April 22, 2009

To Keyboard or Not to Keyboard -- Should That REALLY Be a Question?

This post idea came from a DM (direct message) from Leigh E. Zeitz, Ph.D. on Twitter. He linked me to his blog and my readings resulted in the following post:

I teach in a K-4 building with some teachers who clamor for keyboarding lessons during Computer Lab time. I'm sorry, but I think that my time (and the students' time) is better spent on activities a little higher up on Bloom's taxonomy. I've appeased the teachers by providing a page of keyboarding links that they can use as Computer Center time in their own classrooms. Granted I buried the link at the very bottom of my home page, but it's there. :)

I'm not convinced that keyboarding should be taught at the elementary level. First, let's look at the physical aspect. Most computer set-ups use an adult sized keyboard and younger children simply do not have the handspan range to effectively reach the keys in the traditional keyboard teaching model.

"They should be provided with the basics of keyboarding and then learn to type faster than they can write (typically 11 wpm). This will allow them to have an efficient way to enter their thoughts and writings into a dynamic electronic format." (retrieved 4-22-09 from http://keyboarding.wordpress.com/dr-zs-opinion)

If you step into most elementary classrooms today, you will see that it is not a one-to-one set-up and most students still write using paper and pencil. As I reflect back upon my own electronic writing process I remember well the time I used to first write down my thoughts on paper and only then transfer it into electronic format to basically edit my writing. It is only recently that I can sit down at a keyboard and allow my thoughts to progress from my brain to my fingers, then via the keyboard onto the screen.

And let's not forget the advent of texting on cellphones. We're looking at rapid thumb moves rather than QWERTY hand positioned moves. I wonder what would happen if we removed keyboards from computer labs in middle and high schools and replaced them with cellphone style keypads. Would our students be able to 'type' faster? I believe they would. (Note to self: Hmmmm, this might make for an interesting action-research procject.)

And finally, the earliest my students will be entering college will be nine years from now. Who knows what technologies will be available to them by then. Will word processing be obsolete? (I don't believe so, but who knows?) Will the QWERTY keyboard be replaced by an input device that is much more intuitive? (I know my husband hopes so!) So as long as I remain in the Computer Lab, keyboarding will remain a link off my homepage.

So, do you believe keyboarding should be taught at the elementary level? Let your voice be heard int he 'Comments' section below. (And if you need to write out your thoughts on paper first, that's fine! LOL)

Image source: Flickr.com john_a_ward


Marie Rush said...

I couldn't agree with you more. I had an interesting conversation with somebody recently and they mentioned that teachers should be spending more time teaching correct handwriting. I have been thinking about that since, and personally because I have a child who goes to OT because her handwrigin is horrific. Really. But, she can send Sprout the weather report, and create beautiful stories using her brain and other methods other than a pencil. So, as a hunt and pecker, I agree.

Mrs.A said...

It's a double edged sword. I work with 5th and 6th grade classes. The teachers get frustrated when it takes students so long to type up a story or report because they are hunting and pecking and can't keyboard. I agree we have no idea what technologies will be out there in 9 years, and yes the kids have the thumb action down. I've been saying for over 20 years until all devices are voice activated then kids need to learn how to keyboard. In my district 3-4 grade go through a few weeks of keyboarding instruction and then use other projects and lessons to maintain or hopefully improve with practice. We also have lots of links to free keyboarding practice and encourage students to practice at home. In 5th grade we do a keyboarding review and challenge for 5 days straight for 30 minutes using Ultrakey, hoping to help students train their fingers - keyboarding once a week or once in awhile IMHO will not improve the touch typing needed. So for now, yes, I think some training keyboarding is necessary starting in 3rd grade so that when they get into the middle grades they can be successful in their projects and not take too many days to complete them.

narrator said...

I wanted to link you to my thoughts on this http://speedchange.blogspot.com/2009/02/keyboard-toolbelt-future.html we really need to think future and choice, not past and rules.

Ira Socol

Anonymous said...

I teach Keyboarding to 5th graders every other day for 40 minute and have been doing this for over 6 years. I tried last year with 4th graders but it was only once a week and they did not retain anything. What I found was in 4th graders very few were Im'ing, texting or emailing. In 5th grade the numbers go up and I had several developing bad habits and some were very hard to break. The newer phones now have the qwerty keyboarding so they are being exposed to the qwerty method earlier if they use the new Smart phones. 5th in my opinion is the optional year to start if it is taught with a good program that focuses on accuracy. Some of students struggle with the c and period and with reaches if their fingers are still tiny. I am using a different program this year and am not pleased with their progress, however, by this 3rd quarter they are generally typing 25-30 wpm in a 3 min with 3 or less errors - without using the backspace. I agree that teachers should be focusing the primary years with improving handwriting. Fourth grade is really boarderline, and with the curriculum from 3rd to 4th is a big jump, the 4th graders didn't have time to come to the lab every other day. By 6th grade, they should be typing their papers and doing creative writing on the computers. Also, I paint the keyboards so they are forced to learn correct finger to key placement. On a side note, I have the 1st - 4th grade coming to the lab once a week to practice their spelling words using Spelling City and they are hunting and pecking which I wish they didn't have to hunt and peck, But the program is very successful for them to practice their spelling at school and at home.

Balance is Best said...

Is there a way to teach keyboard familiarity so they aren't having to constantly look at the keyboard to find letters, encourages the use of both hands, but still allows for some variability for hand size? Yes, things might be different in ten years, but what about their ability to type tomorrow or one year from now? The skill is useful today not just in the future.