Keyboard skills are to ICT what Handwriting is to the literacy hour. though it is arguable whether or not we should be making this type of subject based distinction, when planning the use of the word processor, email or any form of text editing tool in school. A personal argument would be that if in school we are not using word processors from the drafting stage of writing, and seeing them as cross curricular tools, then we are denying our students access to a valuable set of resources they can use to collaboratively engage with the writing process and removing a link between their work and how writing is used and developed in the real world. However the biggest problem in practical terms of a statement like this, when proposing the word processor as a writing tool is the length of time it can take, due to underdeveloped keyboard familiarity and skill, for students to input text in the first place, and this is where 2 type and the question above comes in.
It is interesting in the new primary framework that within literacy documentation the acquisition of good keyboard skills and familiarity by the end of Year 3 is given high status. Hopefully this will not be overlooked by those of us with a more standards driven agenda. And is a welcome affirmation of the links between and the valuable contribution that ICT tools have to offer the teaching of writing in the Curriculum. It also encourages us to place a similar level of value on the teaching of basic keyboarding skills to that we should place on the development of a comfortable and cursive hand for writing.
Last year I bought a site license for 2simple's 2type, Having seen a demo at the Bytes Conference, I was drawn to its simplicity and and on screen appearance, but also the range of activities and challenges it offered, that I knew would appeal to my students.
The screenshot above shows the colour coding scheme used within the software for keyboard fingering. The colours represent particular fingers to be used by the students, starting from red for the index finger and pink for the thumb, working outwards to blue for the pinkies aaah!
Within the game and activity environments, as letters appear in for example, bubbles to be popped or bricks to be prevented from landing, coloured spots are used to represent the area of the keyboard where the letter can be found, and also appear above the finger and hand to be used to depress the key.
The students catch onto this very quickly, and once shown how the process works which took about 10 minutes with a year 2 class on the IWB last term, they see it as a computer game, a competition and a challenge, as they monitor each other's play against the clock. It very quickly becomes self sustaining.
I organise most ICT activity in class as paired work, and in this context the students see it funnily as "cheating," for the person they are working with not to use the correct finger and hand to depress the keys. This has had two effects. The children first of all want to improve their keystrokes over time, because they want to "win" the game, but also they are caught up inadvertently in peer review and assessment, as they point out what needs to be done as they work.
When we returned to school last week I set up both computers in my ICT area to run 2 type, and it was great to see the children working with the environment again. It is worth pointing out that to some of the activities provided it is possible to add word lists. There is already a bank that comes with the package, but adding class based spelling and word lists based on themes or spelling patterns, perhaps in key stage one and early KS 2 linking these to sound pictures and rhyme, there is enormous potential for linking this amazing tool into the ongoing word level activities of the class. If you have not looked at or thought about how to develop a program of key board skills teaching and familiarity across your school, then I strongly recommend you check out this environment first of all.