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The Trackpad vs The Mouse

What is the one of the main differences between a mouse and trackpad? One you use effectively with one hand and the other you use effectively with two hands. Now granted, many adults sit and use the trackpad with one hand and many use it well this way, but when teaching children, particularly very young children, using two hands on a trackpad is key to using it capably. Clicking with one finger while dragging with the other hand is an essential skill for them to learn. It is a skill that can often be assumed as the students move from using the mouse to the trackpad. For example a student that is used to using a mouse finds it difficult to do similar tasks, such as drawing, using a trackpad. It's a very different skill.

The reverse is often true where a student is familiar with gestures using a mobile device or a trackpad and then has to adapt to using a mouse. Using applications such as Sketchup can be a very different experience depending on which you use.

Using Sketchup to improve Trackpad Skills

The key to using Sketchup is to understand the controls and how to place objects within the online space correctly. Using the trackpad correctly was a key factor and very quickly I realised that Sketchup would be an opportunity to get younger students practicing their trackpad skills in a fun and engaging way. Watching these simple step by step tutorials was an important step for me to learn this application.

I wanted to try using Sketchup with Year 2/Grade 1 children to see how they would cope. My aim was to provide a way they could use the trackpad and I could monitor and assess how their trackpad skills were improving. Sketchup requires the following trackpad skills:

  • Click/tap, move, click/tap

  • Two finger gesture to zoom

  • Spin object using two fingers

  • Click and pan objects

Unless using a magic mouse (which presents a combination of skills) to achieve some of the same results with either a trackpad or a mouse, is different. Zooming requires the mouse user to use the mouse wheel, if the mouse has one. Otherwise, zooming will require you to use the keyboard options. Spin objects needs to be used in conjunction with the keyboard.

I gave the Year 2/Grade 1 students a file of a park bench. They had to use their skills to decorate the bench in Sketchup. The following episode of The Edtech Files shows this in more details.

The trackpad and the mouse are both ways that students control a computer. However, they are different skills and they both need to be taught. With the increasing development of 1:1 programmes and students using mobile technology, the mouse is becoming less and less of a necessary skill, but it doesn't mean that students shouldn't be exposed to the use of it. Gesture control is becoming more of the norm with controlling a device, whether it be a mobile phone, tablet or a laptop computer, it must be included as a taught skill. But like many of the fundamental skills such as typing, it requires patience and perseverance from the student and teacher so the students can have these foundation skills at a young age and so it doesn't become an assumed skill in the future.

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