Would You Give A Child A Book And Never Teach Them To Read?

I ask myself this question every time I see a young person sitting in front of a keyboard. I’m not talking about an i-Pad or a cell phone where their thumbs do their talking, but an honest to goodness computer keyboard. It’s what they’ll use to do their homework, fill out those college applications, and most likely, make their living in the real world. I stand over their shoulder and watch… and shudder.

More than 75% of our children can’t type. Oh, they can hunt and peck, and some of them are pretty fast. But put a book or a pile of notes next to the computer, ask them to type without looking at the keys, and they’ll crumble like a wounded video game character. So I ask the question again….

If you wouldn’t give a child a book without first teaching them to read, why would

you sit them at a computer before teaching them to type?

Why is “typing class,” if it’s offered at all, relegated to just 30 to 60 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/coach, 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.

Carrie Shaw is a veteran educator and President of Keyboarding4Kids, a unique, “fluency-based” learn-to-type curriculum (www.keyboardclassroom.com). She can be reached by email, carrie@keyboardclassroom.com.

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