Why Johnny Can’t Type?


“Johnny” from Massachusetts was your typical homeschooled 10 year old.  The oldest of four, his mother “Susan” had carefully constructed his program of study from the time he was just a toddler. She attended conventions throughout the northeast, and spent a small fortune on curriculum, books, and games, that would give Johnny the skills he would need to lead a successful life as he got older.

Early on, Susan recognized the importance of the computer to her son’s education and development and tried to incorporate the latest electronic software into his homeschool day. There was only one problem. Johnny didn’t know how to type. So, Susan went out and bought a popular learn-to-type software program. It was filled with fun exercises, flashing lights, sound effects, and typing games, and Johnny was able to advance at his own pace, “completing” the course in less than a week. He still didn’t know how to type.

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 thinking. Willie Mays didn’t become the “Say Hey” kid in a week. “Air Jordan” wasn’t an overnight phenomenon. It’s the same with any skill, even typing.

Along with educators at the renowned Ben Bronz Academy in West Hartford, Connecticut, we’ve studied children in various learning environments for over two decades, watching and developing methods to improve the learning process. We’ve paid specific attention to children with attention problems, special education needs, and learning disabilities and concluded that young people with and without these learning issues, can succeed more effectively through the use of computers for drill and practice. And when they learn to touch type, they are able to channel their focus on what they’re learning. Their fingers actually become an unwitting extension of their brains!

It’s all about muscle memory. Great typists, like great athletes, need to learn the fundamentals by practicing them day after day, building new skills only after they master something less difficult. An effective keyboarding program should be systematically designed so a child must truly master a skill, before advancing to a more challenging one.

To teach children to type, we developed a program that incorporates the following elements.

  • Lessons are broken down into one minute fluency exercises to build muscle memory and cater to students with limited attention spans.
  • We work at a systematic pace. Students cannot go to the next level of difficulty without mastering an easier level.
  • The program stresses returning fingers to the “home position,” the key to touch typing proficiency.

· Everyone likes to have fun but games sometimes get in the way of good learning. We use games as incentives (not a teaching method) and as a reward for a job well done.

In a lot of ways, we’ve just gone back to basics, creating a structured but simple way for children to learn how to type… a skill they’ll use nearly every day for the rest of their lives.

By the way, Johnny has been using his new typing program for six months, practicing his keyboarding skills for just 15 minutes every day. Susan wrote us a note last week telling us he’s now fluent at 35 words per minute and she’s noticed a marked improvement in his other work as well. Now she says, “Johnny knows how to type.”

Carrie Shaw is an educator and the President of Keyboard Classroom, one of the fastest growing learn-to-type software programs in America. Her website is www.keyboardclassroom.com and she can be reached via email at carrie@keyboardclassroom.com.

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