Keyboarding: The Hidden Giant of Web 2.0

We had a great discussion this past week on the WOW2 edtechtalk (Listen to the podcast.) as we discussed the importance of teaching keyboarding and the impact of ignoring this issue on efforts to move towards on Web 2.0.

As we researched this topic, I came across some amazing statistics in an article on Human Interaction Speeds. I've shown them in a table to the left. (Human Interaction Speeds by Bob Bailey)

I believe that many schools just think kids should “know” how to type. It is a skill with a lifelong impact. We are currently in an information society and it is vital that students produce it efficiently.

I hear a lot of talk about the efficiency that comes with typing and using the computer, however if you look at the research – two finger typing at its best gives a student 2 extra words per minute than handwriting! There is no measurable productivity gain by moving to the computer if students aren't given keyboarding instruction.

Educators are trying to put more into the day. Reviewing this article, I see two great ways to improve student performance:

1) Teach effective keyboarding skills
This is my second semester with over 70 words per minute. (I had a year before with over 60 words per minute.) Every student has broken 30 words per minute for the last two years. We keyboard daily for a semester. I have other curricular objectives, but the focus is keyboarding.

I was a failure my first year. I had to teach students every other day either two or three times a week. My class average was in the high 20's. I felt like a failure!

There is a right and a wrong way to teach keyboarding. I use the methodologies (and textbook) used by my mother, an expert business education teacher. I use a book supplemented by Mavis Beacon, however 90% of the work is supervised by me and uses the book. I focus on technique.

Look at the lifetime difference of my students versus a student not taught. At 70 words per minute, my students will be able to get work done almost three times as fast as another person. They will e-mail faster. They will IM faster. They will be able to focus on thinking and not on getting a product on paper!

2) Teach Speed Reading

When I look back at the article, they mention the effect of speed reading. The article says that using Rapid Serial Visualization Representation (RSVP) speed reading, a person can read at speeds of 600 to 800 words per minute. I actually did a speed reading book last summer and have seen a significant increase in my reading speeds. What would this do in schools?

How can schools afford to NOT teach keyboarding?

As we discussed this issue via skypecast this week, the overriding comment is that schools do not seem to have the time to teach keyboarding.

Faster typists can cover more material

I look at it from a production standpoint. When a student can type faster they can take notes faster, wiki faster, type papers faster, and have more time to study, so in effect they will become a better student!

We teach keyboarding for 6 weeks in 5th grade and a semester in eighth. Yes, it is tough to fit in, but good education is never easy. There is great research on this topic.

Keyboarding is not a vocational subject
I also take issue with the fact that keyboarding is considered a vocational subject. It is the most college prep subject that I know of!

Look at the world! We are producing INFORMATION! Widgets are going overseas. And now, information is beginning to go overseas because they can produce it faster. We're still training vocational students to be secretaries when I know CEO's who type their own letters!

Take a listen to the podcast and let me know what you think. What is your school doing? Do all students take it? What ages do you teach it?

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Vicki Davis

Vicki Davis is a full-time classroom teacher and IT Director in Georgia, USA. She is Mom of three, wife of one, and loves talking about the wise, transformational use of technology for teaching and doing good in the world. She hosts the 10 Minute Teacher Podcast which interviews teachers around the world about remarkable classroom practices to inspire and help teachers. Vicki focuses on what unites us -- a quest for truly remarkable life-changing teaching and learning. The goal of her work is to provide actionable, encouraging, relevant ideas for teachers that are grounded in the truth and shared with love. Vicki has been teaching since 2002 and blogging since 2005. Vicki has spoken around the world to inspire and help teachers reach their students. She is passionate about helping every child find purpose, passion, and meaning in life with a lifelong commitment to the joy and responsibility of learning. If you talk to Vicki for very long, she will encourage you to "Relate to Educate" or "innovate like a turtle" or to be "a remarkable teacher." She loves to talk to teachers who love their students and are trying to do their best. Twitter is her favorite place to share and she loves to make homemade sourdough bread and cinnamon rolls and enjoys running half marathons with her sisters. You can usually find her laughing with her students or digging into a book.

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Dean Shareski November 11, 2006 - 9:40 pm

My concern is I’ve seen too many teachers spend 50% or more of time spent with computers on keyboarding. It essentially is the same as spending the same amount of time on phonics instead of reading books. I know it’s a skill I take for grant it. The typing class I took in high school back in the early 80’s is still paying great dividends.
I guess at present, keyboarding remains the most effective interface however, we also need to pursue other means of interfacing including voice and touch screen technology.
This demonstration at TED reveals the near future in interfacing.

Vicki A. Davis November 11, 2006 - 9:44 pm

If you listen to the podcast, we had a researcher in voice technology talk about the issues with children and voice recognition. It is along way off! Also, look at the speeds — typing is still the fastest.

Besides, you need to have a curriculum. I teach one semester and that is it. Then, on to other things.

Alfred Thompson November 12, 2006 - 4:18 am

My Dad sent my brother and I to typing school during summer break when we were both in middle school. He told us it was good preperation for high school and college. He was right. Kids need to learn it early.
I also had classwork in reading quickly when I was in 5th grade. It was a week long unit and it helped a lot of kids. I worked on those skills regularly and they continued to develop. That was a huge advantage to me over the years.

auntlee714 September 19, 2007 - 1:05 am


Here’s a link to pages of all the best online keyboarding games — and links to free games to download:

Jeffrey Slough August 12, 2008 - 3:26 pm

Just heard a speaker at the
WSBEA conference say that we should stop teaching keyboarding. I was shocked. Instead of wasting time teaching keyboarding, maybe we should just make it a requirement for entry and put the responsibility on the student and the parent. My students that achieve a good keyboarding skill level, produce better work, and they produce it in a shorter amount of time.

Vicki A. Davis August 12, 2008 - 5:25 pm

@jeffery –

I am shocked also because it is such the WRONG thing to do. Touch typing is the right way to teach keyboarding. My students average over 70 words per minute — a student who looks at their fingers will never get over 28 words per minute — and if you teach w/ Mavis Beacon and these other tools you pretty much get a visual typist.

Those who claim these things are just throwing their opinion out there.

The reason I can do so much is I type 128 words per minute!

I am shocked at such uneducated responses to keyboarding — it is the next progression of handwriting after cursive.

I guess we should just let parents teach their kids to write and we take it from there?

Ms. Bradley January 9, 2009 - 4:19 am

Being a proud Business Education, I take to heart that someone would say we should do away with Keyboarding. Please tell me how our students will get through high school and college if they didn’t know how to type? If they do, I’m sure their bank accounts will be low, because they will be paying someone to type their papers for them.

Touch typing by far is the best way and the right way to teach keyboarding. So many people feel as though they can type, but for the record, you are not typing accurately when you’re only using two or three fingers-hunting and pecking across the keyboard. I agree with Vicki in regards to the responses to keyboarding.

Computers are here forever. I couldn’t tell you the last time I filled out an application using a pen or turned in an essay on notebook paper in cursive handwriting.

There is so much that can be done in such little time if you master the skill of typing. I am a Keyboarding teacher and I type 90-100 words per minute! We can’t allow “the world” to teach our kids. Text messaging is NOT keyboarding. Our students today focus more on text messaging and playing computer games, that when it comes time to complete assignments, they use the text messaging jargon/lingo and call it Standard English. What is the world coming to?

Sally Krebsbach Gupta April 1, 2010 - 1:27 am

Yes, keyboarding should be a required class in 5th/6th grade. I was a middle-school typing teacher, and my sixth graders were typing 50wpm on a manual after one semester. Today, I’m sure they are way ahead in thinking and creating on the computer as their fingers automatically strike the right keys. It really hurts to see anyone looking and pecking at the keyboard. Everyone should have the gift of keyboard mastery.

Sheila August 9, 2010 - 9:32 pm

What book do you use when teaching keyboarding?

SheilaCNJ September 27, 2010 - 1:12 pm

I would also love to know the name of the book. Our district is promoting keyboarding as a skill even though our state standards have downplayed keyboarding. The district feels that keyboarding is an essential skill for all students but will be particularily helpful for students who have difficulty with handwriting. I wish there were more resources out there on how to teach keyboarding. I find that using keyboarding software only is ineffective. I use the Herzog method but I am always open to new ideas.

coolcatteacher September 28, 2010 - 1:04 pm

It is an old book. I use a 15 year old copy of Century 21 Keyboarding – – I haven’t looked at the new version.

SheilaCNJ September 28, 2010 - 9:20 pm

Thanks, I just bought an old Century 21 Keyboarding book on

coolcatteacher September 29, 2010 - 12:10 am

Good luck! We’ll have to compare to a newer one!

SheilaCNJ October 5, 2010 - 11:40 am

The book ended up being a style manual. What are the authors of your edition of Century 21 Keyboarding? They seem to have changed over the years.

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