July 2008
Vol 5 No 7

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Teachers.Net Gazette Vol.5 No.7 July 2008

Cover Story by Sue Gruber
It’s Summer…Time to Shift Gears and Re-energize!
A lighthearted perspective on what summer break can and should be.

Harry & Rosemary Wong: Effective Teaching
Eight Year Summary of Articles

»To Tell the TruthLeah Davies
»Discipline Without Stress, Inc.Marvin Marshall
»Teaching through Summer TV ViewingCheryl Sigmon
»A New Unified Field TheoryTodd R. Nelson
»The Busy Educator's Monthly FiveMarjan Glavac
»Get the Most Out of Being MentoredHal Portner
»Dear Barbara - Advice for SubsBarbara Pressman
»Keyboarding: Some Assembly RequiredRob Reilly

»Who’s Cheating Whom?
»Dealing with Dishonesty
»How To Prevent Cheating in Middle and High School
»When Is Student Failure The Teacher’s Fault
»Frogs Predict Massive Chinese Quake of 2008
»July 2008 Writing Prompts
»What Are We Doing? And Why Are We Doing It?
»"Boys Read" Effort Aims to Turn Boys Into Readers
»A Teaching Guide for Summer Song
»12 Test Taking Strategies that Boost Student Scores!
»Gardner-Style Lesson Plan: Molecular Basis of Heredity
»Federal Government Resources for Educators
»You Be the Chemist Activity Guides

»Cheaters! Teachers talk about their experiences
»Printable Worksheets & Teaching Aids
»Candles of Inspiration: July 2008
»Lessons, Resources and Theme Activities: July 2008
»Video Bytes: The "Impotence" of Proofreading and More
»Today Is... Daily Commemoration for July 2008
»Live on Teachers.Net: July 2008
»The Lighter Side of Teaching
»Apple Seeds: Inspiring Quotes for Teachers
»Using Test "Cheat Sheets" To Enhance Student Learning
»"Those Who Can, Do; Those Who Can't, Teach"
»Newsdesk: Events & Opportunities for Teachers


The Teachers.Net Gazette is a collaborative project
published by the Teachers.Net community
Editor in Chief: Kathleen Alape Carpenter
Layout Editor: Mary Miehl

Cover Story by Sue Gruber

Effective Teaching by Harry & Rosemary Wong

Contributors this month: Alfie Kohn, Marvin Marshall, Cheryl Sigmon, Marjan Glavac, Todd R. Nelson, Hal Portner, Leah Davies, Barbara Pressman, Tim Newlin, James Wayne, Alan Haskvitz, Bill Page, Susan Fitzell, Meryl D. Joseph, John Martin, Barb Stutesman, Ron Victoria, L. Swilley, and YENDOR.

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Rob Reilly

Ed-Tech Talk
Archive | Biography | Resources | Discussion

Keyboarding: Some Assembly Required

Needed more now than ever before, keyboarding instruction should begin long before high school.
by Dr. Rob Reilly
Regular contributor to the Gazette
Reprinted from the November 2002 Gazette July 1, 2008

I was in the US Army 6 years ago (note: that's 6 dog years--it makes me feel younger to use dog years to measure things). Anyway, after basic training I went to clerk-typist school for training. There I had a few weeks of intense, but ineffective, touch typing training. I never really learned how to touch type. Of course I did not learn to touch type even when I reached my unit of assignment because I was assigned to a hospital as a medic! Thus I never had an opportunity to practice the meager skills I acquired in basic training. At the bachelor's degree level, college was a blur--I don't really remember if I did any term papers or not. I'm sure that I must have done some term papers, but I don't remember if I used a typewriter or a word processor or mental telepathy. I don't remember much about graduate school either, that was almost as blurry, but I do remember typing a few term papers. At the doctoral level I did lots and lots of term papers, position papers, white papers, thought papers, and, for my personal use, I wrote some mental health papers (these were just full of cuss words--I only submitted them to the waste basket).

Looking back on all this I realize that I did suffer for the lack of touch typing skill. I still suffer along today. I can type very quickly using 2 to 4 fingers, and, I can use two-hands but I do need to look at the keyboard. The 'good news' is that I don't need to transcribe anything, so I don't need to look away from the keyboard when I do type. The 'bad news' is that children in school need to get touch-typing skills as soon as they can. But schools do not teach this in the elementary school curriculum; and the schools that do, do not have any enrichment (e.g., time to practice the finger reaches). Far too often this skill is reserved for the high school years; it seems to be the exclusive mandate of the business department. Well, waiting until the high school years is too late. The 'good news' here is that it's not too late to acquire this skill in high school, but why wait?

I do understand why some school districts are hesitant to teach touch-typing in the lower grades. Even if they do teach it, the kids do not have practice time--there are no term papers, there are no compositions. After all, if you take piano lessons you won't improve unless you practice after class--so why take piano lessons until you have enough time to 'practice'?

All things considered, touch-typing must be a 3rd or 4th grade skill. The problem is not in teaching the skill, the problem is how to provide some practice so that the skill can become ingrained--can become a fundamental motor skill of sorts.

It would seem that the best practice would be to begin with a non-keyboard lesson(s). UltraKeys produces an excellent software package to teach touch typing, but they also have an excellent video and a book that contains suggestions to help prepare younger students to form the correct hand positions, the finger reaches, etc. It seems appropriate to use this approach with the younger children (grades K, 1 and 2). To get a taste of these exercises go to:

Geesh, it may be worthwhile to make a whole bunch of Xerox copies of an actual keyboard and have students practice the finger reaches on their desks. Who says that you need a real keyboard for this drill?

There are a number of excellent software packages that teach touch-typing. Interestingly enough Erthal (1996) states that "no software program has been shown to be superior to capable, live keyboarding instruction" lead by a real live teacher. Schmidt (1985) supports this notion and states that, "Software programs serve well for drill, remediation, enrichment practice, as well as adding variety to keyboarding instruction. Software cannot be programmed to see, to hear, or to feel the keyboarding instructional needs of the student." That's all well-and-good, but practicing on software and Xeroxed keyboards seems a very reasonable and productive alternative.

When utilizing software for teacher-centered drills, Dr. Bert Pisha from the Center for Applied Special Technology ( recommends three major points. He stresses 1. Distributed practice (e.g., 10 minutes per day, 5 days) is more effective than massed practice (e.g., 45 minutes every Tuesday). 2. It's critical that learners be able to submit their homework or school work in word processed form. Otherwise keyboarding is just another problem for the learner, rather than a solution to a problem (handwriting is slow, clunky, and difficult to revise). 3. It's important to do brief speed/accuracy 'probes' or tests regularly, then graph the results for the students to see.

As for 3rd-7th grade keyboarding/touch-typing software, UltraKeys 4.0.8 is a terrific, well-supported, widely used product that has won a number of awards. The Bytes of Learning company's Web site ( even provides a downloadable, free-trial copy of Ultra Keys (PC and Mac versions are available).

Good luck! Start to learn touch-typing early in a child's school career.


Erthal, M. (1996). Keyboarding Software and Touch Keyboarding. Tennessee Business Education Journal, 4 (1), 11-13.

Schmidt, B. (1985). Keyboarding: Classroom Problems and Solutions. Delta Pi Epsilon Tips,1 (1).

» More Gazette articles...

About Rob Reilly...

Dr. Rob Reilly is the computer education teacher at the Lanesborough Elementary School in Lanesborough, Massachusetts USA. He is also a Visiting Scientist at the MIT Media Lab in Cambridge, Massachusetts, where he is conducting NSF funded research in the area of affective computing, emotions and learning. He has been a Visiting Scientist at MIT's Center for Educational Computing Initiatives, a Post Doctoral Research Associate at the University of Massachusetts' Office of Information Technologies, and a Teaching Associate, at the School of Education at the University of Massachusetts. His email address is: His Web site is:

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