It likely comes as no surprise that children’s first exposure to keyboards comes well before they enter elementary school. In 2017, children up to age eight spent an average of 2 hours and 19 minutes every day on screen media. Virtually every household has a smartphone or tablet in the home, with 45% of all children having their own mobile device!
Given all this early exposure to keyboards and typing, is it still necessary to teach in school? Yes! In fact, standardized testing requires typing skills to complete digital assessments in many states.
Not so long ago, keyboarding classes were part of a standard computer science or business class in high school. A school’s computer lab was the only place students learned to type, and they did so in 30-minute increments outside of core curriculum. Now, learning to type is an increasingly necessary skill for students as young as third grade.
Many tests aligned with Common Core or other state standards are administered on computers, particularly those schools that use the PARCC exam. Online testing is a key priority for many states because digital assessments are more efficient from a test administration perspective, open up access for students with disabilities, and allow for deeper testing not available from pen-and-paper tests.
Though children are being exposed to typing earlier and earlier, using keyboards doesn’t always equate to a mastery of typing. Students are likely not learning the right way to type, often relying on slow, cumbersome hunt-and-peck methods. As computer-based standardized assessments increase in popularity, keyboarding should be considered part of test prep.
Foundational keyboarding skills are essential to performing well on digital testing. Speed is important in a testing environment, so being able to type quickly will give students an incredible advantage. When students know how to type quickly and accurately, they are better able to focus on the task at hand, instead of finding the correct letters on the keyboard. Students with strong keyboarding skills also have more confidence to conduct research, query for information online, and take notes for test prep projects and assignments.
To help students perform on 21st-century standardized assessments, teachers should treat foundational keyboarding techniques as a 21st-century skill.