The Obsession With Typing

I know that I promised to continue my “Project-based learning Google templates”series,but I could not help myself but share my thoughts with you about a subject that has had me thinking for a while- typing. A few weeks ago,our school held an open house for prospective parents. As parents walked through the computer lab,one parent approached me and asked me about our computer program. I explained to her that we have one computer class per week in which students are researching and creating projects that relate to topics they study,using web-based tools (Google Apps). It was clear that my response was not what she was looking for and she kept asking:“Are you teaching typing?”I told her that due to limited computer lab time,students cannot engage in typing. She walked away and joined the group and I was left wondering:why are so many parents and teachers focused on the importance of typing skills?

Don’t misunderstand me,I have nothing against typing. In fact,I believe that every student needs to be fluent in typing as soon as their workload grows (obviously, not in the first grade levels) and a lack of typing proficiency becomes an impediment to completing their work and a burden on their schedules. At that point, they need to go on one of those fun web-based typing tutorials and practice typing every day for about ten to thirty minutes. In a couple of months, students will be able to master typing to an extent that they will be able to handle most of their typing assignments.  I am puzzled as to why parents and teachers in elementary school adamantly insist on typing lessons for their children even if they are at the expense of acquiring important technology skills that are much harder to learn and more useful in the long run.

In elementary school, where most students’ work is handwritten, the need for typing lessons is not very substantial. It is always nice to have students come to the computer lab and finish their typing much faster. However, when you start weighing the complexity of acquiring typing skills as compared to technology skills, such as working with spreadsheets, word processors, web-based applications, account management (login, etc..),and handling multimedia tools (editing and embedding them into projects),it becomes clear that typing is a drill that does not require much thinking to accomplish. Why waste precious computer time on a drill that can be easily done at home as part of a student’s daily homework.

The only reasonable answer to this is that for many years typing was considered to be a skill representing an important aspect of technology. Not very long ago, the essence of technology was that students will be able to type-up their papers, either by using the typewriter or later using a word processor on a computer. Students could not do as much with technology as they do today and technology was not as ubiquitous as it is at present. Times have changed since and today’s worker needs to be highly educated and technologically qualified. In addition, they are expected to master communication and collaboration tools that will enable them to exchange ideas and projects with colleagues all over the world. Typing is certainly a big help in accomplishing tasks, but it is not viewed as a major skill to have anymore. This is because you can easily learn it on your own when you require it, and many of the widely used smart phones don’t use a traditional keyboard layout.

Throughout the years, the responsibility of teaching typing was traditionally assumed by the school and in many schools this tradition has been retained. That is probably part of the reason why parents look to schools to provide that skill to their kids. Another reason is that some people believe that students should not be overloaded with homework and prefer to have their kids learn typing at school instead. This outlook hampers our ability to sustain our dominance in science and technology.

In most cases, when parents and teachers are updated about the latest trends in educational technology, they are willing to assume the part of training their kids to type at home. The more technologically savvy parents and teachers are, the more they understand that typing is just one skill in the wide plethora of technology skills that students need to master, and that some are more difficult than others to learn. As technology gets more ubiquitous in schools, the focus will change to reflect our new world. In fact, in many schools it is already changing as we speak.