Keyboarding, or the lack thereof.

Photo Credit: Me

I have had an idea for a post mulling around in my mind since May. I had even gotten some research from a friend to help me figure out the advice I need to give to our curriculum department.

I asked Gary Stager via Twitter his thoughts on keyboarding:

“What priority do you place on keyboarding skills with kids today?”

His quick reply was: “Huge waste of scarce resources – focus on mechanics rather than anything meaningful”

Then he sent me this link: (notice the date of the research he quotes and then his commentary at the top of the page). In the research found there, Steve Shuller points out a very interesting and important observation:

Keyboarding is seen as a way to input information into a computer so that it can be manipulated. Thus, initial accuracy is less important than speed, ability to manipulate text is more important than formatting skills for specific types of documents, and composing is more important than transcribing (so it does not matter so much if the typist looks at the keys).

These distinctions recognize important changes in the purposes for which people type on Industrial Age typewriters and on Information Age computer keyboards. Yet, if we look closely at the keyboarding programs proposed by business educators, we find a methodology geared to the Industrial Age purpose of transcribing rather than the Information Age purpose of composing (Freyd and Kahn 1989).

Now, both of these are valid points to consider in today’s course offerings for students. Yet, Freyd and Kahn made those points in 1989. If it was valid in 1989, is it not more valid in today’s times when most kids walking the halls have more computing power in their pockets than we had in buildings in 1989?

I then shared my position on the subject in a conversation with another colleague:

I know your concerns about student keyboarding skills are serious. While blogging in and of itself will not cure the keyboarding woes, it is one method of allowing students to become more familiar with the keyboard and its functionality as it pertains to their uses of the technology. When you add in email, productivity software, and many online tools our students are now using, their skill set should be increasing in quality.  I do know that others have worked hard to get the students more computer time on other campuses through authentic learning situations such as problem/project based learning.

I do not pretend to know all I need to know about how kids are learning these days. They are changing so quickly.  I most assuredly do not know what they need for every class we teach in WOISD. I just wanted to provide you with some support of what I was saying earlier about how the shift is occurring away from direct instruction of keyboarding to a more functional approach as it pertains to authentic use AND integration into the normal instruction whether core area or elective.

As usual with my PLN, somebody has also been pondering the same topic and blogged about it recently. Thanks to Jeff Utecht for doing the dirty work for me this time with his post “When or do we teach typing?” As I read through, all I could say was, “Yep. That’s what I was thinking.” He even believes, as do I, that we are wasting time teaching cursive during writing time. His idea of replacing cursive writing time with keyboard seat time is dead-on, but his idea of putting cursive writing into an arts course is a new one to me. I think it is as good a place as any, if it has to be taught. Jeff shares his beliefs:

So hereโ€™s what I believe:

  • We should expose students to the keyboard as much as possible!
  • Every student starting in Kindergarten should be exposed to a keyboard as often as possible. 15 minutes three times a week would be preferred.
  • In 1st grade the focus would be to have student use two hands on the keyboard.
  • By 3rd grade typing should be part of the writing curriculum. The time spent on cursive writing should be replaces with keyboard time (cursive writing is an art form and should be part of artโ€ฆ opinion and my opinion only!).
  • By 5th grade students should be required to turn in at least one type written assignment a week and spend no less then 120 minutes a week exposed to a computer keyboard.

I talked to a couple 6th grade teachers last week who both told me that they only have students type assignments to be handed in. That they have not accepted hand-written work for two years now.

I currently have three staff members at the middle school level building curriculum to go paperless next year. I know they will find the skills of their students increase as the year progresses. I also believe that our high school teachers will notice an increase in student keyboarding skills as those kids move on to that campus. That is, unless they force them to use the home row and industrial Age-style keyboarding requirements.

Now where can I buy a USB/bluetooth keyboard the size of a cell phone keypad with built-in predictive text?

7 thoughts on “Keyboarding, or the lack thereof.

  1. Thanks Scott for adding to the conversation. What I find interesting is how many people commented on my blog post telling me that I have it wrong, yet nobody can point me to a school where those beliefs of teaching typing are actually being put to practice. In every school I’ve been at it has been up to the individual teacher to in elementary school to spend time on typing if they choose. Many Middle Schools and High Schools have typing classes, or classes where they can practice that skill….but is that too late?

    We talk about having authentic purposes for students to want to type faster/better. Maybe going paperless is that authentic purpose for your students. If I had to type everything all the time you better believe I’m going to get faster. ๐Ÿ™‚

    Thanks for the conversation and the research!

  2. Scott,

    I agree with you on the extreme practicality of providing students with the time and structure to learn keyboarding. It’s so simple to teach and, if done, as you suggest, regularly for short periods of time, students soon see the results.

    I recently introduced blogging with several groups of 4th graders at three separate sites. Those who were already familiar with the keyboard could focus on the content of their comment. It was painful to watch the kids without keyboarding skills trying to complete what had to be a tedious task.

    Heading in to read Jeff’s post…

  3. This article reminds me of how I used to (and our current K. teachers still do) start teaching kindergarteners to write when they don’t even know all the letters of the alphabet. This is what they do: Put a pencil in their hands and get those babies started! They learn to form the letters as they use them. It’s the same concept really.

  4. I appreciate you starting it for us. Maybe at some point standards will change, and then practices will morph into something more compatible with the way students are using all types of keyboards. I’m just glad I don;t have to stuff a carbon paper these days to make a copy. ๐Ÿ˜‰

  5. Thanks, Gail. I wonder if a larger organization, say NWP or NCTE, has thought of making this a focus in their work. It would be a good start to move the larger group of English teachers in that direction, thus helping motivate the smaller group of keyboarding teachers to make a change. Maybe Paul Allison needs to add this to his TTT show agenda.

  6. Absolutely! Get some experience and build in the skills as they go. It is imperative that we start that keyboarding experience in schools with younger students. Throwing them into a keyboarding class at middle or high school just does not make sense. Our kids are on keyboards from the time they realize they are there to play with. Maybe adding a lab to your campus will help with that as well. ๐Ÿ™‚ Should be ready this week.

  7. I have spent a lot of time wondering if my students would do their composing and creative writing for blogs and assignments quicker if they had typing skills (yes typing skills). I had never stopped to think of the time it takes students to think creatively and put their thoughts into writing on paper. I was just considering how fast I could type and get a thought down quickly! But it is a hard earned skill from many years ago and used consistently through the years. Gail’s statement about students struggling with the keyboard is truth in action, but typing skills is not the only way to help the struggling! A push to do typing before acquisition of complete understanding of alphabetizing would be chaos. Using the keyboard before 3rd or 4th grade, however, as a way of communicating and familiarization would develop skills. Glad you brought it up!

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