Keyboarding skills are so important in our modern technology-driven age! Way back in the day, the only people who needed to know how to use a keyboard tended to be women who were in secretarial schools. As time progressed and typing became more common, more and more people started learning effective keyboarding skills, particularly to improve their typing.
When I was in fourth grade, I have distinct memories of going into a dimly-lit computer lab, filled with then top-of-the-line Apple IIe computers, to learn how to type using home row. Our computer lab teacher, who was also the librarian (I think), had some covers made of black construction paper to put over our hands so we would break the habit of looking at our fingers as we typed. I have no idea how I actually did in that class, but I remember leaving knowing home row. By the time I got to high school, I felt I was fairly proficient at using computers in general, but I still had to take a class, along with every other freshman student in the school, called Orientation to Technology. I thought we would learn how to do all sorts of really neat things on the computers. Instead, we were taught how to use Microsoft Office and we had to practice typing. We had books with passages that we had to practice typing. The idea was that we would progress through the book. What I ended up doing, though, was learning one of the passages at the back by heart and then learning to type just it over and over and over again. I feel I became fairly proficient in my typing skills, and I guess my teacher thought so, too, because she wanted me to participate in a typing contest. I didn’t, though.
Now that I am teaching fourth grade, I am keenly aware of my students’ keyboarding skills. We use the computer lab once a week for a variety of reasons, such as research, math practice, and cognitive development. We also use the lab to type letters and reports. While working with a visitor on our persuasive writing project, I realised that many of my students had no idea where any of the keys on a keyboard could be found. Even though nearly all of them have grown up with and around computers, they’d never had anyone teach them home row like I was taught. As I’ve looked ahead to the Common Core State Standards, I’ve noticed that typing is a requirement that students will be expected to be able to do. So I decided it was time to start bridging the digital divide by teaching my students how to type more efficiently.
(I feel like I should point out that we are learning on the QWERTY keyboard, not an alternate array like the Dvorak Simplified Keyboard.)
We started last week, with the students doing some basic drills using an online-based program from sense-lang.org (a site that is included in our school library’s online Destiny catalog). The students thought it was fun and were far more engaged than I initially expected. When I told them that we would do more typing today, several actually let out a cheer.
As soon as we entered the computer lab, they got to work. Several students quickly realised that, in addition to the tutorials, there are many games on the site that help them develop their speed and accuracy when typing. They stayed on task throughout the day and were working hard at improving their scores. We won’t be using the computer lab next week, due to ISAT testing, but I am hoping to see my students transfer the games and tutorials to their everyday computer use. We aren’t going to devote a lot of time to this, but I wanted to get my students thinking about what they were doing when they were at a computer so that they can keep up with others and with the expectations presented through the new State Standards.
(By the way, for those who are curious, my average keyboard time is about 75 words per minute, which means this blog post took me about ten minutes to type up.)