The Status of Elementary Keyboarding
- A Longitudinal Study
By Harriet Rogers, Jody Laehn, Anne Lang, Deb O'Leary,
and Mary Sommers
-- [ Abstract ] --
In this technology-driven world, the computer is a vital learning
tool for students of all ages, and the use of computers at home
and at school is rapidly increasing. Children as young as pre-kindergarten
are using computers in classrooms across the country. The National
Educational Technology Standards (NETS) indicate that students in
kindergarten, first, and second grade should have an awareness of
basic computer operations and concepts. As states mandate computer
literacy, are they also requiring keyboarding instruction that develops
efficient inputting skills?
A research study was conducted in May, 2003, to determine if the
number of school districts that included keyboarding instruction
at the elementary level has increased with more elementary children
using the computer as a writing tool. The purpose of the study was
to determine the status of elementary keyboarding in the State of
Wisconsin and to compare data from 1993, 1996, and 2003 as to the
following questions: 1) At what grade was the "touch"
method of keyboarding taught? 2) Who taught keyboarding? 3) How
much time was allocated? 4) When was keyboarding reinforced? 5)
What software was used to teach keyboarding? 6) What textbook was
used? and 7) What computer environment was used?
Over the ten-year period (1993-2003) more elementary schools included
keyboarding instruction in the curriculum, beginning with an early
awareness in kindergarten through second grade. Third grade, followed
by fourth grade, received the most responses as to when the formal
introduction of the touch method of keyboarding began. Elementary
classroom teachers are the primary instructors in teaching keyboarding.
The most common instructional time for teaching keyboarding was
30 to 40 minutes once a week for 36 weeks. Reinforcement of keyboarding
instruction was considered information as most school districts
indicated subsequent reinforcement. A keyboarding software package
was preferred over using a textbook for keyboarding instruction.
The type of computer used for elementary keyboarding instruction
changed from Apple computers to PC environments.
Since the invention of the first "practical" typewriter
in 1867 by Christopher Latham Sholes of Wisconsin, extensive studies
have been conducted evaluating the typewriter as a learning and
writing tool. Research done as early as 1932 found that elementary
children who typed their work achieved greater gains in all subjects
than those who did not type (Hoot, 1986). In 1959 research showed
that third and fourth grade students who attended a summer typing
program improved in reading and vocabulary. In 1971, first graders
who participated in a reading/typing program were significantly
better in understanding paragraph meaning and word study skills
(Hoot, 1986). Keyboarding was also found to be highly motivating
and led to more positive attitudes toward spelling (Anderson-Inman,
As technology advanced over time, the typewriter gave way to the
computer. Students of all ages are now using the computer as a vital
learning tool in classrooms. According to a study completed by Sormunen
(1989) almost every elementary school in the nation had computers
available in the classroom. In 1989 a questionnaire was sent to
1,000 randomly selected administrators throughout the United States
to obtain their opinions about elementary keyboarding. Based on
the 519 responses, 74 % of the administrators indicated that keyboarding
should be required of every student; 78% felt it should be taught
at the elementary level; and 50% felt that third grade was not too
young to learn keyboarding. An overwhelming 80% felt that touch
keyboarding (positioning the hands on homerow, using each finger
to key specific keys according to the slant of the keyboard) was
necessary for efficient operation of a computer and that language
arts skills can be increased by using the computer. Sixty-two percent
stated that keyboarding was a basic literacy skill (Condon, 1989).
Traditionally, typewriting skills-now referred to as keyboarding
skills-were taught in high schools by business education-licensed
teachers who have been trained to teach the psychomotor manipulations
of keyboarding. However, with the enormous increase of computers
in middle and elementary schools, the introduction of the touch
method of keyboarding was occurring in lower grades. With the increased
opportunity for children to use the computer as a writing tool,
are they learning an efficient inputting skill? As early as 1986,
a major concern was
This concern still exists, as cited in Education World: Technology
in the Classroom: "As schools have concentrated on teaching
students how to use computers to obtain and produce information,
they have paid little attention to teaching them how to type on
the keyboard quickly, accurately, and with correct technique"
Children often develop their own hunt-and-peck-systems. These
systems are inefficient; without keyboarding skills, students
take longer at the computer. Keyboarding is now as important as
penmanship, yet many students learn the keyboard without guidance,
waste limited computer time, and develop habits that may be difficult
to change (Type to Learn, 1986, p.1).
Controversy continues as to who should teach keyboarding, what
skills should be taught, at what grades, and for what length of
time. Traditionally, only the business education-licensed teacher
taught keyboarding. With the present trend toward the introduction
of keyboarding at the elementary level, are elementary-licensed
teachers now teaching these skills? Are they being properly trained
to teach the psychomotor skill?
A research study conducted in 1996 reported the increase in the
number of elementary classroom teachers that were teaching keyboarding
compared to previous years. In 1993, the study found that business
education teachers were primarily responsible for teaching elementary
keyboarding, but by 1996, more elementary classroom teachers were
teaching keyboarding (Rogers, 1997).
Sormunen (1991) conducted a study regarding the existence of elementary
touch typing instruction. This study found that elementary classroom
teachers are teaching keyboarding, but only 12% had any formal preparation
in teaching keyboarding. A study conducted in 1989 found that educational
administrators felt that in-service training for elementary teachers
would be necessary to provide them with enough expertise in teaching
keyboarding (Condon, 1989). McLean (1994) suggested that instruction
can be supplied by elementary teachers who have taken a keyboarding
methods course, or a business education teacher who has had elementary
learning methods, or a combination of elementary classroom teacher
and a business education teacher. Consensus of most studies indicates
that a "knowledgeable" teacher is needed to help students
develop appropriate techniques, as well as provide motivation and
reinforcement (Nieman, 1996).
Many studies have documented the value of children learning touch
keyboarding (McKay, 1998; Owston, 1997; Bartholome, l996; Nieman,
1996; Hoot, 1986). Rogers (2003) lists the following benefits for
children who are introduced to the touch method of keyboarding:
1. Improvement in language arts-reading, spelling, and writing
2. Improvement in efficiency in using the computer as a writing,
editing, and computing tool, thereby maximizing classroom time.
3. Improvement in attitude toward writing-less frustration in
looking for keys rather than entering information.
4. Improvement in proper keyboarding techniques and use of the
computer, thereby eliminating the formation of bad keyboarding
habits for later word processing and computer applications.
5. Improvement in motivating all students toward doing schoolwork.
6. Improvement in creative thought.
7. Improvement in integrating keyboarding with all subject areas.
8. Improvement in preparing all students for a technological society.
Keyboarding skills are included in national and state standards
as part of essential input technologies. The National Business Education
Association (2001) recommends keyboarding instruction in Level 1
(Grades K-6) and the International Society for Technology in Education
(ISTE) recommends that students use input devices, such as the mouse
and keyboard, to successfully operate computers prior to second
The National Educational Technology Standards (NETS) and South-Western
Publishing Company have developed a scope and sequence for computer
literacy that includes the formal introduction of touch typing beginning
at the third grade level. The Wisconsin's Model Academic Standards
for Business state that by the end of the fourth grade, students
will develop touch keyboarding techniques.
Erickson (1993) addresses the controversy of when keyboarding should
be taught and states that all students, ages 8 and up, can learn
keyboarding skills, but the ideal age for effective keyboarding
instruction and learning is the upper elementary school level (ages
10-12). Erthal (1998) states that the general consensus is about
age 8 or 9 or grade 3 or 4 because children at this age possess
the necessary fine motor skills, eye-hand coordination, and reading
ability to succeed in keyboarding. Lambourne (1992) presents many
developmental reasons why fourth grade is the ideal time to teach
However, in an article in Education World, the author quotes "There
is no longer an ideal time for formal (keyboarding) instruction
because younger and younger children are imitating older siblings
and parents by wanting to work with computers" (2003). Numerous
studies indicate that keyboard learning should be taught prior to
using the computer, especially since students need formal instruction
to acquire keyboarding skills using the touch system (PCBEE, 1997;
Nieman, 1996; Prigge and Braathen, 1993).
Students should be able to demonstrate the correct touch method
of keyboarding after successfully completing 25 to 45 hours of instruction
according to the Policies Commission for Business and Economic Education
(1997). The suggested time frame for a basic keyboarding program
according to Erickson (1991) is 40 to 45 class periods of approximately
30 to 40 minutes in length. Depending on the grade level and the
number of 30-minute class periods, 15 to 35 hours of instruction
in Grade 3 or Grade 4 is recommended by Hoggatt (2004).
To determine the status of elementary keyboarding instruction and
to compare the growth of elementary keyboarding over a ten-year
period, questionnaires were mailed in 1993, 1996, and 2003 to all
school districts in Wisconsin. During the years 1993 and 1996, Wisconsin
had 428 school districts. By 2003, two small school districts consolidated,
resulting in 426 total school districts. As shown in Table 1, the
response rate in 1993 was 67%, representing 285 school districts;
the response rate in 1996 was 66%, representing 284 school districts;
and the response rate in 2003 was 60%, representing 256 school districts.
The lower response rate in 2003 was attributed to the timing of
when the questionnaires were mailed to the school districts. Questionnaires
were mailed in late April, 2003, with a follow-up completed in May,
2003, compared with January, 1996, and March, 1993.
Summary of Responses
Surveys received in 1993
Surveys received in 1996
Follow-up surveys in l996
Surveys received in 2003
Follow-up surveys in 2003
Over the ten-year period (1993-2003), more school districts are
including keyboarding instruction in the elementary grades. As shown
in Table 2, the number of school districts including keyboarding
has increased from 54% in 1993 (153 responses) to 73% (207 responses)
in 1996 to 85% (218 responses) in 2003. The number of school districts
not introducing keyboarding instruction in the elementary grades
has decreased from 46% in 1993 to 27% in 1996, to 15% in 2003. All
of the following percentages calculated in this study are based
on the 153 "yes" responses (54%) of the total responses
in 1993; the 207 "yes" responses (73%) of the total response
in 1996; and 218 "yes" responses (85%) of the total response
Elementary Keyboarding Results
1993 Introduction of Keyboarding
1996 Introduction of Keyboarding
2003 Introduction of Keyboarding
As indicated in Table 3, the touch method of keyboarding (positioning
the hands on homerow, using each finger to key specific keys according
to the slant of the keyboard) was most often introduced at the third
grade level in 2003 (97 responses, 45% based on 218 total "yes"
responses) compared to 42 responses (20.3%) in 1996 and 24 responses
(15.7%) in 1993. This is an increase from the previous studies in
which fourth grade received the most responses with 93 responses
(44.9%) in 1996 and 54 (35.5%) in 1993. In the 2003 study, fourth
grade received the second highest number of responses, 83 (38%).
Fifth grade received positive responses in 2003 from 14 (6.4%) school
districts, in comparison with 24 (11.6%) of the 207 total responses
in 1996 and 22 (14.3%) of the total 153 positive responses in 1993.
An overall increase in the introduction of the touch method has
occurred in grades kindergarten through second grade. In 2003 keyboarding
was introduced in kindergarten in five (2.3%) school districts,
compared to one response in 1996 and no responses in 1993. At the
first-grade level, keyboarding instruction was included in nine
(4.2%) districts, compared to one in 1996 and two in 1993. School
districts included keyboarding at the second grade in nine (4.2%)
school districts in 2003, compared to six in 1996 and three in 1993.
As Table 4 indicates, there has been a dramatic increase in elementary
classroom teachers being the primary instructor of keyboarding.
In 1993, business education teachers were responsible for teaching
elementary keyboarding (70%) of 153 total positive responses. By
1996, there was an increase in the number of classroom teachers
teaching keyboarding, but the business education teacher still represented
more than half of the responses, 54% of 207 total positive responses.
However, by 2003, classroom teachers were the primary instructor
of keyboarding (50.9%, 111 responses). Business education teachers
represented 28.5% of the 218 total positive responses. In 2003 many
schools reported that the elementary classroom teachers were assisted
by librarians or technology coordinators.
Respondents in 2003 were asked if they offered any introductory
instruction to the keyboard before any formal instruction
(touch method) was given. Of the 218 school districts that offered
elementary keyboarding, 86 (39.5%) answered "yes," and
132 (60.5%) answered "no." Many schools described this
early keyboarding awareness as informal. Students were introduced
to correct computer posture, the color-coded system of keyboarding,
and proper left/right hand placement. Table 5 indicates the grades
where early keyboarding awareness occurred. This question was not
asked on the 1996 or 1993 questionnaires.
Early Keyboarding Awareness 2003
Early keyboarding awareness occurred most often at the kindergarten
level with 32 responses (37.2%), followed by first grade with 17
responses (19.8%), second grade with 14 responses (16.3%), third
grade with 13 responses (15.1%), fourth grade with 7 responses (8.1%),
and pre-kindergarten with 3 responses (3.5%).
The instructional time allocated for teaching the touch method
of keyboarding varied greatly from school to school, from teacher
to teacher, and with each grade level. The most common instructional
time indicated in 1993 and 1996 was 25-45 minutes every day for
6 weeks. However, in the 2003 survey, most responses indicated once
a week for 36 weeks for 30 to 40 minutes (21 responses, 9.6%). Eighteen
school districts (8.3%) reported offering keyboarding instruction
every day, for 6 weeks, for 30-45 minutes. Ten school districts
(4.6%) reported twice a week, for nine weeks for 30 minutes.
In answer to what software was used to teach keyboarding, Table
6 indicates a shift over the ten-year period from MicroType: The
Wonderful World of Paws to Type to Learn/Type to Learn, Jr. Every
year new keyboarding software becomes available. Schools also reported
using a combination of software to fit the various grade levels.
Respondents were asked to identify what textbook, if any, was used
in teaching keyboarding. In the 2003 survey, 132 responses (61%)
indicated that no textbook was used. Most schools preferred to use
software for instruction. However, of the textbooks that were used,
"Paws" textbooks (Paws Presents Computer Keyboarding
or Computer Keyboarding, An Elementary Course) received the
most responses in all three studies-26 responses (12%) in 2003;
67 (32.4%) in 1996; and 35 (22.9%) in 1993. Another popular textbook,
I Can Keyboard, received 18 responses (8.3%) in 2003; 33 responses
(15.9%) in 1996; and 25 responses (16.3) in 1993.
Once the touch method of keyboarding was introduced, reinforcement
of correct keystroking was measured. Table 7 compares data from
1993, 1996, and 2003. In 2003, 177 schools (81%) reported keyboarding
reinforcement, compared to 205 (99%) in 1996 and 105 (68.6%) in
1993. The largest percentage of reinforcement occurred in the year
following the introduction. For example, in 2003, the third grade
received the most responses for the introduction of keyboarding
and therefore, fourth grade received the most responses, 82 (46.3%)
for reinforcement, with 45 schools (25.4%) indicating reinforcement
in the fifth grade.
In 1996 and 1993, fourth grade received the greatest percentage
of responses for the
introduction of keyboarding; therefore, fifth grade received the
most responses for reinforcement. Many school districts in all three
surveys reported that the keyboarding skill was reinforced at every
grade level following the introduction.
The amount of time allocated for a refresher keyboarding class
at the elementary level varied greatly. Responses varied from 2
weeks to 36 weeks. Most respondents indicated that they devoted
36 weeks for refreshing keyboarding skills.
When asked what textbook was used for the refresher class, the
various Paws texts received the most responses in all three surveys,
2003, 1996, and 1993. When asked what software was used for the
refresher class, the same software used for introducing keyboarding
was also used for refreshing keyboarding skills. For example, in
2003, Type to Learn/Type to Learn, Jr. received the most
responses in introducing keyboarding instruction and, therefore,
received the most responses, 40 (22.6%) based on 177 total responses
to this question.
Respondents were asked how many days/weeks word processing/formatting
was taught and what software was used. In the 2003 survey, 104 school
districts responded to this question. Many respondents indicated
that word processing was integrated into other subject areas and
not taught separately. The weeks dedicated to teaching word processing/formatting
varied from 2 weeks to 36 weeks. One day a week received the most
responses in 2003. Microsoft Word dominated the responses in 2003
with 75 responses (72%) as the software preferred for word processing/formatting,
followed by AppleWorks with 16 responses (15.4%). In previous studies
AppleWorks had 28 responses (18.3%) in 1993 and 44 responses (21.3%)
in 1996. Microsoft Works software gained in 1996 from 8.5% (13)
in 1993 to 21.3% (44) in 1996.
When asked what curricular areas where keyboarding/word processing
was integrated, language arts received the most responses in all
three studies. Social Studies and Science also received a large
number of responses.
Over the ten-year period, 1993-2003, the type of computer used
for elementary keyboarding instruction has changed. In 1993, Apple
IIGS, Macintosh, and Apple IIe computers dominated in elementary
school buildings with 73% Apple environments and 27% IBM/PC computers.
By 1996, Apple still dominated, but IBM/PC computers gained, representing
48% compared to 52% Apple environments. However, by 2003, PC computers
dominated in elementary school buildings with 62.8%, compared to
23.3% Apple/Macintosh computers. Gaining increased popularity, battery
operated keyboards (AlphaSmarts) received 12 responses representing
13.9% of all responses (N = 258). Several respondents reported using
more than one kind of computer or keyboard.
The 2003 survey asked respondents whether or not a grade for keyboarding
instruction was included on a report card. An overwhelming 140 responses
(69.7%) indicated that no grade was given for elementary keyboarding.
Sixty-one (30.3%) respondents, however, indicated that a grade was
included on elementary students' report card.
When asked what the maximum expectation for a one-minute timing
was at each grade level, most responses indicated between 10-15
wpm (words per minute) for students in grades two through four,
and 15-20 wpm for fifth-grade students. Many respondents indicated
that speed was not measured or the wpm was not known.
The following conclusions may be drawn based on the findings of
1. Over the ten-year period (1993-2003) more elementary schools
are including keyboarding instruction in the curriculum. The number
of schools offering keyboarding instruction in kindergarten through
fifth grades has increased.
2. Keyboarding instruction is being included in the elementary
curriculum at earlier grades. More kindergarten, first, and second
grade students are starting with an early awareness of keyboarding.
3. Third grade received the most responses in 2003 regarding
when the formal introduction of the touch method of keyboarding
was introduced, compared to fourth grade in 1996 and 1993.
4. Elementary classroom teachers are the primary instructors
in teaching keyboarding skills. In previous years, the business
education teacher was mostly responsible for teaching keyboarding.
To assist in teaching keyboarding, media specialists or technology
coordinators are working with the classroom teacher.
5. School districts are using a combination of software and keyboarding
materials to teach keyboarding and for reinforcement at multiple
6. A keyboarding software package was preferred over using a
textbook for keyboarding
7. The most common instructional time for teaching keyboarding
in 2003 was 30 to 40 minutes once a week for 36 weeks. Many schools
reported teaching keyboarding every day for 6 weeks for 30-45
minutes, which was the most common instructional time reported
in 1996 and 1993.
8. Reinforcement of keyboarding instruction was considered important
as once the touch
method was introduced, most school districts indicated subsequent
reinforcement. Many school districts indicated that the skill
was reinforced at every grade level following the introduction.
9. The software/textbook used for refreshing keyboarding skills
was the same material
used for the introduction of keyboarding.
10. Microsoft Word was the most preferred software for word processing/formatting
2003. AppleWorks and Microsoft Works received the most responses
in 1996 and
11. Keyboarding/word processing was integrated most with language
arts and social
12. Over the ten-year period from 1993-2003, the type of computer
used for elementary
keyboarding instruction changed from Apple computers to PC environments.
13. Battery-operated keyboards are becoming popular in teaching
keyboarding as the
availability of the only computer lab in the elementary school
building is scheduled for other purposes.
14. Most respondents in 2003 indicated that a specific grade
was not given to students for elementary keyboarding instruction.
15. The maximum expectation for a one-minute timing (speed) was
wpm for students in Grades 2 through 4, and 15-20 wpm for fifth-grade
School districts are realizing the importance of keyboarding skills
for elementary children. Learning an efficient inputting skill is
as basic as learning handwriting in today's technology-driven world.
As more school districts include elementary keyboarding instruction
in the elementary grades, elementary classroom teachers are being
asked to teach these skills. These teachers need instruction and
direction as to the methodology in developing a psychomotor skill.
School districts need to develop a K-12 computer technology curriculum
that includes keyboarding instruction. This keyboarding instruction
needs to be structured, consistent, and sequential:
"Structured" means that a designated amount of time is
scheduled for keyboarding instruction. The recommended amount of
time devoted to formal keyboarding instruction is 30 to 40 minutes
every day or several days a week until all the keys have been introduced.
The grade level that formal keyboarding instruction is scheduled
varies from school district to school district. The appropriate
grade level for the formal introduction of the touch method of keyboarding
will depend on when children are inputting sentences frequently
to the point that bad habits are being formed. Formal introduction
needs to precede frequent computer use. Whenever children are using
the computer, correct computer posture and techniques need to be
taught and reinforced.
"Consistent" means that every student receives keyboarding
instruction. Children that miss keyboarding instruction because
of band or music lessons are at a definite disadvantage because
of the additional memorization of key locations that were presented
in their absence. These children will have to memorize the keys
missed in addition to the new keys being presented in the next lesson.
"Sequential" means that once the keyboarding instruction
begins, reinforcement continues in succeeding grades. Studies indicate
that keyboarding is a skill that progresses through the years. Children
should be required to use correct keyboarding techniques whenever
using the computer. All classroom teachers, librarians, technology
coordinators, and computer lab aides should require children to
use correct keyboarding techniques. Structured reinforcement of
keyboarding leads to children attaining a usable skill, thereby
reducing frustration and maximizing computer time. Children with
a usable keyboarding skill concentrate on what they are keying and
not where the keys are located.
Prior to formal keyboarding instruction, early keyboarding awareness
is necessary for children to learn correct computer posture, left/right
hand placement, homerow location, and correct operation of the enter/return,
space bar, and backspace/delete keys.
Software programs are becoming popular to assist elementary classroom
teachers in teaching keyboarding. While software programs have many
advantages, the main disadvantage is confirming that children are
actually using correct techniques as they complete each lesson.
Observation is essential by a knowledgeable instructor in requiring
children to use the touch method of inputting.
Studies indicate a dramatic increase in language arts skills as
a result of children inputting words and sentences frequently using
a computer. Keyboarding and language arts are a dynamic duo. Keyboarding
should be integrated with language arts and other subject areas,
such as social studies and science. Word processing of projects
in academic subjects is easier when children possess a usable keyboarding
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