21st Century "Keys" to Success...

I've found it.  That's right. Amidst this tumult of uncertainty that is our current world, I've found the answer.  There is apparently one determining factor of our students' success in the 21st century workforce.  Would you like to know what it is?

Despite increased globalization; the need to prepare students to access, evaluate, synthesize, and build upon information and media; and the drive to promote Creativity, Innovation, Critical Thinking, Problem Solving, Communication, and Collaboration, the curriculum of our district's Computer Information Technology program hinges on Keyboarding. I'm not kidding. This is apparently very serious stuff. One teacher commented at a recent curriculum meeting that this is "becoming a management and discipline issue at the high school." Wow. It seems that students, who have formed bad keyboarding habits despite intensive training at the Elementary level, are resorting to the technique that works best for them when teachers turn their backs.  Huh...  The nerve of some people's children...

The Answer

Never fear, though.  We're going to get a handle on this pesky issue of students ignoring their homerow keys like they weren't the most critical factor in their technology toolbox.  How?  We're going to ignore most of the current research (poppycock) and move keyboarding instruction to seventh and eighth grade.  That should solve most of these issues.  Never mind the pervasive research that says "It is recommended that all students begin to learn correct placement of fingers on the keyboard as soon as they begin to use the computer. However, mastery is most efficiently attained at the fifth- to sixth-grade years" (Keyboarding research and resources).  Never mind that "Most research supports starting students on formal keyboarding around grade 4," (Education World).


Admittedly, the real point, as if it weren't absolutely transparent, is that I don't want to teach keyboarding! First of all, I would not pass our District keyboarding test (no, I'm not kidding... we actually have one of those) and I'm a successful web designer, online college facilitator, and middle school computer teacher.  Second of all, keyboarding feels like a ridiculous pursuit on this grade level, when so many middle school students are immersing themselves in a read-write web we've taught them nothing about.

Another aspect of our scope and sequence (educator-ese for what gets taught when) that became glaringly apparent during this meeting (in addtion to the aformentioned tragic neglect of middle school keyboarding instruction) was the simple fact that any mention of digital citizenship, online collaborative technologies, or responsible communication and online publishing begins in grade seven and is never mentioned again after grade eight.

This is exceptionally sad because, as Will Richardson notes in a recent ASCD Article, "Footprints in the Digital Age":
A recent National School Boards Association survey (2007) announced that upward of 80 percent of young people who are online are networking and that 70 percent of them are regularly discussing education-related topics. They're creating all sorts of content-some, as we all know, doing so very badly-and they're doing all sorts of things with online tools that, for the most part, we're not teaching them anything about. In the process, they're becoming Googleable without us.

In a recent blog post, entitled "It's the Parents' Fault. Not", Richardson expands this idea:
But whose job is it to educate kids to use those sites well and appropriately? I doubt that most of their parents really have enough of an understanding of what their doing to prepare them.

Ironically, The Partnership for 21st Century Skills, was mentioned multiple times during this whole keyboarding dialog, while the greater context was entirely ignored.  No one, with the exception of our Technology Specialist, even noticed the resounding lack of:

Creativity and Innovation

  • Demonstrating originality and inventiveness in work

  • Developing, implementing and communicating new ideas to others

  • Being open and responsive to new and diverse perspectives

  • Acting on creative ideas to make a tangible and useful contribution to the domain in which the innovation occurs

Information Literacy

  • Accessing information efficiently and effectively, evaluating information critically and competently and using information accurately and creatively for the issue or problem at hand

  • Possessing a fundamental understanding of the ethical/legal issues surrounding the access and use of information

Media Literacy

  • Understanding how media messages are constructed, for what purposes and using which tools, characteristics and conventions.

  • Examining how individuals interpret messages differently, how values and points of view are included or excluded and how media can influence beliefs and behaviors.

  • Possessing a fundamental understanding of the ethical/legal issues surrounding the access and use of information

ICT Literacy

  • Using digital technology, communication tools and/or networks appropriately to access, manage, integrate, evaluate, and create information in order to function in a knowledge economy

  • Using technology as a tool to research, organize, evaluate and communicate information, and the possession of a fundamental understanding of the ethical/legal issues surrounding the access and use of information

Need I continue???

The wrong focus

This may be the first large technological shift in history that's being driven by children (Richardson, 08).

Apparently, I've foolishly been blundering into this whole situation with the wrong focus.  I'm clearly wasting time on all this flashy fancy Web 2.0 garbage.  I should in fact be getting back to the basics, like keyboarding.  We'll leave the largest technological shift of our time to the experts, our kids.  If they can use their homerow keys, they'll be okay.

Richardson, goes on in his article to point out that, "In short, for a host of reasons, we're failing to empower kids to use one of the most important technologies for learning that we've ever had."  I agree!  Of course, he goes on to ruin his credibility here by saying, "One of the biggest challenges educators face right now is figuring out how to help students create, navigate, and grow the powerful, individualized networks of learning that bloom on the Web and helping them do this effectively, ethically, and safely".  Sorry, Willy, old chap, but your focus is a wee bit off there.  Clearly, what you meant to say was, One of the biggest challenges educators face right now is figuring out how to help students find their homerow keys, sit up straight, face the screen, and effectively type 25 words per minute with 95% accuracy.


  1. I'm concerned about the direction the curriculum is headed. I liken keyboarding to handwriting. It used to be more important that it is now, and for good reasons. However, those reasons are a product of the past, not the future. My handwriting stinks. But, at my job, I only have to care about my handwriting 2 or 3 times a year--when I get hard copies of forms that I have to fill out by hand. So, if I can get the job done with a keyboard, regardless of whether or not my posture and finger locations are correct, does it matter? If I can type 25 wpm with 95% accuracy, does it matter how I get there. Furthermore, the natural way for humans to communicate is verbally. I wouldn't be surprised to see the future include more text-to-speech software and less typing in general. So, if that comes to pass, what kind of time was wasted on keyboarding skills if all I do is talk to the computer and prints out what I said? Sounds even more efficient that the most proficient of typists.

  2. True, Chris... While voice recognition may still be a thing of the near future, Blackberries and other mobile devices are very much a part of the present reality of business today. I don't hear any discussion of thumb keyboarding, probably a more relevant skill, going on.

  3. I grew up in a Catholic gradeschool that did not have computers or typewriters to teach us keyboarding skills. When my family moved when I was in eighth grade, I now had a keyboarding class (electric typewriters). I was so far behind the other students in typing speed. With this type of deficiency how did I ever survive ?!?!
    It turns out that even with the chips stacked against me I was still able to succeed. Will this be a story worthy of a movie? No...not even a direct to video release. Because while I had not received much keyboarding instruction in my 7th and 8th grade years, I did receive instruction on critical thinking, research, and problem solving skills. This is where the focus needs to be. And when students use Web 2.0 tools, they are inherently utilizing and sharpening these skills .
    When I look at what I do in my job, there is not much that I have to input in by keyboarding. Sure, I've got to enter in search terms on Google, or type a reply to a blog, but a majority of what I do is with the mouse. And when I do use the keyboard, my eyes are looking down at the keys most of the time.
    I agree with Chris about the future of speech recognition technology. Reminds me of the old Star Trek series (will all computers have that same female voice?). If we do want to stress keyboarding so much, should we also bring back how to use a slide rule for calculations?

  4. Wow, John! You're saying that "critical thinking, research, and problem solving skills" were of more value to your survival that the home-row? You must agree with John Seely Brown (Brown & Adler, 2008) when he says that these shifts demand that we move our concept of learning from a "supply-push" model of "building up an inventory of knowledge in the students' heads" (p. 30) to a "demand-pull" approach that requires students to own their learning processes and pursue learning, based on their needs of the moment, in social and possibly global communities of practice. (paraphrased by Will Richardson).

    Incidentally, I've often wondered whether we'll ever move to the lilting tones of the old Star Trek computer voice from the current awkwardly inflected unisex computer voice that puts the emPHASIS on the wrong syllABle.

    Brown, J. S., & Adler, R. P. (2008). Minds on fire: Open education, the long tail, and learning 2.0. Educause Review, 43(1), 16–32.

  5. Mr. Walters,
    I just wanted to thank you for linking to my Keyboarding Research blog. You cited some research that states 4th and 5th grades are best for teaching keyboarding. I must admit that I agree with your Education Week article that places the best grade level for teaching keyboarding at 3rd grade. While students are learning to keyboard in kindergarten, I believe that 3rd grade provides the best convergence between manual dexterity and language use.
    You might also be interested in a white paper that I wrote about keyboarding. It is a comprehensive review of keyboarding research. http://tinyurl.com/5l4kpk
    Good luck on your pursuit and please contact me if there is anything I can do to ease your pain. =-)

    Leigh Zeitz


Post a Comment

Popular posts from this blog

Hey, Computer Teachers, stop wasting students' time! (Part 1)

3d Resurrection - Getting your Cube 3 Working again

Classcraft and ARIS