In the not too distant past keyboarding, or touch-typing, was a skill learned by those pursuing a career in business. College bound students would use keyboarding for those required college papers, but soon after graduation forget it. Things have changed. With the personal computer in homes, school, and places of employment, keyboarding has become a necessary skill for almost everyone. The high school business typing class became the middle school technology curriculum, and now has become the elementary computer keyboarding class. The question no longer is, should a person take keyboarding, but when and how.
There remain questions and concerns about keyboarding instruction at the elementary level. Who will teach the skill? How will they teach it? When is keyboarding instruction a necessary skill? How frequent and for what duration should the instruction be? This paper will look at recent research and commentary on the topic, as well as a survey gathering information pertaining to current keyboarding instruction in elementary schools.
Why is keyboarding instruction necessary?
Simply stated, most people from pre-schoolers up are using computers. Nebraska Language Arts standards state “Students will use writing to communicate” (Nebraska Department of Education, 2009). In kindergarten and first grade the suggested method of publishing a document is hand writing it. However, the standards suggest publishing a document electronically beginning in second grade. In the Multiple Literacies section, the standards specifically suggest the use of electronic means of communicating. “Students will gain knowledge, identify main idea, and communicate information in a variety of media and formats (textual, visual, and digital) “(Nebraska Department of Education, 2009).
At least one study has shown that improving a student’s keyboarding skills improves his or her writing skills. Ron Owston, director of the Institute for Research on Learning Technologies at York University in Toronto stated, "Keyboarding is definitely a valuable skill, even for elementary school kids. And our research shows that being able to use the computer effectively improves children's writing skills as well" (Pitman, 2007, p. 204). In his study, Owston matched two groups of eight year olds. The first group received laptops and instruction in keyboarding and computer skills. The control group, at a different school, received no special instruction. "In the first year, the control group was actually a bit ahead," says Owston. "But by the end of the third year, the kids with the computers produced higher-quality writing, their essays and stories were longer, more detailed, more complex. They expressed their thoughts better. Their work was also better when you looked at spelling and grammar" (Pitman, 2007, p. 204).
As with all technology, keyboarding is a tool to enhance education, not a magic wand. Keyboarding instruction and writing instruction complement each...