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)
All schools are introducing the proper techniques of keyboarding in the early elementary grades and are encouraging students to work on developing and using proper technique at every opportunity – in the classroom, computer lab, and most importantly, at home – that’s probably where they spend the most time on the computer, so parent involvement is very important. This site shares information for parents and teachers on keyboarding so everyone working with students will use every opportunity to help students learn keyboarding. It’s a valuable skill for every student in this technological world. Parents – do your kids a favor and encourage them to learn proper keyboarding technique.
With the widespread use of computers in schools and homes, keyboarding instruction has moved down to the elementary grades. Younger and younger children are becoming fluent computer users and it is important for them to learn proper keyboarding techniques early so that they do not develop bad habits that are very hard to break.
Rates of Development of Keyboarding Skills in Elementary School Aged Children With and Without Identified Learning Disabilities. Pisha, Bart (1993).
This analysis revealed relationships between three predictors, age of student, time spent on drill and practice, and use of a computer to complete homework assignments and the principal outcome variable: my obtained estimate of rate of keyboarding skills development. Sex of the student and the quality of their handwriting do not appear to be related to this rate. Students receiving Special Education services acquire keyboarding skills at a somewhat lesser rate than students who are not served by Special Education, but performance on a bimanual rapid alternating tapping task does not appear related to their rates of skills development.
When and How Should Keyboarding be Taught in Elementary School? (.pdf) – A 2002 master degree paper written by Shannon Smith. Full of recent research.
NOTE: I have updated the link. The original version disappeared from the Web so I have uploaded it to an open Google Doc file. You just need to click on the print button to turn it into a .pdf file that can be downloaded. Please contact me if you have problems with this.