Keyboarding: An essential skill

As we continue to prepare for our 1:1 initiative, a few families have inquired about keyboarding software or sites so their sons can practice over the summer.
While we do not have a formal keyboarding program in the MS, please feel free to explore these options if your son’s keyboarding skills are not as refined.

Websites that provide online practice:

  • Glencoe’s Online Keyboarding
  • Yahoo’s TyperShark
  • Sense-Lang’s Touch Typing Instruction
  • BBC’s Dance Mat Typing
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    Software that can be loaded on home computers:

  • TuxTyping
  • Yahoo’s Typershark also offers a Deluxe version

  • Please encourage your son to practice over the summer because we will have a competition at the start of school to see who can keyboard the greatest accuracy and speed.

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    St. Christopher’s is now a Google Apps for Education School width=In December 2010, St. Christopher’s became a Google Apps for Education School. This program provides educational institutions with a suite of tools that will provide our students and teachers with greater opportunities for communication and collaboration internally and also with students and teachers from around the world.

    Why move to Google Apps? With the pending 1:1 laptop program in the MS and US, the tech department believed this would provide our students and teachers with tools that supports the list of Essential Skills for the 21st Century developed by the thinking task force. In addition to supporting those skills, Google Apps is a web based product that doesn’t require the installation of software or a specific operating system(OS) to run. And best of all, using Google Apps for education comes at no cost to the school.

    Beta Testing Google Apps: We currently have over 200 students and teachers using Google Docs in each of the 3 divisions.  Google Docs is 1 of 6 applications available through Google Apps.  Essentially, Google Docs is an office suite that provides word processing, spreadsheets, presentations, forms, and drawings.  File storage is done in the cloud(on Google’s servers) and students and teachers can share files easily. NO MORE THUMBDRIVES and hopefully less paper.

    Will STC be abandoning Microsoft Office in 2011? No.  We plan on phasing out Microsoft Office for students and teachers but the tech department needs to evaluate if Google Docs will satisfy all curricular requirements.

    Will STC start using Gmail? Possibly. Email is a very complex server application and we have intentionally steered clear of interrupting service during the school year because of the complexity. Serious consideration however is being given to providing students with Gmail perhaps as early as the Fall of 2011 but additional research needs to be done.

    Please revisit this blog to see what other tools we are using to support our boys.

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    The Upper School’s Open Model

    Image from:

    So what exactly is an open model? An open model is a 1:1 computer model where students are permitted to use any computer as long as it satisfies the minimum requirements established by the St. Christopher’s Technology Department.

    Can I use an iPad? The St. Christopher’s Tech Department does not recommend the iPad as a student’s primary computer at this time.  It is possible that it will become a viable option as the iPad’s capabilities are improved, but at present the issues with printing and network file manipulation (among others) prevent it from doing all that is needed as a primary computer for our model.

    I’m going to purchase a new computer.

    What should we avoid? Our research suggests that students should avoid laptops with screens that are 15 inches or greater.  The goal of your son’s laptop is to provide easy access to applications and the web for research, projects, homework, and communication.  It is not designed to be a desktop replacement. Students who purchased these large laptops at other schools often ended up asking for smaller laptops later in the year because of bulkiness, weight, and less than satisfactory battery life.

    What do you recommend? Based on our vendor relationships, we recommend the following computers:

    Apple: Present models of the MacBook, MacBook Pro, and MacBook Air computers will all meet the school’s minimum standards.  Note that the MacBook Air is a machine built for portability but that you will likely need another Macintosh (usually a desktop) at home for software installation, updates, etc. (or at least an external CD/DVD drive).

    On the Windows side, we have had good experiences with Dell and Hewlett-Packard machines, but there are certainly other quality vendors as well.  If you purchase a netbook, pay special attention to the hardware included (most do not include a CD/DVD drive, for example).

    We plan to establish relationships with vendors on both platforms by the end of the school year that might assist parents in finding specific, appropriate models and (we hope) will provide a bit of a price break as well.

    What are the minimum hardware requirements for Windows, OSX, and Linux?

    *Click on the table to see a larger image

    *Note that the age “requirement” is actually a suggestion based on experience in education settings, and does not mean that any machine over 3 years is unacceptable.  Note, however, that older machines often have speed, memory, battery life, and other limitations that might render them less-than-adequate for the tasks required.

    What productivity software should be installed on the computer?

    St. Christopher’s standard software suite is Microsoft Office, available for both the Windows and Macintosh platforms.  However, any approach that will allow students to both open and save in Microsoft Office format is acceptable (Open Office, Google Docs, any software package that provides built-in translators to and from Word/Excel/PowerPoint).

    Are there any recommended accessories? Yes!

    *for new computers

  • an extended warranty (costs to repair a portable computer are high)*
  • accidental warranty (warranties do not cover abuse, theft, or accidental damage)*
  • an external CD/DVD drive if your computer does not have one built in*
  • high capacity battery if available*
  • external hard drive for backing up files
  • additional AC power adapter (in case you want to have one at school and one at home)
  • headset or ear buds (for private listening)
  • protective portable computer sleeve or backpack with a computer compartment
  • micro-fiber cleaning cloth to remove fingerprints on the screen
  • Have a question? Enter your questions or comments by clicking  the “leave a comment” link below and someone from the tech department will respond as soon as they are able.

    Posted in Announcement, US | Tagged , , , , | 2 Comments

    St. Christopher’s Technology Access Model

    November 23, 2010

    Dear 5th through 11th Grade Parents,

    As we mentioned when we conducted our recent technology surveys, St. Christopher’s is planning a change to our technology access model beginning in the 2011-2012 school year. We have arrived at this decision having considered many factors:

    • What will best support the school’s curriculum and pedagogy?
    • What is developmentally appropriate for boys?
    • What are the financial implications for both parents and the school?

    More than 70% of parents completed the surveys, and we learned a number of important things from your feedback. Ninety-four percent of respondents agree or strongly agree that it is important for St. Christopher’s to increase student access to and use of technology. Results also indicate strong parent support for an enhanced level of technology integration into our program. Lastly, your feedback confirmed that approximately two-thirds of our Upper School families already have a portable computing device their sons can use at school.

    We heard from you on a number of issues we have been considering as we shape our second century technology vision. We know that with expanded access comes an increased need for cyber safety and digital citizenship. We recognize that asking parents to invest in enhanced academic tools carries with it a responsibility to see that we use those tools in a significant and meaningful way to enhance teaching and learning. We are also committed to addressing the logistical issues associated with this model. This past summer we strengthened our wireless infrastructure. We are in the process of improving access to power across campus, and we are making plans for safe storage of individual computers.

    There are a number of reasons why an expanded access model makes sense for St. Christopher’s at this time.

    • There is an increased demand for access on the part of both teachers and students.
    • Research into boys and learning shows that use of technology is an effective way to engage boys.
    • Effective use of technology has been identified by the faculty as a key 21st century leadership skill, and we are establishing K-12 benchmarks for student technology skills and teacher use.
    • An ever-expanding variety of electronic resources, including digital books, provide new tools for teaching and learning and promise reduced costs.

    After careful consideration, we have elected to expand to a 1:1 computer access model that will be phased in over a two-year period. We are taking this approach to ensure we go about this in a careful, effective way and because we understand the economic impact of this move. We have targeted the 7th grade to begin the Middle School transition. Boys in grades 9 and 10 will launch the program in the Upper School.

    The Middle School will follow a 1:1 standardized model in which all Middle School students will own the same type of portable computer that they will use daily at school and at home. Beginning next year, families of 7th grade students will be asked to pay for their portable computer over a three-year period. We have not finalized the decision regarding which portable computer the Middle School will adopt but are estimating payments of $400-500 per year. As soon as we determine which portable computer the Middle School will use, we will inform 7th grade families how to go about purchasing their sons’ computer through the school. One of the reasons for standardization in the Middle School is to streamline installation of the various types of software used in the division as well as to provide consistency with the younger boys in the maintenance of their computers and the monitoring of their use. Though the boys in grades 6 and 8 will not have their own computers until the year after next, 2012-13, they will benefit from increased access to netbook carts and ongoing integration of technology into their programs during the 2011-12 school year.

    The Upper School will follow a 1:1 open model in which each boy in grades 9 and 10 will be required to bring a computer to school each day that meets specific minimum standards set by the school. Each family will be free to acquire the portable computer of their choice through whichever provider they select. More information will be available next semester as we provide Upper School families with the minimum hardware requirements. We are also exploring options for families to purchase their computers from vendors with whom we will establish relationships. Our decision to follow an open model was influenced by the number of families who already have computers their sons may use at school. Upper School parents considering a technology purchase during the holidays are advised to consult the school prior to making a major purchase. In keeping with our current policy, juniors and seniors are welcome to bring computers to school next year, but doing so will not be mandatory.

    If you have questions concerning the phased-in move to a 1:1 computer access model, please contact Hiram Cuevas, Director of Academic Technology, at or 804.282.3185 begin_of_the_skype_highlighting              804.282.3185      end_of_the_skype_highlighting ext. 5627.


    Charley Stillwell

    Posted in Announcement, Cybersafety, Digital Citizenship, Pedagogy | Tagged , , , , , | Leave a comment