Computers have penetrated every area of people’s lives, so the ability to type quickly and accurately has become anything but optional — and schools have been forced to respond.
That’s the motivation for a redeveloped keyboarding curriculum currently deployed in the Green Bay School District. Instead of the traditional typing drills that focus on home keys and exercises like “fj, f-space, fj, f-space,” students will spend just a week learning the keyboard layout while practice will come from using the computers as part of their regular course activities.
The exercises date back to the days when students didn’t have many opportunities to use keyboards in their day-to-day lives, which plainly isn’t the case today. In addition, the new approach also takes into account increasing numbers of the kids who already enter middle school knowing how to touch-type, not an unusual occurrence at a time when more and more households already have personal computers.
Lombardi Middle School information technology teacher John Siegworth said that the course gets kids typing faster, something that is important when they’re constantly using computers as part of their school work. Siegworth said that the level of knowledge kids arrive at school with has changed a great deal from 21 years ago,when he first entered the profession.
The district adopted a new keyboarding curriculum, called the Herzog method, for sixth-grade. It also helps the district meet Common Core State Standards, a nationwide guideline for curriculum released in 2010 and adopted by Wisconsin.
The Herzog method teaches students to learn the placement of the keys in alphabetic order. They also learn to “hover” over keys with their fingers, rather than learn the home keys and branch out learning letters from those. “Hub keys” fit over certain letters on the keyboard while students are learning, and fingers are planted on the D and K keys.
Instead of devoting the traditional 7-week course to keyboarding, the focus will shift to computer literacy and will help students understand how to get the most out of a personal computer. Still, while drilling is largely part of the past, teachers continually reinforce good typing practices by reminding students to use correct fingering when they’re using the keyboard during class. The time spent exclusively on keyboarding, however, was reduced by 75%, from 20 days to 5.
“We want them to learn about Internet safety, word processing skills and other things they’ll use throughout their academic career,” Siegworth said. “For example, middle school kids can come in needing organizational skills, so we’re working on managing files and folders. They may start with zero folders now, but could have 100 by the end of the school year. What’s the best way to keep them organized? We help them learn that.”