Keyboarding is a skill just like learning your multiplication tables, collaborating with others and learning to read. You can type if you understand how to read letters and spell, but you learning proper keyboarding skills can help you be more accurate, save time, present your work in a variety of ways and be able to share typed documents with others easily (Roblyer & Doering, 2014).Knowing how to use word processing documents effectively can enhance the learning experience.
I believe students should learn start using word processing when they are exposed to using laptops and computers. At this time it is also necessary to begin teaching keyboarding skills concurrently. In our school, our 1-1 laptop program begins in Year 3. At this point, students should begin to focus more of their final products as being published online. By teaching students how to keyboard at this age, it will also allow them the ability to type with more speed and confidence. As teachers teach word processing, they need to also explicitly teach different skills within the word processing programs. This is an excellent time for teachers to talk about design, visuals and digital literacy.
With anything, the more time you spend learning something, the better you will become at it. Thus, the more students are exposed to proper keyboarding techniques, the more proficient they will become. In addition, as students spend more time learning keyboarding, this also means they are spending less time on their handwriting skills. It is important that students know how to write and read letters before beginning keyboarding. I believe that there should not be a 100% transfer to keyboarding from handwriting as handwriting helps students develop their fine motor skills. Both of these skills are important and help students develop different needs.
Last year I previously taught Year 5 and almost all writing assignments were submitted via online tools (such as Google Docs, FlipSnack, e-portfolio etc.). This was easier for me to read as a teacher as I didn’t have to worry about decoding handwriting that was messy. I was able to take only my laptop home rather than a stack of books. My students were allowed to do their rough draft on Google Docs, thus allowing for corrections and feedback to be easily done using comments and suggestions by both peers and the teacher, saving valuable learning time as well.
Another point to note about using online tools is the accessibility options that are built into many of the word processing programs. Whether it is speech to text or text to speech, highlighting of words or increased font size, many programs allow the accommodations needed for students to succeed. Autocorrect was of great importance to one student in my class with dyslexia as it allowed him to gain more confidence with spelling and also get the instant feedback about incorrect/correct spelling and how to fix it. The downside to spellcheck is that sometimes it changes a word to another word than the one you want. Thus, students must still read and review before submitting.
With any technology tool, it is important to remember that it is still just one of many tools for teaching. No technology can replace bad teaching. If students don’t understand the writing process, then using a word processing software will not make their writing better. It is still up to the teacher to teach students using best practice and the best tool to support their learning intentions.
Roblyer, M. D., & Doering, A. H. (2014). Integrating educational technology into teaching [Sixth Edition].