Once upon a time, in a land not so far away, there were machines called electric typewriters, where I learned how to type – or shall I say – keyboard!
Although each of my subject-area classes taught me something about my world, typing class taught me the most useful and practical skill. Little did I know that this skill would become so relevant as I use it every single day. Years ago, typing skills were needed in only certain job assignments, but with the rampant use of computers in the 21st Century, one of my goals is to pass on this now necessary skill to my students. But why teach the skill?
It’s all about what we allow to become a habit. The sooner we teach our kids how to type – and type properly – the better they will be in the long run. As soon as children have developed the right finger span and motor coordination, they are ready to learn to keyboard properly using home row. “It is an essential 21st century skill and helping them master it early, not only provides a fun and useful activity for children to work on, but it will also help them share thoughts and ideas while saving a tremendous amount of time.” (Nielsen, 2011). When a student possesses the proper keyboarding technique, projects will be completed faster and less time will be spent looking at the keyboard. So, why isn’t the “hunt-and-peck” method good enough?
Hunt-and-peck methods are inefficient and students will tend to take a longer time on the computer. (Rogers, et al, 2003). If we do not provide our students with a typing tutor type of program, they “will automatically resort to the ‘Columbus Method’ of typing, where they search the keyboard for a particular letter, then press it with their forefinger.” (Andreas, 2007). Keyboarding is a skill, much like music, that with ongoing and consistent practice, it will become a habit. “The ability to type well is an asset and will enable the child to do research faster and finish term papers faster and more efficiently. By requiring a child to learn to type the correct way, you are giving him a stepping stone to the future.” (Andreas, 2007).
In my computer lab classes, I introduce keyboarding to my students as young as Kindergarten, starting with letter recognition and key location. As they begin recognizing keys by sight, I gradually introduce them to the concept of home row, normally this occurs by the time they reach 2nd grade. From there, I am able to give them opportunities to practice accuracy and eventually add in the element of speed. Of course, it’s a fun process for the students and they certainly have their favorite typing games! (Please see below for some fun sites). Last year, by year’s end, one of my 4th grade students was typing 23 words per minute with 98% accuracy.
According to the International Society for Technology in Eduation, NETS-S standard number 6, Technology Operations and Concepts states that “Students are to demonstrate a sound understanding of technology concepts, systems, and operations. (ISTE, 2012). I believe that learning to keyboard properly is an essential part of this standard, and will enable students to operate technology systems much more efficiently.
In 2003, a research study was completed on keyboarding in elementary schools, and it made the following conclusions (Rogers, et al, 2003):
- More schools are including keyboarding instruction in the curriculum and at earlier grades, starting with Kindergarten.
- Third grade is the defining year to introduce the touch method of keyboarding.
- Classroom teachers are the main typing instructors, along with media specialists.
- Keyboarding software is used more often than a keyboarding textbook.
- Average teaching time is 30 minutes a week for 36 weeks.
- Reinforcement and continued practice at every grade level is important.
- A dramatic increase in language arts skills because of word and sentence input was noted.
Of course, we, as teachers must stay sensitive to our students with special needs when it comes to learning how to type. There are a number of alternatives and assistive technologies that we can use with students who need it. (Shelly, Gunter, Gunter, 2012)
Do not fret if you are the “hunt and peck” typist…it’s not your fault. Typing was an elective when some of us were in high school. But, I really believe that it is never too late to learn. So, while your students are learning to touch type, why don’t you join them? It might be fun!
Free online typing resources:
Andreas, N. (Aug., 2007). Why Kids Should Learn to Type Properly. [Internet article]. Retrieved from http://voices.yahoo.com/why-kids-learn-type-properly-474423.html?cat=25
International Society for Technology in Education. (2012). NETS-S Standard 6, Technology Operations and Concepts. [Web source]. Retrieved from http://www.iste.org/docs/pdfs/nets-s-standards.pdf?sfvrsn=2
Moore, Kathy. (Nov., 2010). How to Start Kids Typing on Keyboards. [Web video]. Retrieved from http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Me6O7JyotB0
Nielsen, L. (Feb., 2011). When and How Should Kids Learn to Type? [Web Log]. Retrieved from http://theinnovativeeducator.blogspot.com/2011/02/when-should-students-start-learning-to.html
Rogers, H., Laehn, J., Lang, A., O’Leary, D., Sommers, M. (July, 2003). The Status of Elementary Keyboarding – A Longitudinal Study. [Research study]. Retrieved from http://facstaff.uww.edu/rogersh/keyresearch/elemkeystatusmanu.pdf
Shelly, G., Gunter, G., Gunter, R. (2012). Assistive Technologies Corner. In McMahon, K. (Ed.) Teachers Discovering Computers: Integrating Technology in a Connected World, 7th ed. (p. 197). Boston, MA: Course Technology, Cengage Learning.