops.

"Certainly as time goes on, we need to evolve and meet the needs of our students and learners,” said Byron Public Schools superintendent Jeff Elstad.

The art of cursive handwriting is on the decline, Elstad said, and he admits he doesn't use script in his everyday life himself. Students, he says, probably won't either. "Certainly we're going to continue to teach cursive in third grade because it does have some value, but again it goes back to relevance and what we're being asked to teach, which is much more expansive than it was years ago,” Elstad said.

In fact, new standards for safe digital and social media in schools have put new pressures on teachers. But has it phased out cursive as we know it?

"We're trying to find ways to find a hybrid. Because we do know that you have to balance whether it's manuscript or cursive, or certainly keyboarding. You have to find a balance, because sometimes you're asked to provide written communication and sometimes that communication can't come from a keyboard,” Elstad said.

At Byron Elementary School, teachers are trying a new approach to written communication. "This summer our teachers came together and evaluated what are the best practice sort of strategies that are out there for teaching cursive and its relevance in our society?" Kids will be getting the same amount of cursive writing practice no matter who their teacher is. "In 3rd grade in Byron, we'll be teaching cursive about 10 minutes per day,” said Elstad.

But the days of tracing letter after letter until the calligraphy is perfect may be coming to an end. "We still need to make sure that, again, we provide the best of both worlds, and then continue to evolve our education system to meet the needs of learners for the 21st and 22nd century," he said.

Elstad said kids have access to computers and iPads every day and in the near future he expects there to be a one-to-one iPad-to-student ratio in the elementary schools.

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