Why is Keyboarding Working?

The 12 students I teach at the end of every day have just returned from PE, sweaty and ready to go home. I have the pleasure of teaching them touch typing at just those moments. In my 4 years of teaching, this is universally the students’ least favorite class.

Forget the bad timing, that’s not why they generally hate this class. It turns out that overcoming several years of hunt-and-peck technique is incredibly difficult.

The black keyboards were my first experiment. I had a bunch of spare keyboards that I painted black to permanently cover the letters. Every day, I plug in the blanked-out keyboards before the students arrive.

Usually, the students balked, then attempted their old ways, then started guessing at the letters. In the past, they’ve not gotten very far towards learning the positions of the keys without looking.

This class is different. I try not to jinx it by asking a bunch of questions, but here are my suspicions of why it’s working:

  • Don’t drag it out. My schedule covers the entire touch typing course in Typing Master in about 5 weeks. I’m fortunate to get a different batch of students every 6 weeks (we’ve implemented a mini-mester elective program where students rotate regularly).
  • Constantly roam the room to correct technique. If a student reaches for the “r” with the wrong finger more than a few times, it’ll become ingrained incorrectly. Correct those mistakes early!
  • Build in friendly competition to inject a little fun. The picture above is from a weekly head-to-head competition where students cheer each other on. However, I’ve discovered that, like in golf, I need to apply a handicapping system so that every student has a chance of winning.
  • Play techno music. The thumpa-thumpa beat adds a rhythm to the keying. My students now ask for the music! I use an iTunes radio station from either the Dance or Electronic category.

If you’re inclined to, keep your fingers crossed for me that I continue having success with the young keyboarders in my charge!

3 thoughts on “Why is Keyboarding Working?

  1. I used to play music with a fast beat when I taught keyboarding as well. I also used some competition and would occasionally join the “race” myself. Somehow the idea that the “old guy” could type faster (actually do anything on a computer faster) seemed to get their competitive juices going. 🙂

  2. I did something similar once. I used a dremel tool to file off the letters. I realized I did it the hard way when I saw your painted keyboards.

    My teaching partner came up with the idea that we finally ended up using most of the time. He bought a bunch of pieces of felt material that was tucked under the top of the keyboard and then draped over the students hands. The only time I brought out the “blank” keyboard was if I had a student who just couldn’t stop from peeking.

    This was also nice for when we were learning new key locations and the students needed to peek. Once they learned a position, down came the cloth and the drills began.

    I had the most success with teacher led drill and practice. They liked me interacting with them and goading them on. They liked it when I’d stop the class and challenge a typer to a typing duel.

    I agree…..a little friendly competition amongst themselves and with me was a big motivator. I also brought in other teachers and administrators to race with the kids.

    Have fun and good luck.

  3. Hi! You might not remember me, but I’m the person who ran the comic you commented on (recommending Genesis).

    Anyway, I thought I’d look to see what you were up to over on your blog and I like this post. I never could learn to type – and I actually don’t really see the point (I type just as fast as other people with a dual-finger hunt’n’peck method that doesn’t require me to look at the keys). I think I’m one of the lucky ones, though – I spend most of my time around computers and as such know my way around most keyboards. I’ve been meaning to try one of those “ergonomic” curved ones though…

    Anyway, loved the post (especially the idea of competition). And I’ll look into that techno/dance station on the iTunes stream!


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