OK, I know I am repeating myself, but I seriously need detailed anecdotal evidence/descriptions of successful elementary keyboarding programs - if such a thing even exists. An administrator today told me that he wants to start keyboarding in kindergarten by teaching them to recognize letters in the alphabet and relating it to letters on a keyboard. I was trained as a business ed teacher so this is a bit of a stretch for me to envision. It kind of goes against everything I learned about keyboarding being a psycho motor skill requiring consistent, repetitious practice. OK - I'm trying to be open minded - it's not 1985 - I'm not teaching keyboarding on IBM Selectric's, I'm not in charge, etc. etc. This is a subject that I have ranted about for years. I think there was a decade or two in the land of technology education where many chose to completely forget about boring old keyboarding. It seems to be making a comeback but I don't think this wasn't on my band wagon agenda. I'm not sure what I have or had in mine - any suggestions?? Positive and negative stories welcome - it's always nice and less costly to learn from others mistakes! :)

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Don't tell anybody but I actually failed typing in 10th grade (1964)--looked at my hands. Forty five years later--still looking at my hands.
Keyboarding is a waste of time. It has taken me 10 years in educational technology to come to this realization. Elementary school students should be spending their time talking, playing, communicating, collaborating, creating, etc. I work with students who have their own, self-taught system and they are quite efficient.

My 2 cents...
Hi Matt,
I don't agree with you, but appreciate your input. I agree that some students are able to come up with their own successful systems, but what about the ones who can't? I see a direct connection between adults who are techno phobes and a lack of keyboarding skill. They are easily frustrated and give up quite easily. I think it's unrealistic to make the assumption that students will just teach themselves to type and so we don't have to bother.
Gaining familiarity with the keyboard in kindergarten is great, and it probably reinforces letter recognition. I wouldn't use a keyboarding program with the little ones, but Kid Pix letter stamping and games like (free) Little Fingers (http://www.little-g.com/shockwave/games.html) are nice introductions. Our school introduces keyboarding using All the Right Type in grade 3, and by grade 5 we have pretty fluent writers. While we're on the topic of keyboarding... I have heard that short intensive bursts over a year (say 15 minutes daily for two weeks, every six weeks) is better than 1/2 an hour once a week all year long. Any thoughts about optimal frequency and duration of keyboarding practice?
Sylvia, can you point us to the research you mention about the efficacy of teaching keyboarding?
Developmentally some kingergarte children simply may not have the finger span nor coordination for keyboarding from the home row. I do use kid keys where they learn to locate keys. I begin simple home row keys in the second part of frist grade, keyboarding practice in 2nd grade, and in third grade I do a 6 week typing unit, including sites for kids to practice on at home. Each grade level after that come in and tyoe for the first 10 minutes of classtrime. It alows practice and gives the big kids something to do as they all enter lass. My big kids switch classes and they are on their own to move so they do not all come in together.

I have a many free software applications and I roatate and oftern let them pick the program so that it does not become so terribly boring.
Sounds as though you have a pretty solid program. Personally, I think the idea of relating the keyboard to learning letters will cause nothing but confusion. If someone memorized the keyboard and could recite it back to you - would they be able to type? I would say no because it's a psycho motor skill requiring your fingers and brain to memorize and coordinate. I think it's a shame that we have spent so much time, money and effort on superficial, bells and whistles type of programs and projects that often the student could never apply or replicate - but many teachers consider keyboarding boring and unimportant.
Hi Jane,
I'm sorry I completely forgot about that promise...sorry, and I swear I'll find it... the gist of it was that keyboarding was pretty useless in most cases, and only marginally effective IF and only IF students had near full-time access to computers to do their work in all other classes (essentially 1:1).
I teach 4th graders for 30 min for 25 days and 6th graders (learning keyboarding for the first time) for 60 min for 10 days. I manage to fully introduce the keyboard to both groups in those time allotments, but don't have much time for practicing using the whole alphabet. Check out my keyboarding blog at www.mrsolson.edublogs.org for some examples of how I use blogging to practice keyboarding.
Great discussion! Keyboarding is something I've been oscillating about for quite some time.

I teach K-8 students in a low socioeconomic community where students don't have a whole lot of access to computers in their homes. Since our students do have limited access to computers, their systems of typing from what I've seen are really only developed with the access to computers they have at school.This year our district has implemented a research paper project for all students in grades 4-8. I and many of the teachers noticed keyboarding was impeding on their ability to type a draft of their papers. So this year I took at look at my approach. I decided on a hybrid approach of typing and language arts that dove-tailed into a mini-digital storytelling lesson.

Students started off by using BBC's typing program. Students were amazingly engaged in the lessons from the start. I even had students ask to stay after school to practice their typing. I mostly just focused on the home row, the f and j bumps, and a little about eye placement. Once they were done with the levels, I gave them a copy of the synopsis of High School Musical from Disney's website. Using Google Docs, they typed their copy. I did this to have them assimilate their knowledge of formalistic keyboarding to actually typing a cohesive piece. Some were quick and others were a bit slower. But during this phase, I tried to reinforce the skills aspect of typing we just discussed.

Once they were done with the typing I had them type a couple of quick blurbs about plot, conflict, and setting. I broke the students into groups to pick out the story's elements. We then went through the High School Musical piece talking about the elements. We then changed the font characteristics (font style, font color, font, and font size) of the plot, setting, characters, and conflict to help identify them. This allowed me to also integrate the technology literacy end into the lessons. Finally, we did the High School Musical mashup trailer at the end as a mini-digital storytelling lesson.

Overall, I think students achieved the goals for the unit. Are they now the most efficient keyboardists? No, but I did see some great progress for 3-8 graders from the beginning to the end. I also did notice that most students spent less time searching for keys then when we first began. Plus many of them were able to interact with content which I think helped with understanding the language arts skills and font characteristic skills.

One thing I think I've realized through this process is sometimes our expectations of typing, for some reason, is at a mythical level especially at the primary grades. At least that's my impression sometimes. Am I off on this? I truly believe in keeping the bar raised and having high expectations but what are the benchmarks with typing that we're trying to achieve? I'm at a point where I think if students can focus on the words and meaning and not have to spend excess time or brain power searching for the letters using a consistent and efficient system of typing, it's a great start.

I believe there has been some research done by Nova and UNI. I remember looking it up on Google Scholar a while ago but the main points behind it were that character recognition at an early age (K-4) is important but teaching proper fingering is useless. Type with two hands even if it's not proper fingering. I have kids in Grade 3 who have hands that are too small to type properly. We wouldn't ask a Grade 3 student to dunk a basketball in PE class, would we?

There was another issue that was brought up and that is how important it is for proper keyboarding to be reinforced at home. We can spend a lot of time at school teaching, practicing and reinforcing proper typing techniques but if they don't follow it at home, then a lot of our time is wasted.

I had a mother in just a while ago saying that he son used to be able to type 20 words per minute at his old school because they practiced it every computer class and now he is down to 15 words per minute. (If I remember correctly, the research also said that success at using typing programs did not necessarily translate to word processing documents.) Anyway, I asked her what other software he child was taught and basically it was word processing. I then asked her whether 20 wpm and word processing skills was more important than 15 wpm and word processing, spreadsheets, graphing, Inspiration, Scratch, podcasts, GarageBand, SketchUp and the other things we did in class?

The way I approach typing, and this is by no means the Holy Grail but it works for me, is that when students are done their projects, they practice typing until the end of class. I also open the lab at lunchtime and the students are allowed to play any of the typing games at ikeepbookmarks. Many students will play these games.

There are some action games in there and the BBC program is particularly entertaining as well so it becomes fun for the students.
Hi Derwin,
It's hard to argue with facts. I know that many kids will figure out their own method; however, I don't believe that in the long run it pays to spend time on some of the programs that you mentioned in the lower grades. I do not feel that the sequence of technology education has been given a lot of thought or meaningful research. Many of us who have been doing this for years couldn't wait to teach the fun stuff - multimedia, graphics, etc. We forget that there are only so many hours in a school day. What would happen if we didn't utilize technology in the lower grades (k-3)? Would it make a significant difference by the time the student was a senior? My guess would be "no." So why do it? Are we really doing what is best for the student, giving in to societal pressure (which we created and have done nothing to change), or allowing the tech industry to heavily influence education. Yes, I'm quite happy with my Apple stock but is it really helping? Deb
Hi Deb,

I got to respectfully disagree with you there.

If these programs were taught in isolation then I would agree but all of the programs that I mentioned in my previous post are taught in total coordination with their classroom teachers and integrated with their classroom subjects.

For example, the Grade 2s just completed a PowerPoint presentation on the animals that they were studying in class. We taught them research skills (books and internet) and referencing. In addition to PP skills, we then taught them presentation skills for a large audience (their classmates and parents). They were using the SmartBoard to present their slideshow. They also learned how to orient the SmartBoard and set up the projector. After this, their confidence is sky high.

in Grade 5, we taught them the skills for SketchUp. We coordinated with the classroom teacher on their unit on the Mayan empire. The students researched different examples of Mayan architecture and their measurements. The students then recreated the geography and architecture of the day. And if the parent happens to be an architect or engineer, they are extremely excited over the fact that their children are learning these skills that early.

I agree, if these applications are taught in isolation then yeah, we don't really need to be doing any of what we do at the elementary level. If it's taught in conjunction with other subjects then I think we got something. We're trying to create an environment where computers are another tool (library, books, etc.) to help students complete their tasks and help them learn.

Could this be taught at later levels? Of course but the ability for the students to learn these skills at an early age and then be able to build on them is priceless. By the time that they get to Grade 4 (or sometimes even Grade 3) they most often are able to work on these applications independently.

By the time they get to middle school they are able to do their assignments far quicker, far better and independently. Trust me, the middle school teachers are extremely happy with the tech savvy students that are coming there way. The science teachers are getting great graphs without having to teach spreadsheets skills therefore they are able to use their class time more effectively. The language arts teacher is getting better edited word processing files. The social studies teacher gets great movies from the students on the topic instead of a plain presentation. That helps them out in middle school and then on into high school.

The ability these kids have in Grade 5 to jump on a computer and do whatever it is that their classroom teacher wants them to do better than the teacher or their parents can do is priceless.

I've lived and taught in Asia for 6 years. Start North American kids in computers in middle school or high school. That'll make Asians very happy. That'll just be one more area that they are ahead of with regards to education. And I can guarantee you I'm not caving in to societal pressures.

Have a good one,
D :)



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