The Missouri Reader Vol. 40, Issue 1 - Page 44

Should Typing Skills Be Taught to Young Children?

Courtney Stuart

Four years ago I would have argued against the push for young children to aquire typing skills. I didn’t think kindergarteners or first graders needed to know how to type other than their name. I thought the skill of working the mouse was all they really needed to master. Young students will eventually learn to type through years of practice just like all the other students that I have had in the past. This was my philosophy of typing for young students. That was all about to change.

The education world changed a few years ago when DESE announced that the MAP test would no longer be paper and pencil -- it would all be online. The third and fourth grade teachers already had the stress of teaching MAP material to their students, now they had to worry about the essay portion, how students will show their work on the math test, and most importantly, preparing them for a drastic technological change. The requirements for the MAP sent tremors through our school district. I had an uneasy feeling about the new expectations and being the only technological teacher in the building, I knew all eyes would be on me. I had been preparing my present third and fourth graders for the past two years, so now all I had to do was tweak their skills. Little did everyone know, this test wouldn’t be neither drastic nor a big change.

I learned a long time ago that students learn quickly when it comes to technology. Many of us have had our students or our own children teach us how to do a function on our smart phone, IPad, or tablet. Most elementary-age children are digital natives, comfortable with the newest technology and operating hand-held devices with a swipe of a finger, but they have a much more difficult time trying to compose text on a keyboard. I have heard and understand the argument about how students in early grades are still learning to connect sounds, recognize letters, and spell accurately. Others argue that students are pushed too soon into typing even though most students haven’t developed their fine motor skills until third or fourth grade. Our physical education teacher, who is a 20-year veteran teacher, agrees. She feels that typing will help students with their fine motor skills and hand-eye coordination but some students will struggle, if not physically, mentally. She came up with a great way to help younger students with letter placement. She places a large picture of a keyboard on the wall of the gym. As students create words with individual letters, they must run to the keyboard and type it.

I agree that finger placement and touch typing in kindergarten is very difficult with their little hands and fingers so I don’t push them beyond their ability. I merely introduce letters, numbers, spacebar, and enter key, and where they are located on the keyboard. Repetition helps students memorize the layout of the keyboard. Layton (2013) cited the director of curriculum and instruction at New Jersey’s Glen Rock Public Schools, Kathleen Regan, as saying, “Children must learn touch typing—the ability to compose text without looking at keys—so they can focus on their writing” (para. 12). She calls it a fluency skill that is similar to memorizing multiplication tables so students can quickly perform complex mathematics. Layton further cited Regan as saying, “On the Common Core assessments, some of these writings are going to be document-based questions or sorting through different types of text. The last thing you want is for the kids to be struggling with the mechanical skills” (para. 14).

Borreli (2014) defended the paper and pencil route as well stating that “according to a recent study in a forthcoming issue of the journal Psychological Science, using pen and paper, not laptops, to take notes boosts memory and the ability to retain and understand concepts” (para. 1). Both Layton and Borreli have a point. I would hope that our students are experienced in both paper and pencil and using technology. That way, they can choose what works best for them. In my room, I incorporate several sites that help my students learn to type. Keyboard Climber, Dance Mat Typing, and Arachnid Falls are a few of my go-to sites that the kids enjoy and learn the most from. To practice typing skills, I have students type up a paper that they have written

"It (also) benefits students to see and hear the teacher highlighting important data, skimming sections of the text, making connections to past experiences, and taking the time to pause and think about what is being read."

Figure 2 - Students engaging in an intense game of Kahoot

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Tech Talk