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Thought... - The Phantom Librarian
Spewing out too many words since November 2003
After watching a seven year old being baffled over a paper she was expected to type for school (which, first of all, a seven year old does not need to be writing reports yet, but that's not where I'm going), it occurs to me that with more and more emphasis being placed on turning in reports that are properly typed and formatted, it might be a swell idea to teach keyboarding along with penmanship. Here's your ten minutes tracing the letter A, here's your ten minutes practicing tapping keys in a specific order and practice with the shift key. Having a child go from, "Here, trace an 'a'" to "Now, give me a neatly typed three page report on something that happened at home" seems a little unrealistic, even if we were talking about fifth graders actually turning in their first reports. Keyboarding has become more necessary than it once was--shouldn't it be part of the general process of learning necessary writing skills?
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From: lekilitook Date: January 7th, 2007 08:26 pm (UTC) (Link)
I agree with you. It should be part of the curriculum in grade schools. I think some schools already have it in their curriculum, but not all of them do.
fernwithy From: fernwithy Date: January 7th, 2007 08:39 pm (UTC) (Link)
Yeah--they've got to start treating computers as either luxuries or somehow outside the general scope of things. No "computer class," but training on keyboarding as a general part of education. I'm glad my mother made me take a typing class in high school, as I'd have never gotten through college without it, but now, it's needed a lot earlier. Unfortunately, those tend to be offered as "business prep" courses, meant to be vocational training for people to graduate and become secretaries... while at the same time, everyone is expected to have the knowledge.

It goes without saying that they should also not just assume that kids are actually born knowing how to use them these days, a joke that it appears too many people take seriously.
trinity_clare From: trinity_clare Date: January 7th, 2007 08:32 pm (UTC) (Link)
Hmm. I know I "had to" play Mario Teaches Typing two or three hours a week in third grade study hall, but I didn't actually have a required keyboarding class until my freshman year in high school (I'm now an undergrad, for the record). And by then my bad typing was so thoroughly ingrained that I've never been able to fix it completely.
threnody From: threnody Date: January 7th, 2007 08:38 pm (UTC) (Link)
I'm one of those people who think that as long as you can get the job done, there's not really any 'wrong' way to do it. It drives my mother nuts that I don't type 'properly', but I'm fast and accurate and in the long run how I manage that doesn't really matter.
fernwithy From: fernwithy Date: January 7th, 2007 08:46 pm (UTC) (Link)
True. I'm glad I learned standard touch-typing, because it doubled the speed of my hunt-and-peck method in the space of a year, but if something's working, that's fine.

The problem here was not really understanding things like what the shift key does.
trinity_clare From: trinity_clare Date: January 7th, 2007 09:07 pm (UTC) (Link)
I completely agree about seven being too early for a report. I was in sixth or seventh grade before anything was typed.
trinity_clare From: trinity_clare Date: January 7th, 2007 09:08 pm (UTC) (Link)
True, and it does work pretty well, but I'm not as good at typing without looking and I can't type quite as fast as I'd otherwise be able. Besides that, I'm happy with it.
darkeyedwolf From: darkeyedwolf Date: January 7th, 2007 08:32 pm (UTC) (Link)
A paper due from a seven year old?
fernwithy From: fernwithy Date: January 7th, 2007 08:48 pm (UTC) (Link)
Yeah. That's the other part of my headdesking. Chances are, if a girl does not yet know what a quotation mark is or what a paragraph is, it's probably, you know, too early for a damned paper.
sue_parsons From: sue_parsons Date: January 7th, 2007 09:27 pm (UTC) (Link)
When I taught first grade, every year I would require a powerpoint cell from each of my students. Here is how we did it:

I showed them excerpts from the compiled reports from the previous first graders. They could see, then, that their report was to be on an endangered animal, would include a title, a paragraph and an illustration, and that the text was made of answers to very specific questions I asked them.

After doing a unit on endangered animals before Earth Day, I brought in additional materials and the kids each chose animals - no duplications.

We went to the school library and checked out easy-reader books on those animals. I sent the books home for a couple of nights and asked the parents to go over the material with the kids.

In class, each child, using a graphic organizer, wrote down information about the animals they had chosen, basically listing where the animals lived, what they ate, a physical description, etc. We then took those organizers and added to them with information from the books they had checked out. This latter portion was done in small groups for two days.

Using a listing of questions on the board, the kids wrote out complete sentences while looking at the rough drafts they had begun with.

Using a checksheet, the kids self-edited their papers. They then traded with three other kids, each one using a red pencil and that original checksheet to peer-edit and sign at the bottom of the checksheet. This was a good time to point out penmanship issues, as well, when kids could not read what others had written. I took those pages and wrote out the completed paragraphs for the kids in large print, since they would be doing the final copy on the computer.

The next two weeks kids took turns typing their reports on the computer in twenty-minute increments of time. Each child had his/her own power point cell which they would click on and work within the text box, then save. They used colored highlighters to keep track of how far down on the hardcopy page they had progressed. After their illustrations were finished, I loaded them into the picture box of the cells. At the end of each day I would go in and correct for mechanics and typos.

It made for a pretty impressive presentation for Open House shown on the TV mounted on the wall above the computer station when finished off with visual and sound transitions.

Notice that the only thing the kids did outside of the classroom was a little research with their folks. Everything having to do with the actual writing, editing and final copy were done under my supervision. With the demographics and low socio-economic population I taught in, this was really the only way to go.

By third grade my own son, doomed by poor penmanship, chose on his own to do all reports on his computer. But he lived in a computer-literate as well as highly educated family. Requiring as homework typed or word-processed reports from kids who have not learned those skills, from paragraphing to keyboarding, is not good teaching.

fernwithy From: fernwithy Date: January 7th, 2007 09:39 pm (UTC) (Link)
That sounds like a great way to introduce them to work, and isn't overburdening the homework. It's a good introduction to project-work in school, and fun because they get to play with the computer, which is fun as long as there's some guidance and they're not stressing out about having to figure it out on their own or fail.

This child obviously had to use the computer in the library because she didn't have one at home and was watched by two elderly women whose English wasn't very good, so they didn't really understand my help or her assignment, and she didn't have the vocabulary to tell me what she was stuck on (except for making a capital letter). She had it all written out fairly neatly with pencil and paper, so she was prepared, but typing, she was lost on. She'd very obviously had no prior practice at all before this was expected of her.
sue_parsons From: sue_parsons Date: January 7th, 2007 09:49 pm (UTC) (Link)
So, again, I submit to you that this girl's teacher is no teacher if she expects a child in those circumstances to complete this assignment according to expectations without the proper guidance and assistance she so obviously needs. Educators should make it their business to know what resources the students have at hand both inside and outside of the classroom and to provide additional scaffolding to those pupils who need it.
threnody From: threnody Date: January 7th, 2007 08:35 pm (UTC) (Link)
It really should. I was lucky- when I was seven it was still the days of the mimeo copy, but our school was donated a bunch of computers and started teaching us programming (okay, so it was qbasic, but we are talking about the stone age, here). We had at least some computer experience, even if we didn't need it right then.

In eighth grade, long before most people in my glass even had a computer at home (but after typewriters had gone out of style), they brought in little portable keyboard thingies and taught us to type. Because they knew it would be important in our lives someday.

Maybe schools now think that computers are just so ubiquitous, that these kids have all the experience they need already. Which is stupid.

ratcreature From: ratcreature Date: January 7th, 2007 08:41 pm (UTC) (Link)
Is proper typing (like a ten finger touch typing system) even alright for the hands of children that age yet? I know it puts strain on my hands, I couldn't imagine having to do it with smaller hands. I mean, I guess younger children also play piano and such so maybe it is okay, but before demanding that even elementary school children are required to type a lot instead of just learning to write first, I think it should be made sure that it's not harmful.
fernwithy From: fernwithy Date: January 7th, 2007 09:03 pm (UTC) (Link)
That's a really interesting point, which I hadn't thought about. I've never heard of a study one way or the other on it.
ratcreature From: ratcreature Date: January 7th, 2007 09:52 pm (UTC) (Link)
That's strange, you'd really think potential for these repetitive stress injuries and such would be subject to more consideration.

Personally I never had to turn in a typed assignment in high school, though it was optional on some work assignments. In elementary school actual penmanship was part of the writing grade, and later on if a teacher couldn't read your writing you were out of luck, though to be fair most teachers tried even with the most awful chicken scratch that couldn't have been easy to decipher. Still in school I learned to write fast and legible by hand, though even so five hours of writing text by hand on exam test essays and such was hard on my hands as well,so it's not just typing.

I think they probably should have offered typing classes but they didn't. OTOH we learned calligraphy in art class so I can write decently in a couple of fonts with a calligraphic quill. I even ended up doing it as a hobby for a while as a teenager, because I found it incredibly relaxing and meditative to write down a text with precision in a font suited to the subject, maybe even with some text design, and to concentrate solely on copying a text like that. And I would have never found out if I hadn't learned in school first. It was certainly more fun than learning how to type. :)
chienar From: chienar Date: January 8th, 2007 06:24 am (UTC) (Link)
oddly, thinking of little children typing always seems to remind me of Ender's Game.
izhilzha From: izhilzha Date: January 8th, 2007 09:04 pm (UTC) (Link)
Gee, I wonder why. :-D
ncp From: ncp Date: January 7th, 2007 08:44 pm (UTC) (Link)
A seven year old should not be typing a report. The teacher should require a neatly written report. Keyboarding is an essential skill that should not be taught until the later elementary years. Let the kid learn how to write first.
saeva From: saeva Date: January 7th, 2007 08:53 pm (UTC) (Link)
Well, I don't know about others but at the age of 22, I had keyboarding classes from about the time of first grade onwards (and I wasn't required to turn in my first typed report until at least seventh or eighth grade. Of course, it really depends on the school, I imagine, but I'm surprised there's a seven year old in a relatively decently funded area (if the area you work in is such, which I've always presumed it is from the cool activities you've gotten the go-ahead to pull together) is unable to type relatively well, honestly.

- Andrea.
From: jme1374 Date: January 7th, 2007 11:35 pm (UTC) (Link)
I don't know about that. My son will be 7 in a few months, and goes to what I consider to be a pretty good private school (nowhere near Fern), and he can't type well enough to do a report. I consider him fairly computer savvy - he can type some words, and is having a computer class (30 minutes twice a week) at school, and plays educational games on the computer at home.

Now, Fern's 7-year-old may be a grade ahead of my son, but I can't imagine that even in a year his school will be expecting him to type reports, at least not outside of school. (I could see them doing something like the PowerPoint thing someone mentioned above, mostly under the supervision of the teacher.)

I guess my point is that different schools do it differently, but it sounds to me like this 7-year-old that Fern tried to help was being asked to do something beyond her capabilities.
(Deleted comment)
akashasheiress From: akashasheiress Date: January 7th, 2007 08:59 pm (UTC) (Link)
in_a_tizzy From: in_a_tizzy Date: January 7th, 2007 09:04 pm (UTC) (Link)
It's funny cause I had weekly typing lessons in grade school in the early to mid 90s. I would have thought it would be fairly universal by now. It's definitely a necessary skill these days.
fernwithy From: fernwithy Date: January 7th, 2007 09:41 pm (UTC) (Link)
I'd simply assumed it was until I started working here and the kids looked surprised that I would think anyone had ever taught them to type. Here they are, lifelong computer users, and they're stunned that I can type quickly and with all of my fingers, instead of the hunt-and-peck that they do.
lstinhpfdm From: lstinhpfdm Date: January 8th, 2007 12:22 am (UTC) (Link)
Even if they do get typing in the schools no PERSON has taught them to type the old fashioned way. My children's schools use a computer program in the 4th & 5th grades, and if it doesn't work. Oh well..
thewhiteowl From: thewhiteowl Date: January 8th, 2007 10:36 pm (UTC) (Link)
From: (Anonymous) Date: January 7th, 2007 09:27 pm (UTC) (Link)
Do one year on typing on old fashioned typing machines was compulsory in my school at age 13. One of the most useful things I've ever learned during my school days.

E - L
sixth_light From: sixth_light Date: January 7th, 2007 10:18 pm (UTC) (Link)
I had a pretty thorough keyboard class in third form (first year of college, or...hell, year nine. Which I think is your year eight.) The trouble was that I was fast enough by that time with two finger that I never bothered to pick up touch-typing properly, because it was so frustrating going from really quite fast to very slow. So, yeah, early classes are probably a very good idea - catch bad habits before they start!
dreagoddess From: dreagoddess Date: January 7th, 2007 11:55 pm (UTC) (Link)
I agree that if the kids are going to be expected to turn in typed reports, they should be taught typing skills. However, I think 7 is way too young for that. The emphasis that young should be on handwriting. There are enough people who completely forget how to legibly write once they start typing. If we don't give kids a thorough grounding in it first, that'll get even worse!

I had my first keyboarding class in 6th grade. It was a 6 week program in our Health class, for some reason. (That was kind of the catch-all subject, really.) We had these little freestanding keyboards, kind of like word processors so you could see about a line of type of a little screen. In 7th grade, I took a computer class, but it was about using and basic programming, not typing. Then in high school we had a required 1 semester class in Keyboarding. By then, I could already type faster than the teacher -- 125wpm -- so it was my easiest grade ever. ;)
lstinhpfdm From: lstinhpfdm Date: January 8th, 2007 12:17 am (UTC) (Link)
But expecting 7 year old to learn to touch type with their small hands is a bit much. In my opinion they aren't really physiologically ready till a bit older. And unfortunately when most schools start teaching typing (3rd-5th grades) they usually just plop the kids in from of computer software with minimal adult supervision. No help in the correct placement of the hands were given. My older daughter didn't learn typing very effectively that way.

I help in my 7 year old son's 2nd grade classroom during "computer" time. Some of that time has been teaching the kids very basic computer typing. One assignment was asking the kids to type their first & last name, three times with correct capitalization and spacing. Some kids (my son included) completed this in seconds, while others were clueless and needed quite a bit of help and time.

I do agree it's a bit much to dump them suddenly with a lot of typing. When my daughter was in the 5th & 6th grades (luckily my school doesn't require typed papers till then) I would expect my daughter to type part of her paper herself for the experience/practice and then finish the typing myself.

This really depends on the school and the innovation of the teachers. Some teachers are working on keyboard skills, but computers are still a lot more expensive then pencils and paper. I live in an affluent area in a well off school district and although the school has many computers there aren't enough for every student to have one. All the 1st & 2nd graders classrooms share 30 computers for example.
gabrielladusult From: gabrielladusult Date: January 8th, 2007 12:18 am (UTC) (Link)
Because his academic ability surpassed his writing ability, my son's IEP was written to include allowing him an alpha-smart keyboard to do his written work in school if he couldn't keep up with the handwriting. To support this, we bought some software from Scholastic called "Type to Learn" that teaches children ages 5-7 to type. The reason we knew about it was because the computer teacher at my four year old's pre-school had it. Keyboarding and computer education is starting very young in some places.

How long was this report supposed to be? Even with a healthy amount of keyboarding exposure, my son (who turns seven Wednesday) in no way could write a report. He's still working on sentence structure.
fernwithy From: fernwithy Date: January 8th, 2007 04:53 am (UTC) (Link)
Yeah, that was another problem. Her handwritten version seemed to be about three pages, so it would have come out maybe a page and a half typed, and that's a whole lot for a little kid to handle.
From: (Anonymous) Date: January 8th, 2007 12:23 am (UTC) (Link)
I'm currently in highschool, and I do remember having typing lessons starting in second grade. However, I think it's more important for elementary schools to thoroughly teach handwriting before keyboarding. My school went from basic printing to cursive to typing relatively quickly and (possibly) as a result my handwriting is terrible.
redlily From: redlily Date: January 8th, 2007 12:31 am (UTC) (Link)
I had mandatory, very boring typing lessons in sixth grade ('95/'96) -- hated them at the time, but they're at least part of the reason I can type as fast as I can now.

I literally grew up with computers (our Apple Macintosh IIe was adopted the same year I was born), and while I happily typed away stories on it as a little girl, it would've been another thing entirely to require me to do schoolwork on it. I remember creating a little newspaper on it for a fourth- or fifth-grade project, and that took ages. (Partly because, well, it was a IIe. But partly because making a newsletter-type thing requires way more planning and concentration than elementary schoolers tend to have.)

I think middle school is really the earliest you can require kids to do their work on computers . . . as a little kid, it's better if you can put it all on paper instead of having it on screen, which is easily erased and changed. Writing it down requires a slightly different thought process (i.e. thinking it through from beginning to end, as opposed to flitting around, as I tended to do when writing papers on a computer), a process I think is valuable to develop.
lilacsigil From: lilacsigil Date: January 8th, 2007 12:51 am (UTC) (Link)
My primary school (an underfunded state school) had a volunteer parent teach every child typing in Grade 5, on one shared computer! This was in 1985.

My brother, seven years younger than me, did every report on the computer from about Grade 3 upwards. (I did the same from Year 7 upwards, because I was angry about losing marks for poor handwriting!) His handwriting is shocking, but the only time he uses it is for birthday cards, so he doesn't care. My handwriting is not much better, but my typing is very fast!
sabrinanymph From: sabrinanymph Date: January 8th, 2007 12:54 am (UTC) (Link)
I know where my boyfriend teaches computer that they do keyboarding, but I don't think it's required. Considering the amount of things typed these days, it really should be.
darreldoomvomit From: darreldoomvomit Date: January 8th, 2007 12:55 am (UTC) (Link)
I started touch typing in kindergarten, which was 1993 for me, and i never realized till high school how necessary it was.
alchemine From: alchemine Date: January 8th, 2007 03:36 am (UTC) (Link)
I taught myself to touch-type when I was 17 (1988) with an instruction book and a 1940s-vintage manual typewriter. I upgraded to an electric typewriter in college, and occasionally used the computers at my school's computer lab to type papers, but didn't buy a computer of my own until I graduated. Now, I keyboard, therefore I am. :)

My daughter is turning 8 this month and knows her way around a computer pretty well -- she uses both my laptop and a desktop to play games and go online -- but she doesn't touch-type yet and would have trouble typing and formatting even a short paper. They do have computer time at school, but all their work is done in longhand, which I think is as it should be, at least until they learn how to write legibly. I wouldn't expect kids to have the finger dexterity for real typing until at least third or fourth grade.
lannamichaels From: lannamichaels Date: January 8th, 2007 03:53 am (UTC) (Link)
I didn't realize it wasn't. My school didn't have much money, but even we had a small computer room with about twenty computers (donated, nowhere near new, but the computer teacher was really good at keeping them working). We have Typing Tutor once a week starting in eighth grade. I was the only one in my class who learned to touch type, and that was just because I spent all my time on message boards, but by 12th grade, everyone in my class was able to hand in a typed report. I handed in typed reports as early as fourth grade because my handwriting is really bad, but we've always had computers at home, and my mom showed me how to use Word Perfect. Wanting typed reports from students who don't have computers as home has always struck me as cruel, because it forces them to do their homework at the library/in school/at a computer lab. I always thought that was a little humiliating. Asking for typed reports assumes the kids have access to a computer, and for those who don't, that's gotta hurt.
likeafox From: likeafox Date: January 8th, 2007 04:23 am (UTC) (Link)
We typed things like reports or poems we wrote on the computer as young as first grade, when I was in school. We always typed them up during class time, however, with a teacher or parent volunteer around to help out. We also had a touch typing program that might have been required, I'm not sure, but I know almost everyone played on it almost obsessively because when you passed a level you got to print out a certificate.
aebhel From: aebhel Date: January 8th, 2007 04:43 am (UTC) (Link)
The sad thing about that is that the teacher probably just didn't feel like trying to read little-kid handwriting. Sorry, but I think kids ought to learn how to actually WRITE before they start typing everything. My school didn't have computers until I was in eighth grade and therefore I wasn't expected to turn in typed papers until high school, but my little brother has grown up with that option. As a result, his handwriting, at sixteen, is worse than that of some eight year olds I know. Maybe I'm old-fashioned, but I think that's just sad.

And to expect a kid barely out of kindergarten to be able to format and type a paper on their own is ridiculous.
From: (Anonymous) Date: January 8th, 2007 05:16 am (UTC) (Link)

I agree

I think it would be best to have a standard were both handwriting and typing were given the same amount of practice time. I didn't learn to keyboard until I was in high school. And I was originally against it...my mom made me do it...thank goodness. Now I am faster on the keyboard than some of my friend who hunt and peck. It also helps to keyboard since I suck at spelling and the spell checker is my friend. Unfortunately my handwriting is pretty bad all that practice didn't help me anyway.

But I also think too much pressure is put on children too early to produce reports.

springdove From: springdove Date: January 8th, 2007 04:36 pm (UTC) (Link)
I agree that 7 is too young to type reports. It especially bothers me because it perpetuates the idea that everyone has a home computer now, which JUST ISN'T TRUE! Computers are still a luxury for many people. We didn't get our first computer until I was in...eh, 8th grade? And even then, it was a hand-me-down from a friend. I'm 25, so it's not like I'm a stone-ager. ;) Anyways, I could get on a soapbox about that one, so I'll stop now. But you probably have a point that keyboarding should probably be taught earlier if they're going to require typed reports earlier. Also, keyboarding should probably eventually become a required class for all high school students. I know it saved my life in college with all the papers I had to write.
(Deleted comment)
galaxianomiko From: galaxianomiko Date: January 9th, 2007 12:29 am (UTC) (Link)
I can't get past the part where a seven-year-old (that's what, second grade?) has to write a report at all. Forget typing; I'm pretty sure I had barely mastered basic reading and sentence-making at that age. The elementary school teachers I know tell me things are being taught younger now, but wow.
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