May 22, 2013

Dear Otto: Do Students Still Need to Learn Keyboarding?

tech questionsDear Otto is an occasional column where I answer questions I get from readers about teaching tech. If you have a question, please complete the form below and I’ll answer it here. For your privacy, I use only first names.

Here’s a great question I got from Joe :

I am a tech teacher at my school, and I just got word that the admin want to discuss eliminating “teaching kids to type”. She feels it is not an important skill to teach our “tech savvy” kids. This stems from the idea that many devices have virtual keyboards instead of physical keyboards. While I have my check-list of the reasons why typing is important for kids to learn, I also want to collect ideas and reasons from other experts in the field. Any research based data would be great too.Thanks for your help,

Before I answer Joe, I need to send a shout-out to my son, Sean, in Kuwait, as he defends America’s liberties–HAPPY BIRTHDAY!!!

Back to my regularly scheduled post…

Hi Joe

The assumption of those who follow that line of thought is that technology can be self-taught, learned by doing. Just as it doesn’t work with piano or basketball, students who receive no direction in typing end up with bad habits that slow them down by the time they’re in middle school and need speed and accuracy for homework demands. If no one tells them otherwise, they think it’s fine to hunt-and-peck with two fingers (maybe that’s how dad does it) or type with their thumbs (the newest approach, thanks to texting). These students will struggle to deliver quality content for essays, reports, and high school and college applications. Where opinions are more and more forged by words on a screen–not by personal interaction or real-world connections (thanks to social media like FB and blogs)–these students will be found inferior.
All because they didn’t learn good habits when they started typing.
Don’t take my word for it, though. Here’s some research.
There will come a day when keyboarding is replaced with verbal commands, but not today, or next week. Or next year. Our students still need the rigor of touch typing.
Let me know how it works out.

Readers: This is my most oft-asked questions. All across the country, keyboarding is under attack as old fashioned, unnecessary, a skill that can be learned without teaching. What are your thoughts?

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Jacqui Murray has been teaching K-8 technology for 15 years. She is the editor of a K-8 technology curriculum, K-8 keyboard curriculum, K-8 Digital Citizenship curriculum, and creator of technology training books for how to integrate technology in education. She is webmaster for six blogs, CSG Master Teacher, an Amazon Vine Voice book reviewer, Editorial Review Board member for Journal for Computing Teachers, Cisco guest blogger, a columnist for, featured blogger for Technology in Education, IMS tech expert, and a monthly contributor to TeachHUB. Currently, she’s editing a techno-thriller that should be out to publishers next summer. Contact Jacqui at her writing office or her tech lab, Ask a Tech Teacher.

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