When or do we teach typing?

Typing in grade 2 by jutechtI have had a few conversations the past couple of days on what is the thinking on 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 relay on teachers to “fit in” typing with students when and were they can.

Then comes the other 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 be a computer keyboard or a Nintendo DS, they are growing up being wired to input into a machine. If we start teaching them typing in middle school are we to 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. Example: Left hand: EDC Right hand: IJN and could type somewhere in the neighborhood 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. Well, half the time anyway. 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.

This generation not only has 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

Typing in grade 2 by jutechtSo here’s my belief and my belief along as I’ve watched elementary students closely over the past four years. We should not be teaching typing as we learned it…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 Learn Jr.. As you can see they have already developed there own typing techniques and continue to find and explore ways that 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 of 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 create a style that works….making each one of our signatures unique and different.

So 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 student 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 replaces with keyboard time (cursive writing is an art form and should be part of art…..my opinion and my opinion only!).
  • By 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 6th grade teachers last week who both told me that they only have students type assignments to be handed in. That 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 device 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 then 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.