Even as technology continues to move forward, schools are discovering the value of looking backwards to older instructional methods that help teach students how to make the most of digital resources.
In the 21st century, where “bring your own device” and computer-based learning are common themes in education, many students are already familiar with using tablets and smartphones to communicate and access information. But do they know the best ways to use those devices to enhance learning? That's one of the issues that teachers and administrators face in today's modern classroom.
Efficiency of Touch Screens vs. Touch Typing
Moving icons and words with the glide of a finger, taking advantage of predictive text algorithms that complete your words, using your thumbs to key in letters – all of these are familiar ways to use a digital device, whether that's a laptop or a smartphone. By the time students reach grades where they'll need to know how to click on the correct answer in an online exam, and to use the school's virtual library and the internet to look up information on their own, they're so used to this interface that they don't even think about the alternative: the keyboard.
When it comes to efficiency and accuracy, touch-screen manipulation of text gets slower and less useful the longer the text becomes. Even the fastest thumb-key entry of words using a smartphone peaks at an average of 40wpm, a speed that is generally seen as the lowest baseline for touch typing. With only minimal instruction, any student can quickly learn to type using a standard QWERTY keyboard, reducing errors and increasing speed.
Students need to know how to use the keyboard to write their essays, reports, and papers, whether they're submitted through the teacher's home page or printed out to hand in for their grade. Over the course of one school year alone, students can save hours of typing time by learning to touch type. Without these essential keyboarding skills, many students risk falling behind in their classwork, something that will impact their performance throughout their school years and even affect their employability as adults.
Why Teach Typing in Schools?
Of course, typing skills aren't something that has arisen only in the age of computers. Between the 1960s and the 1980s, most schools in the United States offered typing classes to students in junior high and high school, though generally not to students in lower grades. As computers became more a part of normal everyday life, schools began to assume that students were learning keyboarding on their own, at home. Unfortunately, this assumption has led to a situation where students are coming into their classrooms without the keyboarding abilities they need, and leaving the classroom equally unprepared for further educational or professional development.
Today, many schools are providing their students with basic computer and keyboard lessons much earlier than before. Now that computers are used in a range of classroom activities and lessons even in the second and third grade, the sooner a child learns to type, the better they'll do in class. The most effective keyboarding programs are based on the fundamental principles of keyboarding that have been used since the introduction of typewriters, combined with the interactive and user-focused features made possible through today's modern computer software and applications.
The Best Typing Tutor Software
When comparing keyboarding programs for classroom use, there are several things to keep in mind.
- Does the software provide instruction in all aspects of typing? Even in the earliest typing classes, correct posture and form were constantly emphasized. Students need to know how to position their hands over the rows so that they are typing in the most efficient way possible. Whether sitting in front of a typewriter or at a computer keyboard, students will also need to be able to position their chairs, work surfaces, and keyboards to avoid developing problems related to muscle strain or compressed nerves. Since today's students spend their time both in school and outside the classroom working on laptops, smartphones, and other electronic devices that keep their hands and shoulders in cramped positions, the risk of long-term physical problems is real, and should be addressed from day one in any series of typing lessons.
- Are the lessons adapted to each individual student's progress? There's nothing worse than the feeling of falling behind, and if all of the students in a typing class are required to move on at the same pace, some students will eventually fail to keep up. The best keyboarding programs have built-in adaptability so that students who are having problems with certain keystroke combinations are prompted to repeat exercises and focus on the things they're having difficulty with before they continue through the lessons. In traditional typing classes, the teacher would walk around the students at their desks to observe when and how they're making mistakes. In a good typing tutor program, the system will track the students' finger movements and activity scores, and point them to the specific review lessons they need to make consistent, steady progress through the course.
- Does the software minimize administrative time? The last thing that busy teachers need is another set of lessons to research, create, and grade. When it comes to keyboarding classes in particular, teachers who aren't touch typists themselves may not feel capable of leading their students through the lessons without putting in extra time to learn the basics first. That's why self-guided typing courses provided by leading software companies are popular with school districts across the country, as they save both time and money for teachers and administrators alike. Such software provides a well-planned set of graduated lessons that the students can follow at their own pace, and prompts students to review specific areas where they're having problems. As the students improve, the software challenges them to set new goals for speed and accuracy, and adapts the lessons to help them achieve those goals. With the software focused on each student, teachers can concentrate on helping those students who are having the most difficulty with basic typing concepts.
School districts and administrators who are looking for software that will teach the widest range of students with the least amount of extra work for teaching staff, and for the lowest cost, should consider a program like eReflect's Typesy™. This cloud-based software eliminates the need for onsite technical support, and the scientifically-designed keyboarding lessons are suitable for children as young as 7 years old while challenging and interesting enough for students through the high school grades. The experts on the development team have combined well-tested keyboarding principles with the latest in interactive technology and social networking to produce a system that has quickly become a favorite with students and teachers nationwide. To get more information about a trial version of the system contact the eReflect team.
Creative Commons licensed keyboard image source.