Accomodating Our Left-Handed Students
It’s the 21st century, and we are still fighting the same battles over left-handedness. Only the tools we have to consider are different. As a right-handed person, I did not think much about this topic until this year. I currently have three left-handed students in my class, and I believe my own son will be a leftie. So, I am stepping into the left-handed world, and I am bringing an issue, recently raised in my class, to you, to get your thoughts. Please join in this conversation.
Shortly after school began, the mother of a student in my kindergarten class approached me, asking if I would change her son’s mouse. She explained that he is left-handed and is used to having the mouse on the left side of the computer, with the primary mouse button also switched. Even after nine years of teaching and with all the technology I use in my classroom, including one to one laptops, I have never been asked to do this before. It’s a simple process, really. You go into the control panel, click "mouse properties," and select "right" for the mouse button. Then you place the mouse on the left side of the computer.
It sounds so simple, right? Wrong! What was a simple process on an ordinary home computer was anything but at school. Because my district has systems in place to prevent students from changing computer settings, the computers, even when I log in as a teacher, will not accept the change. (One of my district techs is currently working on this situation.) Because my students all have their own laptops, switching for a left-handed user will not be a problem with our system. The issue is, what are they going to do in future grades when they don’t have laptops?
Most (right-handed) peoples’ response is to keep the mouse as is and let them get used to it. We already know that you should not force a child to hold a pencil in their right hand. Why is this different from forcing them to use a computer mouse with their right hand? This tool is the pencil of the future. The decisions we make now will affect our students for the rest of their lives. As educators, we accommodate many types of children so that they can have the same opportunities as the rest of their peers. Why not accommodate our left-handed kids?
When I first started asking around to get people’s thoughts on this topic, most people said lefties need to adapt and get used to a right-handed mouse and a right-handed world. Their reasoning was that most people are right-handed, and they need to be able to use community computers.
As an adult, I barely ever use someone else’s computer. I have my own computer at home and at work. If I am away from a computer, I use my iPhone. Very rarely is there a time when I need a publicly accessible computer.
As the discussion continues, more and more reasons for switching the mouse buttons have come to light. Left-handed students could be at a disadvantage because they are being forced to use their opposite hand. Do you work as well using your other hand? Would your work be at its best if you had the physical obstacle as well as the mental obstacle of using your non-dominate hand?
What I Am Noticing
My students are currently using the touchpad mouse on the laptop, and I have started to watch the students’ movements with the mouse more closely. I have noticed that my right-handed students use the touch mouse and click more smoothly than my lefties. For example, when moving the mouse to click on something, both right-handed and left-handed kids move the mouse smoothly, but with their dominate hands. When it comes time to click, my right-handed kids naturally move their hand down to the buttons and click. My left-handed kids all have to pick up their hands and actually look and place their hands on the correct button. This slows the students down.
This conversation is necessary to decide how we should accommodate our left-handed students. If our schools have restrictions in place, how can we get around them to change the mouse buttons?
After these last few weeks of researching left-handedness, I wish I had paid more attention to my previous left-handed students. I had no idea that being left-handed makes simple tasks more difficult. I feel guilty that I differentiate for and accommodate all of my students, taking into account academic levels, maturity levels, behavioral patterns, and socioeconomic and cultural backgrounds, and that I haven’t done this for my left-handed students until now.
How do you feel about this topic? Do you switch the mouse for your left-handed students? Please complete the survey below and/or write a comment. I’d love to get your thoughts on this topic.
Here are some left-handed links: