By Dr. Wendy Thompson
Keyboarding is an essential office skill but, as I wrote in a previous blog, for my students with special needs, it also opens doors to communication with other people. I’ve found that for my students, developing typing skills through engaging keyboarding practice can be a conduit to expanded use of technology, along with greater academic opportunities and achievement.
As any teacher knows, student engagement in any lesson is key. When my students use TypeTastic, they practice academic skills they are struggling with, such as letter recognition or dealing with their challenges related to letter reversals. But they think of their keyboarding practice as a game, rather than studying. They’re always challenging and pushing each other to progress, frequently stopping to ask one another if they’ve made it to the next level or not.
We visit the computer lab weekly for typing instruction, but throughout the day when they have downtime, they’ll frequently ask to work on TypeTastic, which means they may use an iPad or a Chromebook. We even have spare keyboards they’ll practice finger placement on before class in the mornings just to give themselves an edge when they do get to run the program. They even practice at home on their own time!
All of that self-motivated practice pays off when we work with other technology for fun learning projects, too. Recently, they used Book Creator to make books. In previous years when we’ve done this, my students had to simply tell their stories through images, or else they needed an adult to transcribe their stories as they vocalized what they wanted to say. This year, though, many of them were able to input their own text through an iPad or Chromebook. They’ve also been making funny greenscreen videos to share with their friends and family.
Typing aside, they are better able to use different devices because they’ve practiced overcoming challenges in working on phones and laptops and iPads by, for example, looking for solutions to typing on a two-handed keyboard when they only have one fully functioning hand.
Three of my students have gotten their very own phones this year, and they’re so excited to be able to text one another! The time we’ve spent working on TypeTastic has expanded their opportunities academically and personally and is even allowing them to connect with other people in ways that might not have been open to them otherwise. That’s something I never expected from a typing program.
Dr. Wendy Thompson is a middle school teacher at the A. Harry Moore School in Jersey City, NJ.