Opinion
IT Infrastructure & Management Opinion

Reverting to Type

By Doug Noon — April 20, 2007 2 min read
  • Save to favorites
  • Print

As computers have become more common in schools, kids have gained opportunities to search the Internet, publish their work online, and create multimedia presentations in school.

But in our enthusiasm to integrate technology into the classroom, we’ve somehow overlooked the most basic level of that integration: the application of little hands to computer keyboards.

The problem of untrained fingers might seem small—just a bad habit. But it’s a problem in the same way poor posture or fingering technique is a problem when learning to play a musical instrument: Neither bad habit will prevent you from playing simple tunes, but they’ll make it hard to master more complex pieces.

Asking students to use a keyboard to write without training them to use it properly limits what they can accomplish in the computer lab. It requires students to spend valuable class time locating keys instead of thinking about what they are trying to say.

No cheating: Daily practice helps young typists.

Students can be taught to type as soon as they begin using school computers, just as they’re shown how to hold pencils when they start writing. Correct finger placement and simple keystrokes, such as using the thumb for the space bar and the little finger for the shift key, can be taught even to very young students. They may still hunt and peck, but as they gain competence, they should begin to learn touch typing.

My elementary school students start off practicing for 15 to 20 minutes a day on keyboarding instructional software—either a shareware program called Master Key (www.macinmind.com) or a simple program on a sturdy portable keyboard called an AlphaSmart (www.alphasmart.com/k12/). But it’s been my experience that just about any typing program will do the job, so long as it keeps track of each student’s progress.

After they’ve gotten the basics down, I use this trick for keeping them on the right path: I place a piece of fabric or a modified file folder over students’ hands so their fingers “learn where to go,” rather than letting their eyes hunt for keys. Doing this once a week won’t work. Students really need daily or every-other-day practice for 15 to 20 minutes at a time.

This regimen works. After regular, structured practice, my students’ typing speed increases without fail, and some of my more diligent 4th graders can type up to 60 words per minute.

When you expect students to produce well-written documents in a limited amount of time, it’s only fair to show them early and often how it’s done. And the simple truth is that students need to be able to type faster than they can write with a pencil. Otherwise, it’s not worth the class time to put them in front of a computer.

Related Tags:

A version of this article appeared in the May 01, 2007 edition of Teacher Magazine as Reverting to Type

Events

This content is provided by our sponsor. It is not written by and does not necessarily reflect the views of Education Week's editorial staff.
Sponsor
Student Well-Being Webinar
Attend to the Whole Child: Non-Academic Factors within MTSS
Learn strategies for proactively identifying and addressing non-academic barriers to student success within an MTSS framework.
Content provided by Renaissance
Classroom Technology K-12 Essentials Forum How to Teach Digital & Media Literacy in the Age of AI
Join this free event to dig into crucial questions about how to help students build a foundation of digital literacy.

EdWeek Top School Jobs

Teacher Jobs
Search over ten thousand teaching jobs nationwide — elementary, middle, high school and more.
View Jobs
Principal Jobs
Find hundreds of jobs for principals, assistant principals, and other school leadership roles.
View Jobs
Administrator Jobs
Over a thousand district-level jobs: superintendents, directors, more.
View Jobs
Support Staff Jobs
Search thousands of jobs, from paraprofessionals to counselors and more.
View Jobs

Read Next

IT Infrastructure & Management What Districts Can Do With All Those Old Chromebooks
The Chromebooks and tablets districts bought en masse early in the pandemic are approaching the end of their useful lives.
3 min read
Art and technology teacher Jenny O'Sullivan, right, shows students a video they made, April 15, 2024, at A.D. Henderson School in Boca Raton, Fla. While many teachers nationally complain their districts dictate textbooks and course work, the South Florida school's administrators allow their staff high levels of classroom creativity...and it works.
Art and technology teacher Jenny O'Sullivan, right, shows students a video they made on April 15, 2024, at A.D. Henderson School in Boca Raton, Fla. After districts equipped every student with a device early in the pandemic, they now face the challenge of recycling or disposing of the technology responsibly.
Wilfredo Lee/AP
IT Infrastructure & Management Los Angeles Unified's AI Meltdown: 5 Ways Districts Can Avoid the Same Mistakes
The district didn't clearly define the problem it was trying to fix with AI, experts say. Instead, it bought into the hype.
10 min read
Close up of female hand holding smartphone with creative AI robot hologram with question mark in speech bubble on blue background. Chat GPT and failure concept.
Peshkov/iStock/Getty
IT Infrastructure & Management Aging Chromebooks End Up in the Landfill. Is There an Alternative?
Districts loaded up on devices during the pandemic. What becomes of them as they reach the end of their useful lives?
5 min read
Brandon Hernandez works on a puzzle on a tablet before it's his turn to practice reading at an after school program at the Vardaman Family Life Center in Vardaman Miss., on March 3, 2020.
Brandon Hernandez works on a puzzle on a tablet before it's his turn to practice reading at an after-school program at the Vardaman Family Life Center in Vardaman Miss., on March 3, 2020. Districts that acquired devices for every student for the first time during the pandemic are facing decisions about what to do at the end of the devices' useful life.
Thomas Wells/The Northeast Mississippi Daily Journal via AP
IT Infrastructure & Management Schools Can't Evaluate All Those Ed-Tech Products. Help Is on the Way
Many districts don't have the time or expertise to carefully evaluate the array of ed-tech tools on the market.
2 min read
PC tablet with cloud of application icons floating from off the screen.
iStock/Getty