Touch typing : #EdTech :: handwriting : creative writing - why teaching the basics is still important
A few weeks ago, a teacher friend of mine shared a technology question on Facebook. She asked "Is it still important for us to teach touch typing in computer class?" She tagged me and a few other friends who are kind of "techy teachers", and the discussion that followed was interesting.
The majority of teacher said, "Yes learning touch typing benefits students." However, the overwhelming majority also said "No, it should not be ALL you learn in a computer class." So I got to thinking about it and realized that touch typing is to technology skills in the same way that handwriting is to creative writing. Important, but not the MOST important.
How is Touch Typing Similar to Handwriting?
Teaching touch typing basics helps students to use a computer more effectively. If students know where the keys are, they can type in anything faster and clearer - whether it's an essay or just their search criteria for YouTube.
Having clear and legible handwriting allows students to write a story more effectively. Not only can students proofread their own work better if their writing is clear, but they can receive help from others better. Also, when students are NOT publishing their work on technology (And let's remember student writing only began being published on computer in the 90's.), their neat handwriting allows them to get their ideas out to other people.
Why Do We Need To Teach the Basics?
I often hear "Is it really important to TEACH these touch typing skills? Won't students just pick them up?" Yes, my father can type on a keyboard in that hunt and peck fashion and he can get by. Yes, a students can often look at a letter and draw a similar one on their paper, even if they loop around the circle 3 times before giving the a a tail. Yes the basics can be picked up without direct instruction. But when they are picked up this way, students:
So it IS important for us to teach students touch typing basics, just like it is important for us to do some handwriting practice. If you're not sure where to start with touch typing - this blog post on Keyboarding Websites will give you some ideas.
Why Do We Need to Allow Time for Application?
Since touch typing is such an important skill, many teachers decide it is the ONLY technology skill needed. This is definitely not true either. Students who only work on touch typing exercises and touch typing speed tests are not truly learning to type, and they're DEFINITELY not truly learning to use the computer. Students need some time to work on touch typing - maybe 5 - 10 minutes a day, and then they need to move on to using that knowledge to do research, write papers, create presentations, make movies, etc.
If you're not sure what to do for application projects, you might consider:
What's happening in your classroom? Do you teach typing skills? Do you teach handwriting? If you're not teaching these basic skills, why not? I'd love to hear what's going on in classrooms around the world, so please leave us a comment.
At the beginning of the school year, I always try to think about what skills my students will need all year long and I build them into my centers and my homework. Some of the skills I focus on are math facts, reading comprehension strategies and typing skills. Students today, and my students in particular, need to be familiar with keyboards and how to type on them. My students complete all of their homework online with Edmodo and complete regular computer based projects. If it takes them 3 minutes to find the “k” key, they are going to quickly fall behind. So, at the beginning of the year, I assign these sites for homework and computer time:
1.) Dance Mat Typing – This is my all time favorite website for teaching typing because the tutorial model exactly what fingers should be used on each key in order to touch type (type without looking). As a touch typer myself, I find this skill incredibly important, but overwhelming for young children. Dance Mat makes it fun and amusing. There are cartoon animals that explain how the typing should be done and then sing and dance and celebrate when the kids get it done. The entire task of mastering typing is broken down into easy, manageable steps. Part of the BBC website – this is generally my go-to website for teaching keyboarding. (Please note that you must have a qwerty keyboard in order to use this site effectively. Not all of my students have these keyboards at home, and this has caused an issue. It probably won’t be an issue for you if you are not in an international setting.)
2.) Typing Master – This site has a variety of games where the students type a letter on the keyboard in order to advance in the game. The kids love to play pacman or pop the bubbles, and at the same time they are familiarizing themselves with where the letters are on the keyboard. This site is particularly good for younger students, and is also a great letter practice for preschool students.
3.) Lang Sense - For my students who do not have qwerty keyboards, this is a great option, because it still allows you to choose the keyboard you would like to work on. However, it is not nearly as fun as DanceMat. The lessons are a little dry, but they do provide students with a great amount of typing practice in a regular series that is broken into manageable steps.
4.) Learning the Keyboard Games - Similar to Typing Master, this site has a variety of games, including stacking cups and the letter factory. There are also more formal tutorials available for older students.
For more resources to integrate technology into your classroom, check out my Technology Integration Kit.
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