Keyboarding Skills for Children

The use of technology is integrated throughout the Common Core standards. The introductory pages of the English Language Arts standards explains that college and career-ready students need to be able to “use technology and digital media strategically and capably.” The standards state that,

“Students employ technology thoughtfully to enhance their reading, writing, speaking, listening, and language use. They tailor their searches online to acquire useful information efficiently, and they integrate what they learn using technology with what they learn offline. They are familiar with the strengths and limitations of various technological tools and mediums and can select and use those best suited to their communication goals.”

ID-10022083The fact that this describes “college and career ready” students does not mean that technology is only used or introduced in high school. Expected student achievements are explicitly defined from kindergarten through Grade 12. In kindergarten, for example, standard CCSA.ELA-Literacy.W.K.6 states that students should “with guidance and support from adults, explore a variety of digital tools to produce and publish writing, including in collaboration with peers.” To see what this looks like, check out the video below “Integrating Technology into a Kindergarten Classroom” and watch how students are engaged, excited, and involved in meaningful projects using technology. It’s amazing – they are learning how to search on the Web; develop skills in visual literacy; use and create digital media; and communicate and collaborate with one another, while developing 21st century skills. These students “employ technology” to “thoughtfully … enhance their reading, writing, speaking, listening, and language use.”

Keyboarding in the Common Core
As stated in the Common Core Literacy Writing Standard W.3.6, students in third grade “with guidance and support from adults, use technology to produce and publish writing (using keyboarding skills) as well as to interact and collaborate with others.” The standards state that by fourth grade, students should “demonstrate sufficient command of keyboarding skills to type a minimum of one page in a single setting.” (CCSS. ELA-Literacy.W.4.6 ). In fifth grade, they should be able to type two pages on their own (CCSS.ELA-Literacy.W.5.6,) and in sixth grade (CCSA.ELA-Literacy.W.6.6,) it’s three pages (along with being able to use the internet to interact and collaborate with others.)

Classroom Curriculum
While most states in the US are implementing Common Core, not all have the infrastructure, or time to use technology throughout their curriculums. In my daughter’s school, for example, keyboarding is not part of the curriculum.  The school does not have the physical space, connectivity, electrical outlets, personnel, and hardware to support the effort to teach students how to type. In this urban school with a population of 628 students, the effort of integrating technology using the 1 or 2 sets of iPads or Chrome books available is at the discretion of the teachers willing to try to make these limited resources work. Other schools say they cannot fit keyboarding in due to the intensely rigorous curricular demands, and the need to cover the required materials in a short time span.

Typing, however, is a skill that has become more important than ever. Besides using personal computers at home and work, we encounter keyboards at the ATM, the checkout counter, when ordering movie tickets. Many elementary students are required, or given the option, to submit typed assignments. In order to write easily while allowing ideas to flow without the burden of hunting for letters, they need to be able to keyboard. In the article “Out of Touch with Typing,” published in MIT Technology Review, A. Trubek writes,

Touch typing allows us to write without thinking about how we are writing, freeing us to focus on what we are writing, on our ideas. Touch typing is an example of cognitive automaticity, the ability to do things without conscious attention or awareness. Automaticity takes a burden off our working memory, allowing us more space for higher-order thinking.”

Learning to Type
Some parents, understanding that children need keyboarding skills, are taking steps outside of school to get their children the support they need. The report “Children Learning to Type at an Early Age” from NBC Washington explains that there is a disconnect between what students need to know and what is being taught in school, and how parents are trying to fill the gap.

Other schools, however, are beginning to teach keyboarding because new standardized tests are being delivered to children via computers. As reported by the Washington Post in “Elementary Students Learn Keyboard Typing Ahead of the New Common Core Tests,” some schools are racing to prepare their students, with the pressure being placed on classroom teachers. Whether or not this is a truly authentic and meaningful educational rationale for teaching students how to use keyboards (i.e., passing mandated tests) vs. having them use technology in ways the students featured in the Kindergarten video were engaged in, is a whole different discussion. However, so that students can focus on curricular requirements—whether test or project based, touch typing is an essential skill to develop.

Resources for Parents and Teachers
If you want your children to learn to keyboard, look into your local community to see if there are after-school centers or programs that teach the skills. You can also try doing an online search for typing programs to find free Web sites, as well as online subscription services and software.

My daughter has been fairly successful in using Typing Instructor for Kids, available as software and in a subscription. As she travels through the lessons on Typer Island, she gets to complete various challenges while learning to use the keyboard. This program has helped her recognize the main keys, and she feels more confident when typing papers for school. My son is at a school where keyboarding is a part of the curriculum and has loved using Mavis Beacon published by Broderbund (they use the school version.) In a very short time, he has quickly developed the ability to type a one-page paper without any trouble.

You can also have students use mobile devices like an iPad to learn their way around a keyboard. The article 5 Great Mac Apps for Learning to Type presents programs ranging from $1.99 to $39.99. My son’s school also uses several online games to reinforce and practice typing skills they have already learned, such as the keyboard games found on ABCya! and BBC Schools Dance Mat Typing.

Finally, be sure to explore “How to Get Kids Started Typing on Keyboards,” which provides helpful ideas for getting younger children on the path to keyboarding.

Image courtesy of Salvatore Vuono /

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