There is a conflict between writing and keyboarding. The question is which needs to be taught and when? Does keyboarding overshadow handwriting to the extent that handwriting should no longer be taught?
Handwriting is an essential skill. There are many times that we need to write so it is imperative for students to learn to write in elementary school. Do students need to be taught both manuscript AND cursive? I don’t think so. It doesn’t make sense to teach them how to “print” their ideas in 1st and 2nd grade and then how to “handwrite” them in 4th and 5th grade. Teaching cursive writing is merely a way to teaching students to write quickly. Perhaps keyboarding has taken the place of cursive because it enables students to enter their thoughts even faster than they would if they were using cursive.
Keyboarding is an essential skill. The students are learning to interact with computers at an early age. This interaction may be primarily mouse control with some keyboard input. It is important for them to learn to keyboard properly at an early age so as to minimize bad habits that will develop through unguided learning.
Keyboarding can be introduced in the early grades but it should be seriously pursued in the third grade. This is the grade where they have developed enough language skills to require keyboarding. After all, keyboarding is used to create words, so students need to be competent with the written language to have a reason to keyboard. Eight years olds have also developed the manual dexterity required to keyboard efficiently.
The most important reason for teaching keyboarding is to improve students’ writing. Keyboarding allows us to compose at the keyboard as we enter our thoughts into the dynamic world of word processing. Word processing has changed the way we think when we write. It enables students to mold their ideas into expressive writing. Unlike handwritten composition, the students can spend time worrying about the content rather than the formation of letters on paper. Revision can now be a fluid part of writing rather than the laborious process of scratching a Bic pen across a sheet of college-ruled paper.
The biggest problem that schools face is a disconnectedness between what they teach and what they practice. Schools often spend a great deal of time teaching students to keyboard at the elementary levels, but all of their composing is done with a pencil and paper. This begs the question of “Why teach keyboarding?” Students need to be provided with laptops or at least word processing keyboards so that they can use their developed skills on a daily rather than a weekly basis.
There are several benefits in learning to keyboard:
- The most obvious advantage is that students use keyboards to input their ideas into a computer and they use computers continuously to communicate. Efficient keyboarding skills improve the communication process. These are skills that will help them now and throughout their lives.
- There is some research that shows typing/keyboarding can improve students’ spelling skills. (http://tinyurl.com/2vaj3s) There isn’t enough to be conclusive it shows a tendency.
- Students with learning difficulties including dyslexia or dysgraphia find it easier to type than write because the letters automatically go from left to right and they don’t need to worry about writing them backwards.
In the end, handwriting and keyboarding are both important skills to know. Handwriting is necessary for day-to-day activities. Today’s world, however, requires us to be efficient keyboarders to interact and communicate with others through technology. It augments the writing process by enabling students to enter their thoughts and then mold their words into crafted sentences.