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When or Do We Teach Typing?

November, 2009
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I have had a few conversations over the past couple of days on what the thinking is regarding typing skills and teaching typing to students. Most schools that I know of do not have a typing curriculum like we would have a writing curriculum. If you do….that is fantastic and I’d love to see it, but to my knowledge most schools rely on teachers to “fit in” typing with students when and were they can.

Then there is the issue that students today have grown up with technology and computers. By the time students are 6 and in our schools most of them have had numerous hours with computer devices. Whether it is a computer keyboard or a Nintendo DS, they are growing up wired to input into a machine. If we start teaching them typing in middle school is it already too late? Have they already developed habits that work for them? Last year I saw a 9th grade student who had one finger on each row. For example: Left hand: EDC Right hand: IJN and they could type somewhere in the region of 60 words per minute. When I asked where she learned to type like that she just shrugged and said “I don’t know…it just works for me.”

This isn’t our generation

Our generation did not grow up with computers. Marc Prensky would classify me as a "Digital Native” (by 1 year and proud of it!) yet I learned to type on a typewriter in high school. We did learn how to use a computer…Macintosh Classic….but we were not able to take a timed test on them because we could “cheat” and use the back space key.

typing-2sThis generation has not only grown up with the backspace key but is use to having spell check and a dictionary at their fingertips every time they write anything. The world has changed and I’m not sure our curriculum has caught up with it. 

My Belief

We should not be teaching typing as we learned it…with home row keys, etc. Instead, we should be exposing students to the keyboard as much as possible and allow them to develop typing techniques that work for them.

The two pictures in this post are of third graders just two days ago as we opened up laptops for the first time and were exploring programs…one happened to be Type to Lear Jr.  As you can see they have already developed their own typing techniques and continue to find and explore ways in which typing works for them.

I see it much the same way we learn cursive. We were all exposed to proper cursive in school yet I would bet not one of us follows the proper techniques for cursive writing today. We all develop our own style that works for us. We were exposed to the cursive form enough to understand how it works and then we created a style that works….making each one of our signatures unique and different.

Here’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 students 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 replaced with keyboard time (cursive writing is an art form and should be part of art…..my opinion only!).

typing-3sBy 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 of 6th grade teachers last week who both told me that they only have students type assignments to be handed in. They have not accepted hand-written work for two years now.

What skills are we teaching in our elementary schools to prepare students for their future education?

Of course, all of this is probably for nothing as if I was being futuristic I would talk about including texting and mobile devices and touch screen typing. But then again, seeing that 30% of the 3rd graders at our school already have a cell phone they probably know more about texting than we could teach them anyway.

I’d love to get your feedback on this and the policy your school has or what your beliefs are when it comes to teaching typing to students.

 

By Jeff Utecht

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