How fast is fast enough?
The big question about evaluating keyboarding is “What is the optimal speed?” “How many WPM should we expect of a third grader?” I say that since keyboarding should be seen as an alternative to handwriting, then we should give them a target of 1 word faster then they can handwrite. I have read that the average 4th grader handwrites about 14 words per minute. That means that 4th graders should key at about 15 WPM. You can also test each individual and set individual goals.
It’s not about training secretaries for typing pools any longer. You may remember (or heard about) the times when secretaries typed what bosses scrawled on a piece of paper. Now, people use keyboarding as a primary form of composing. They write what they think as they think it. This means that it is replacing handwriting.
The advantage to keyboarding, however, is that when a student keys a story into a word processor it is in a dynamic work that can be easily changed. This means that revision is simpler. The key to teaching writing is to write and revise and write again. This means that in this environment students can become better writers quicker.
Keyboarding programs at the elementary levels should be designed to provide skills that make writing faster and more efficient. Students will not learn how to keyboard if they only get to a computer lab 2 times a week for 20 minutes. They need to have constant access to keyboards and compose their creative writing assignment on-line.
Dr. Z (12/2007)