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How Young is too Young to start Using Computers in School?

Learn when to start teaching children keyboard skills and touch type instruction.

Opposing Views of Technology Enhanced Learning
Scholars have debated the effectiveness of TEL since technology has been incorporated into curriculum.

No Screen Time At All For Babies Under 2 !

Computers hindering math and writing, report indicates

Too much media could hurt kids' health: study


New Positions Forming That Advocate More Limited and Gradual Introduction of Computers Into Curriculum With Students at an Older Age12/15/99
Reduction of the glitz and glamour of computer learning experiences and introducing computers more slowly to students so that they can absorb the skills at an older age at which time they will have stronger ethical sense to learn computing in a way in which values are in place to make morally sound judgements regarding its use is a position being strongly advocated by groups that are making their voices heard on these issues. Students they believe need judgement skills and moral values in place before the computer occupies a major place in their lives according to advocates of these positions.

Computers, Keyboarding Skills, Touch type instruction, Elementary Education

Push for Computers in Classrooms Gathers New Foes Pamela Mendels, December 15, 1999
The conventional wisdom in education policy circles in recent years has held that children need to be introduced to computers early and that technology should be a strong presence in their school lives.
Now, a new group of educators, doctors, psychologists and others is challenging that notion. In a draft statement on technology literacy, a committee of the group, called the Alliance for Childhood, says that the American approach to technology in homes and schools has been flawed, emphasizing ephemeral vocational skills and the razzle-dazzle of educational software, rather than helping children think critically about technology and its appropriate use.
Among other things, the committee is urging that computers have a restricted role, if any role at all, in elementary school classrooms and in later years be introduced in a way that assures children understand how computers work, can examine the appropriate place of technology in their lives and be instilled with the idea of ethical behavior online.
The hope, said Joan Almon, coordinator of the group, is to influence policy makers, parents and teachers at a time when "there is still a window," when computers have not yet become as entrenched in life as, say, television.


Safe Sites for Young Children

Online Curriculum

Children's Health - No computer screen time at all for babies under 2.

Touch Type Instruction Teaching Keyboarding

I used to get quite frustrated teaching keyboarding. But after diving in headfirst and focusing on that challenge (it was my M.S. thesis project, completed in 2000) I now truly enjoy teaching the skill and am successful with it--literally ALL my students learn to touch-type. Here are some of the things that make a huge difference:

  • 1. Start with students at the right age group, considering motor skill development level, eye-hand coordination, and their need for the skill. 2nd graders are not all ready, but nearly all 3rd graders are, so that's where I start. If you don't begin instruction until 5th or 6th or even later, a number of students will have already gotten set in some bad habits, and it's much harder to train them then. You can do it, but it's tougher because you have to overcome their resistance to going slower than they're used to until they lock in proper technique.
  • 2. Accept that it takes a certain amount of TIME (a lot), and make sure that students GET that time. 3rd/4th graders require approximately 30 hours of practice time (GOOD practice time; monitored practice time) to reach "automaticity". At this point, the skill will "stick". So I generally devote about 75% of 3rd/4th grade computer class lessons to this learning task, and I weave in word processing lessons and internet research to help keep the keyboard learning pertinent to other elements of our school's curriculum. Teens and adults require less time, about 15 hours average (motor skills/eye-hand coordination is more developed) but if they are used to hunting and pecking, you have to add on some hours for overcoming their resistance.
  • 3. Teach ACTIVELY, guiding instruction and practice yourself, rather than relying on a software program. It takes a human teacher to tell where a student's eyes are directed, which finger is being used for a key, whether a student's posture is inhibiting proper technique, or whether wrists are bent and resting on the keyboard (putting them at greater risk of developing repetitive stress injuries). And the enthusiastic encouragement and support of a caring teacher is a more effective "reward" for effort than a few more points on a game, or a line of congratulatory blather at the end of a software tutorial lesson.
  • 4. Use "speedskins" (or something similar) to develop reliance on touch rather than sight. This product not only hides the letters on the keys; it also provides a more tactile "bump" on the two anchor keys, and this helps students keep their fingers in position.
  • 5. Ignore speed. For at least a year of instruction. Focus (and grade) ENTIRELY on proper technique. This is especially important with hunt-and-peckers. Speed and accuracy will follow all by themselves if students lock in proper technique. Students will ENJOY pushing themselves for greater speed and accuracy once they've learned proper technique.
  • 6. Be enthusiastic. Reward students constantly with your positive comments, and brag about their skill development in their hearing. Celebrate the small achievements every step of the way. Motivate students by reminding them that the time they spend learning this skill now will pay off HUGELY as they whiz through writing assignments and computer tasks all the rest of their lives, and that they will consequently have more time for all the other things they might rather be doing. (I also tell them that this skill will make them better at playing video games ; ) Celebrate big time at the end of your initial course of instruction. I have a little graduation ceremony, invite parents, and set up a projector with a video camera showing their hands as they touch-type their own names on a scrolling "Roll of Honor". The school director hands out certificates with a handshake... then we have a party! This all might be kind of silly with older students, but it is a highlight for 3rd graders. I invite the current 2nd graders to watch this ceremony because it plants seeds of anticipation and enthusiasm about what they will be learning next year.
  • 7. Move to some real projects, instead of practice drills, as soon as students have learned all the keys. However, do this in SMALL DOSES, being very careful not to set them up for frustration while they are still keying very slowly. If they take on whole reports or stories too soon, they will just get frustrated which will defeat your purpose. Have them key short lists of spelling words; one sentence captions for science project displays, simple thank-you messages, maybe daily weather journal entries, famous one-liner quotes for a wall display... SHORT stuff that they can complete in the time allotted and take pride in.