Middle school students find their own method of typing
Posted October 17
SIOUX FALLS, S.D. — The only sound coming from Kasey Kuiken's third grade classroom on an average weekday morning is that of keys clicking as her students practice typing.
Sioux Falls and metro area schools in recent years have shifted formal keyboarding instruction from middle school to elementary. That shift also brought a change in the definition of "formal keyboarding."
Teachers like Kuiken aren't as focused on ensuring students type the "W'' with their ring finger and the "P'' with their pinky. They want students to be efficient at typing, but, much like holding a pencil, not every student is going to use the same method.
"They need to do what works best for them," Kuiken said.
Learning typing earlier frees up time for middle school students to focus less on hitting the right keys and more on digital literacy and what it means to be a "digital citizen," said Sioux Falls Superintendent Brian Maher.
Students in Sioux Falls learned keyboarding in sixth grade until a switch to third grade in 2012. Area schools including Brandon Valley, Harrisburg and West Central also now start keyboarding in elementary school, some as early as second grade, the Argus Leader reported (http://argusne.ws/2etG9c6 ).
Students, especially third graders, in the past struggled with South Dakota's standardized Smarter Balanced test questions that required a typed response, according to a May 2014 report presented to board members.
School board members revisited keyboarding last week, and they agreed to continue monitoring keyboarding skills as students enter middle school. Sandy Henry, middle school curriculum coordinator, said as long as students can produce content by typing, middle school teachers aren't going to take the time to teach keyboarding.
"We don't have time to do typing," Henry said. "The rote learning, we need to be past that in middle school."
Instead, students spend about 15 to 20 minutes per day working on keyboarding apps in their classrooms, Kuiken said. Her students learn through a website called typingclub.com.
Parent Kara Weber was surprised to learn that students no longer learn keyboarding in middle school.
Weber worries that the method of teaching through apps and the lack of emphasis on hitting the right keys with the right fingers will hurt her son, Ethan Weber, a fourth-grade student who has dyslexia.
Weber plans to teach Ethan, a student at the Robert Frost Challenge Center, keyboarding at home.
"The amount of time they're going to be getting at school is not going to be enough to give him what he's going to need to express himself fin the future," Weber said.
District administrators say middle school students are actually getting better at typing. Henry said sixth-graders averaged 23 words-per-minute in a typing test last spring, faster than the 15 words-per-minute in the district's former technology standards. Words-per-minute are no longer included in the standards, Weber said.
"I don't think our kids are being held back by a lack of typing skills," Maher said.
And those typing skills may look different, depending on the student.
"There is so much computer and technology use outside the school day," said Brandon Valley Superintendent Jarod Larson. "That they're naturally finding a way to peck on their own."