Who Should Teach Keyboarding and
When Should It Be Taught?
By Margaret J. Erthal
This Articleson Teaching Typewriting & Keyboarding
Typewriting, once the domain of business education teachers, was taught in high
school. The vocational business curriculum dictated a year of Typewriting I at
the freshman level, a year of Typewriting II at the sophomore level, a year of
Office Practice and Shorthand I at the junior level, and a year of Secretarial
Practice and Shorthand II at the senior level.This curriculum was adhered to by
the majority of schools as the objective of business education was vocational
in nature. The introduction of the personal computer changed the business education
curriculum and the method in which typewriting instruction was delivered.
Computers allowed students to become more efficient as they keyed letters, memos,
reports, and tables within the business education classroom. Soon, other disciplines
began to take advantage of the efficiency and effectiveness of computers.English
teachers required typed papers in English Composition class, and mathematics teachers
used BASIC programming to expand on paper and pencil problems. A new class, Computer
Literacy, appeared in school curricula and eventually achieved the status of a
"required" course. Business teachers believed they possessed the knowledge and
expertise to teach Computer Literacy, but were soon faced with science and math
teachers who also felt they possessed the knowledge and expertise to teach this
During the 1980s, personal computers began to appear at the elementary level.
Young students used computers for drill and practice and the popular software
program LOGO (Harvey, 1985). As elementary students reached high school, business
teachers began facing two challenges: sections of keyboarding classes were declining,
and keyboarding students had developed the unfortunate habit of keying with the
"hunt and peck" method.Today, educators at all levels are challenged to integrate
the capabilities of the internet into the learning environment. In fact, President
Clinton foresees a computer in every classroom connected to the Internet and the
computer literacy of all students.
If all students are to be computer literate, educators must address the following
dilemma. Should students possess keying skills? If so, when should these skills
be taught, who should teach them, and what part do keyboarding software packages
Keyboarding is the manipulation of the computer keyboard by touch. Performance
expectations described in the National Standards for Business Education include
students' ability to:
- Develop touch keyboarding techniques; ·
- Enter and manipulate numeric data using the touch method on a 10-key keypad;
- Develop touch keyboarding skills at acceptable speed and accuracy levels.
Keyboarding is a psychomotor skill and resembles playing a musical instrument
such as the piano: the fine motor muscles must respond to the brain's instructions.
Eye-hand coordination is necessary for the fine motor muscles to locate and strike
a key or ivory.Sound pedagogical procedures are inherent in learning and becoming
proficient at touch keyboarding (Erthal, 1996). Various groups have suggested
that keyboard learning should be taught prior to using a computer, especially
since students need formal instruction to acquire keyboarding skills using the
touch system (Prigge and Braathen, 1993; Nieman, 1996).Benefits of acquiring keyboarding
skills include the enhanced use of time and effective use of computers (Elementary/Middle
School Keyboarding Strategies Guide, 1992). Everyone who will use computers needs
to develop "touch" keyboarding skills. The emphasis is on the skill of entering
alphanumeric data for the primary purposes of obtaining, processing, or communicating
information (Schmidt, 1985).Research shows that children with keying skills are
able to compose faster, are prouder of their work, produce documents with a neater
appearance, have better motivation and demonstrate improved language arts skills
WHEN TO TEACH KEYBOARDING
Students below the third grade, typically, do not possess the dexterity and hand
size to manipulate the keys effectively. The suggested age for effective keyboard
instruction is 10 to 12 years of age (Elementary/Middle School Keyboarding Strategies
Guide, 1992).Children in grades four to six gradually exhibit greater smoothness
and command of small-muscle expression, which is reflected in better coordination
in activities (Prigge and Braathen, 1993). Correct keying should be used and reinforced
from the beginning. Students should use the right index finger to key "Y" for
yes and "N" for no; the right little finger to enter; the right thumb for the
spacebar; and the mouse to point and click. Students need formal instruction to
acquire keyboarding skills using the touch system before they use the computer
for more than simple, single-key responses. Once students complete the initial
keyboarding instruction, reinforcement activities are necessary. Keyboarding skills
improve little or abate without consistent reinforcement (Elementary/Middle School
Keyboarding Strategies Guide, 1992). If correct techniques are taught with initial
computer use and progressively added each year, the level of keyboarding ability
is continually strengthened (Davidson and Kochmann, 1996).A plan needs to be in
place to assure the continuous development of keyboarding skills after the initial
keyboarding instruction (Sormunen, 1991). Texas, Minnesota, New York, and Virginia
have mandated keyboarding classes along with instruction time, speed, and accuracy
standards. Keyboarding instruction begins from grade five and continues on to
later grades. The goal is to prepare students for information retrieval and word
processing (Nieman, 1996).
WHO SHOULD TEACH KEYBOARDING?
A knowledgeable teacher is needed to help students develop appropriate techniques,
as well as provide motivation and reinforcement (Nieman, 1996). However, business
teachers must understand the methodology of teaching elementary students, and
elementary teachers must understand psychomotor skill development (Prigge and
Braathen, 1993; Davidson and Kochmann, 1996). When first learning to touch type,
students need about 30 hours of keyboarding instruction to acquire the ability
to use the correct fingers (McLean, 1994).Oftentimes, elementary keyboarding instruction
is limited to 10 or fewer hours and the result is poor or no keying skills (Sormunen,
1991). Instruction can be supplied by elementary teachers who have taken a keyboarding
methods class, a business education teacher with elementary learning methods,
or a combination of business education and elementary education teachers (McLean,
The role that software plays can enhance keyboarding skills. However, software
cannot take the place of a qualified teacher (McLean, 1994). Many popular keyboarding
software packages violate psychomotor skill development (Davidson and Kochmann,
1996).The complexity of teaching keyboarding requires an extensive and extremely
well-written software program. No software program has been shown to be superior
to capable, live keyboarding instruction.Software programs serve well for drill,
remediation, enrichment practice, as well as adding variety to keyboarding instruction.
Software cannot be programmed to see, to hear, or to feel the keyboarding instructional
needs of the student (Schmidt, 1985).On the horizon is speaker and dictation software.
While this software has been technologically feasible for some time, the cost
is prohibitive and the accuracy is questionable.
Keyboarding skills are no longer vocational in nature, but necessary to communicate,
extract, and disseminate information. Poor or no keyboarding skills will severely
hamper people in their quest for knowledge.Keyboarding should be taught at about
the fifth grade, and instruction should be a partnership of the elementary education
and business education teachers. Sufficient time should be devoted to initial
keyboarding instruction (about 30 hours minimum), and the new skill should be
reinforced throughout the school years.Keyboarding software packages should be
carefully scrutinized to ascertain if they follow should pedagogical, psychomotor
principles. You would not sit a child down at a piano and use a software package
to teach piano playing. Similarly, children are taught to play sports with a coach
and much guided practice. The coach provides motivation, reinforcement, and corrective
action. Students and parents should expect no less from keyboarding instruction.
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