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Today, children are in tune with keyboards at an early age on an array of devices, more so than at any other point in history. Many schools have noticed that students of this modern age can type quite young because they have access to cell phones and computers. However, schools must look at this new ability critically: how are the children typing? Even though children have experience typing, many of them lack the technique that makes it an effective tool for schoolwork.

Young children starting school today are likely to type with the hunt-and-peck method, which entails typing slowly, with just a few fingers. This wastes their time and can be bad for their posture. Many students do not know how to touch type, even though it’s a faster and more effective method.

In the early 19th century, there were multiple “right” ways to type. In 1889, two teachers dueled each other after arguing about the best typing method out there. The winner, Frank McGurrin, went about teaching people how to type by using his method, “home keys,” which allows a typist to type a fantastic 126 words per minute. Over the next many years, international typing races became increasingly popular, and the results of demonstrating good typing technique astounded viewers. Soon, the popularity of these races would lead to keyboarding classes being required in high schools around the world.

When the Internet first arrived, there were no online applications to teach typing in schools. Schools had to buy professional programs and hire trained educators to teach children to type. At that time, handwriting was the norm and research was carried out mostly in the library. Nowadays, touch typing can be taken as an elective course, even though junior and high school students need the computer for almost all their work.

In this age, students don’t need keyboarding class to recognize the keyboard; they see it and use it when playing video games or borrowing their parents’ phones. Some families question why schools should teach keyboarding if students can already type, especially because students are so busy with various other works and projects. They may not have the time for thorough instruction about keyboarding, let alone practice.

But it truly does matter how we type. When you type without peeking at the keyboard, it automatically eases the process of translating ideas into writing. Ideas flow freely from the mind into the fingertips without having to interrupt the thought process with visual stimuli, which in turn frees up space in the mind. Cognitive memory becomes sharper with more focused attention on the task at hand.

Touch typing is an example of cognitive automaticity, which is the ability to do some things without conscious awareness. These types of tasks give us more space for higher thinking. It is not out of the question to suggest that the ability to type fast without looking at the keyboard is a rudimentary skill in the 21st century. This skill is affected by the widespread use of iPhones and iPads, when tweeting, using Facebook, and sending emails. Although touch screens are convenient, it is much harder to type without looking at your device, which impacts your ability to type quickly and accurately. People who type exclusively on small devices lose out on cognitive automaticity.

Practicing touch typing and proper keyboarding technique can also improve writing skills for children, because they can spend time on the content of their classroom assignments rather than the structure of handwriting. Many programs offer typing courses that aim to strengthen reading comprehension, spelling, and self-esteem. Typing programs can be multi-sensory, like phonics lessons that use sounds and reading practice to help children strengthen their literacy. English learners can develop their vocabulary all while developing typing skills that will be essential in school and the workplace.

Self-directed learning gives students the chance to move at their own pace without any stigma. If tasks are broken down into manageable steps, then they can be mastered quickly no matter how the students felt about typing before. Self-confidence will follow as students feel pride for mastering their new skills.

Having typing skills is also an advantage for people who decide to go a step further for higher education. As assignments become lengthier, handwriting becomes an unfeasible way to produce work. Typing is also prized in professional environments, so much so that adults will frequently register for typing courses to improve their productivity.

Most schools do not require that students learn touch typing, just that they be able to type. However, hunt-and-peck, which is the primary method of typing for untrained typists, is much slower and less accurate than touch typing. Students must undertake standardized tests in large quantities, and in a test environment you need speed. The ability to type fast offers a great advantage. Typing can also make taking notes easier - it is faster, and students can worry less about spelling and grammar and more about the content and the quality of their research.

Keyboarding classes don’t have to look like they did in the early 1900s; modern students are familiar with technology in a way those students were not. However, the benefits of learning to touch type - from better productivity to increased self-confidence - show that keyboarding should be a key part of all school curricula. Schools should endeavor to incorporate these skills in their students at an early stage, to make them more effective and efficient adults in their academic lives and their professional careers.

Tuesday, November 12th 2019