Thursday, January 25, 2007

Penmanship or Keyboarding? Is there a difference?

At the beginning of this school year, I had 5 working recycled K12LTSP machines. So, using the computers was manageable for small group work. (Unfortunately, I'm down to 2 working machines. We need technical expertise.)

I organize my classroom so that penmanship practice is first thing in the morning. As I thought about using the Linux machines during that time, I realized that keyboarding is as essential a skill as penmanship. I created a rotating schedule so that each student had keyboarding practice at least twice a week during penmanship time. In my book, the skills are similar - fine motor, efficiency, fluency, visual and spatial organization. I required my class to use TuxType. They had to use practice mode for about 1/2 the time and then could play one of the games for the second half. I stressed the use of both hands. None of the students will win any speed typing competitions but, there is a small amount of carry-over with the skills when they are using the computers for other tasks. My personal penmanship philosophy is "legible and efficient" and I feel the same way about keyboarding. Both take practice, require a certain amount of muscle control, and will take time to develop fluent skills.

TuxType can be found under the Edutainment label under Applications. A student with disabilities in my classroom enjoys changing the language it is presented in. He thinks it is quite funny to practice typing in Armenian or Russian. The rest of the class does too.

Does your school or classroom teach formal keyboarding? What age/grade does that occur? Who teaches it? Who decides how it is taught? Is anyone using standards or benchmarks or assessments at any particular level? Like any subject, fundamentals need to be taught. In K-2, we teach letter formation as well as how to write a good story. If we teach with computers, we need to teach the physical skills of tool manipulation as well as the critical thinking skills of particular applications and resources.

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