I just read an article in The Hartford Courant today about “allowing students to bring to school any online device they had- Smartphone, tablet or laptop- for use in class as teachers saw fit.” Educators are realizing that it makes no sense to stop students from using the digital tools they use outside of school.”
I totally agree with this but I do have one concern. Why would you hand a student a laptop and NOT teach them how to touch type beforehand? You don’t drive a car until you take driver’s ed….you don’t jump into a pool before you learn to swim….you don’t give a child a book without teaching them how to read first. My point is that there are steps to learning how to do something. You don’t start at step 10 and work backwards! You start at the beginning. Typing is the same concept! “It’s no good expecting children to be able to produce a document quickly and accurately on a computer without giving them the skills to do it. It’s like asking them to write a story and not giving them a pen,” says teacher Zoe Clements.
Why is “typing class,” if it’s offered at all, relegated to just 30 to 45 minutes a week? Isn’t it something a person will use throughout their school and working career? When typing is taught, most school systems resort to an off the shelf, video game based program that can’t possibly produce touch typists in such a limited time span. I maintain that proper typing skills are critical to future success and we must find a better way to teach it.
Think of an athlete. Hitting a baseball, throwing a football, or kicking a soccer ball is effortless… a result of repeated practice. They perform basic skills naturally, without having to focus on the fundamentals because they’ve created muscle memory in their arms and legs. Now, think of a child who knows how to touch-type. When students can learn to type fast without thinking about where their fingers are, they can concentrate on the words they will use to express their thoughts. It’s a life-long learning skill. That’s the science behind the “fluency” approach to touch-type teaching.
The fluency, or timed approach to teaching is not revolutionary but twenty years of research has taught us to break up the exercises into learning opportunities so students can maintain a sense of accomplishment and slowly build muscle memory in their fingers. Most children learn a new skill by first practicing simple moves, then adding more difficult ones as they gain confidence. With a dedicated commitment by the student and teacher/parent, our studies show the average student can begin to see results in their keyboarding skills in just a few months, practicing just 15 minutes a day!
We also maintain a strong belief in the use of incentives. In our curriculum, the use of games as a teaching method is frowned upon. Our society is built upon the premise that success should be rewarded, so we prefer to give the student a limited opportunity to play pre-selected games each time they master a new skill, not as a means of learning the skill itself.
It is no secret that we live in an age where the ability to effectively and efficiently use computers is paramount. Teachers and administrators spend countless hours and thousands of dollars developing new ways to prepare students for the digital future. It’s time to place an effective typing curriculum near the top of the list.