Business / Keyboarding / news

Couldn’t make the Radio Interview? Here’s What We Covered

Last week, I was invited to appear on BAM! radio–the voice of the education community–to discuss keyboarding. Does that sound benign? It’s possible when the producer found me through Ask a Tech Teacher,

she wondered if a radio show revolving around keyboarding would be a yawner. But any tech teacher knows it’s a controversial subject. In my classroom, it’s the most-asked question from parents: When do students start, when do they learn to use all their fingers, how about touch typing, why are 2nd graders still hunting and pecking? On my blog, any post about keyboarding is read about thrice as often as any other single topic.

So I enthusiastically explained all that to the producer, throwing in some of my thoughts, and she booked me as one of three guests for the show. One of the other guests was a children’s education expert who believes technology (and I guess, by transference, keyboarding) is the root of much of the increase in ADHD among children. The second was the mom of a first grader there to share her keyboarding experiences (turns out, she was also the director of the early learning initiative at the New America Foundation, an author, and a prominent blogger. How’d I miss that?).

And then, there was me, technology teacher for 15 years.

So I called into the radio station at the appointed time (6am, PST), entered my passcode, and within seconds, we were on the air. Here’s what we talked about (though we didn’t get through all the points I’d prepared):

When should children learn keyboarding

  • fundamentally: when they need to–when teachers expect projects that require keyboarding or the child’s own needs dictate a demand for typing
  • when it’s important to goals in life
  • when there are computers in the classroom that students are expected to use
  • When they start using a computer so they don’t develop bad keyboarding habits
  • by 3rd grade because  third graders basically write and type at the same speed (assuming some keyboard training)
  • whenever students start, make it age-appropriate. That means, Kindergartners learn to put their hands on the keyboard. First graders learn to put their hands on the correct side of the keyboard. Third grades learn to use the correct fingers. Fourth graders learn touch typing.

What are some of the developmental considerations about keyboarding

  • Are kindergartners old enough. Answer: See the last point above under ‘When should children learn keyboarding’. In a macro sense, teaching keyboarding must take into account maturity, fine motor skills and age-appropriateness
  • Can children’s hands move around the keys well enough? Answer: Teach what is developmentally appropriate, not more.
  • Is expecting keyboarding from youngers expecting too much? After all, they can’t read (or not well), don’t recognize most words. How can we expect them to type? Answer: See the answers above.

Why learn keyboarding

  • if you’ve ever seen a third grader struggle to type a web address into the computer or type a book report when they don’t know where the keys are, you know they should have started keyboarding earlier. That’s the first reason. There are more:
  • to communicate ideas
  • to find out more about what interests them
  • to offset a learning disability that interferes with writing–i.e., dysgraphia

How do I know parents are interested in these issues

  • keyboarding is always the top post on my blog
  • it’s my most-requested guest blog
  • I get the most visitors to and questions asked of my keyboarding articles

How do I as a technology teacher teach keyboarding

  • I teach posture as well as hands
  • I make it age-appropriate. Kindergarten learns a different way than 2nd grade, as does 5th grade
  • Kindergarten is about getting hands on the keyboard and good posture
  • First grade is about getting hands on the correct side of the keyboard and forming good habits
  • Second grade is about understanding fingers type different keys and good posture
  • Third grade starts touch typing–use the right finger for the right key, make good posture a habit
  • Fourth grade is about memorizing key placement, keeping eyes on the screen, and posture
  • Fifth grade is about speed and accuracy–and good posture
  • I start with mouse skills in kindergarten. Students learn to input with the mouse and the keyboard. It takes the pressure off of keyboarding.
  • I teach finger exercises to remind students they have 8 fingers and a thumb. These make keyboarding fun.
  • I teach key placement first, using programs like Big Brown Bear Typing for kindergarten-first grade and using a blank keyboard exercise for olders
  • I teach touch typing, starting in third grade but not sooner. I don’t get serious about key memorization until fourth grade.
  • I teach shortkeys at all grade levels. Students feel accomplished when they can zip out a shortkey instead of struggling to remember a combination of tools
  • I always keep it fun

Why is keyboarding a ‘hot topic’ with parents

Will keyboarding replace cursive writing?

  • not completely and not until input devices are more available–but why not?

For how it all played out, check back here later and I’ll give you the link to the online radio show.  Until then, enjoy your keyboarding!

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Jacqui Murray is the editor of a technology curriculum for K-fifth grade and author of two technology training books for middle school. She wrote Building a Midshipman, the story of her daughter’s journey from high school to United States Naval Academy midshipman. She is webmaster for five blogs, an Amazon Vine Voice book reviewer, ISTE article reviewer, IMS tech expert, a columnist for Examiner.com, and a weekly contributor to Write Anything and Technology in Education. Currently, she’s working on a techno-thriller that should be ready this summer. Contact Jacqui at her writing office, WordDreams, or her tech lab, Ask a Tech Teacher.

6 thoughts on “Couldn’t make the Radio Interview? Here’s What We Covered

  1. Sounds like an interesting trio of speakers that they brought together! Keyboarding is so much more involved than I’d ever imagined. Back when I was a kiddo, I’m not even sure computers existed! When I was at high school, we’d take typing lessons, but only for a short course – I never got the hang of it, and we didn’t follow the class for more than a couple of months, once a week. Nowhere near enough time for me to learn to touch-type. Consequently in this digital era, where computers comprise 10 hours or more of my day, I still can’t touch-type! I do type quickly, and know where the keys are on the board, but it’s all using 3 (or 4 if you’re lucky!) fingers for the most part. Quite hilarious! I think keyboarding is a necessity these days, there’s no getting around that.

    • There are very few adults who touch type, or use more than a few fingers. I know–I watch them peck addresses out in my lab as they try to log onto the school websites. It’s OK, though, because they’re fast enough for their purposes. No one’s a typist anymore, so who needs to be 90 wpm (except the tech teacher to wow our students). I start the kids out right because they don’t know where they’ll end up.

      It truly is one of the hottest topics among my parents. Funny, hunh?

  2. Jacqui, I’ve been a tech teacher for 10 years now, and though we’ve made several changes to our Keyboarding instruction in that time, I’ve never felt like it’s quite right. Many of your suggestions and links here are very helpful to me. But I’m curious – what percentage accuracy do you expect from your students? Also, when your classroom teachers have students completing work (like an English composition!) on the computer, do they insist that students complete it as fast as possible using whatever keyboarding method works for them, OR do they insist that they put hands on homerow and type properly, and give them enough time to complete the assignment that way? Thanks.

    • I don’t deduct for accuracy until 5th grade. We talk about it. When studnets go into Typing test (http://typingtest.com), it shows an adjusted speed based on mistakes. This reminds students of the importance of accuracy. I found it too discouraging to count off for mistakes. I do deduct for posture (anecdotally–I walk around during the speed quiz and see how they’re doing).

      Do you? and if so, how’s it work?

      As far as typing class projects, teachers don’t mention keyboarding skills. They feel that’s ‘my thing’ and not their concern. I’m working on that! Is it an issue at your school?

      Interesting questions.

      • We use Typing Master (which I’m not completely happy with, especially because it doesn’t run smoothly in Safari, so we use Firefox for it – but that freezes up too), and I have that set to require 90% accuracy on lesson tests in order for them to proceed to the next lesson. Our formal keyboarding instruction is in grades 3 through 5, but our school goes through grade 8, and all english composition work in grades 6 through 8 is done at the keyboard, so keyboarding skills are important to us, but we just haven’t found the magic bullet yet. I feel that in the long run, it will be worth the extra time it would take to require hands on homerow, using the right fingers on the right keys for ALL assignments in all classes, but don’t have much buy-in on that from classroom teachers. Our learning specialist and I are working together right now to examine other schools’ keyboarding programs, see what the research says about what’s appropriate and effective, so that we can approach the administration about setting a policy that can be enforced schoolwide.

      • I’d love to read any summary you come up with. As far as I can tell, it’s a big issue with all tech teachers. We all have different approaches, but I’ve yet to hear one that is a failsafe approach. Myself, I’m trying something new this year, focusing on touch typing. I’ll see if it works.

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