I am old enough that when I was in high school, there was a class called “Typing.” There were mostly girls in this class. And it was, in my teenaged, not-very-humble opinion, a class for those whose highest aspirations involved working for the CEO, not being the CEO. My guidance counselor suggested this class when I had a free period and did not want a study hall (another completely useless thing, in my thoughts) but I turned my nose up at the idea.
So, I hunted and pecked my way, on a word processor machine, through my upper class research papers and graduated with a diploma that reflected higher learning, not secretarial training.
Even in college, not knowing how to type wasn’t such a big deal. I didn’t take very many liberal arts classes with writing assignments. I earned an engineering degree (please note the distinct snobbery in my voice). Knowledge of spreadsheets and how to format them was much more useful than what was becoming known as “keyboarding skills.”
It’s really only been in the last 5 – 7 years, since I began blogging, that knowing how to peck out more than 30 words per minute seems like a good idea. When a typical day includes homeschooling, running, cooking, laundry and basic housekeeping, time for blogging is often carved out of time I could spend doing things arguably more important. If I could type faster and more accurately, blogging would take less time, theoretically. Or maybe I would just blog more.
I would still be saving self-improvement programs for some future rainy day if this past school year hadn’t convinced me that my children needed to learn to type, too. One child in particular was having a very difficult time coping with the fine motor skills required and muscle fatigue that occurred with some of the assignments. My MODG counselor suggested I just let him use the computer instead of facing the daily battles. He and I were much happier with this idea. Now, too, both boys have to write papers. I honestly do not know which is worse: watching the mental strain of my 13 year old son as he constructs a thoughtful and grammatically correct sentence, or watching him stab the sentence out using only his right index finger. My suggestion that he use two index fingers at least was declared “too difficult.”
Then, too, I am not a happy computer-sharer. I confess, I am selfish with my toys. If my children need to use the computer, they need to get on and get off as quickly as possible. Agonizing over the location of every letter of every word every single time is just not conducive to family harmony when there is a queue of people who are waiting for you to be done already.
Last summer or fall, I scoured the internet and looked at different keyboarding programs. The free ones online were inadequate, I felt. After much waffling, I finally decided upon Keyboard Classroom, which is not a cheap program. I bought a single-user version to try it out. I had Katie begin, and she liked it very much. You begin with a rank of Cadet. The keys are introduced gradually. In order to earn a “promotion” to the next rank, the keys must be practiced so often that memorization of their placement is the result. As you work on your promotion, you earn tokens which can be used to play games.
This summer, I decided to buy the triple-user license so that Fritz, Billy and I could also learn to type. Other people can sign on as Katie, but they would be working at her level. Unfortunately, I had significant difficulty loading the triple user version on the computer. It continued to bring up the single user version, even after I uninstalled it and re-installed the triple user. I emailed Keyboard Classroom, and within a short period of time received help on how to load the triple user version (it wasn’t my incompetence! There was a special trick to delete the other code, I guess to prevent abuse). However, I had wanted 4 users (single plus triple) and there was no way to get both to work, it was either or. Once again, I emailed the company about my dilemma, and they got back to me right away. They ended up giving me the code for 5 users, which I very much appreciate. Their technical support/customer service team is top-notch!
Yesterday, Billy, Katie, and I spent some time working with the program. I thought I was doing well with 85 – 95 keystrokes in the time period, but then Billy got on and was doing over 100, consistently, with fewer and fewer errors (I attribute this to his years of piano lessons). I’ve told the kids I want each of us to do 15 minutes a day. Katie wanted to do longer; Billy was fine doing it and stopping after 15 minutes; I, personally, thought that 15 minutes was the maximum tolerable time period. It hurts to learn new tricks, mentally. Well, I’m not learning a new trick as much as re-training myself to do something in a better way. Fritz will start today.
I do recommend Keyboard Classroom. Until we get away from using a keyboard, which I don’t see happening anytime soon, it is a skill that our children will need to have, sooner or later. Once a user has mastered the program, you can clear that user and another user can start from the Cadet rank, so you only need enough users as people who will be actively participating at one time. I could have managed with just 3, and either made Katie wait until I had mastered it, or waited myself until one of the children grew proficient. I’m hoping that in a month or two, we’ll all be typing away at a steady pace.
Then, perhaps, it wouldn’t take me two days to write a blog post!