Should we teach typing?
A couple of weeks ago someone put out on the EdTech list a query regarding maintaining touch typing as a separate course. I didn’t see any other responses, so I decided to throw in my two cents worth. In a nutshell, I felt we had too much emphasis on typing ~ sure, practice is important, but is practice isolated usefulness as important? How much direct typing instruction should we teach?
This morning I was sending an email using my thumbs on my tiny QWERTY keyboard on my phone. Sort of made me laugh – I’m not typing 70+ words a minute on my phone, but I’m pretty adept at adapting. My brain has figured out how to type pretty quickly this way. Would it have were I not using a QWERTY layout? What motivates me to practice typing fast on my phone? (BTW: although I have taught touch typing, I personally never took a formal keyboarding course.)
I watch my 8 year old son play with his Wii he got for Christmas. In a few short sessions he figured out the keystrokes and movements required for a whole bunch of games. Never having had a Gamecube, but mistakenly having bought Gamecube games for the Wii, we found ourselves getting a “legacy” controller to play the games we bought. (So much for the ‘bargain’ bin!)
Again, he very quickly figured out the controls – literally within minutes – and was playing like a pro.
My mother learned to type on a manual typewriter. I had the advantage of using a wonderful combination of electric typewriters and dumb text terminals to write my papers in high school and college. (I’m not calling the terminals stupid – they were called dumb terminals because all of the work was done remotely by university VAX/VMS systems and not by the machine in front of you.)
I’m sure there was some desire to learn these new technologies on our part “back in the day” – but maybe we needed a bit more encouragement once we had mastered the basics. But beyond the basics, I’m not sure if today our limited and prescious instructional time is best spent still teaching keyboarding.
Keyboarding is still a great skill to have, but one most students will continue to refine and improve upon through their use of technology as we teach them how best to communicate. Through hundreds of updates to social networking tools like Twitter and Facebook, they will practice and will adapt. It’s a motivation that “word blasters” just can’t compete with.