Computers are integral to daily life in today's world, and excellent keyboarding skills are required for success at college and in most areas of the career world.
Baby boomers who learned to type in high school now have grandchildren who began keyboard instruction in kindergarten. Even preschoolers know their way around the QWERTY keyboard, thanks in part to learning games at pbskids.org and other educational websites. However, consensus about when and how keyboarding should be taught in U.S. schools has been lacking.
Many believe students should be introduced to keyboards early in their school life and should begin formal keyboarding instruction by about third grade. But elementary school teachers don't always receive training in teaching keyboarding, a subject once taught to high school students by licensed business education teachers, said a 1997 study at the University of Wisconsin-Whitewater.
"As computers are being used more frequently for word processing by elementary children, an efficient system of inputting needs to be taught before children develop their own 'hunt-and-peck' system," the study said. "Elementary-licensed teachers, therefore, need to become knowledgeable regarding the appropriate instruction of keyboarding."
The federal government's No Child Left Behind Act of 2002 requires that students be technologically literate by the end of eighth grade. Although requirements include being able to create reports on a word processor, many students "have never been taught the basics, and continue to use the computer as if it were a typewriter," wrote instructional technology expert Patsy Lanclos at the Edutopia blog.
Lanclos said elementary school students should learn basic word-processing skills while they learn keyboarding techniques, including editing commands, saving documents and proper spacing and alignment.
The creation of common core state standards for mathematics and English language arts in 2010 spurred discussion about handwriting and keyboarding instruction. As a result, researchers and educators gathered in Washington, D.C., in January 2012 for an Educational Summit on Handwriting in the 21st Century.
A set of standards for adding handwriting and keyboarding to school curriculum was developed at the summit. The standards, which can be viewed at hw21summit.com, describe skills students should master during each school year from kindergarten to eighth grade.
Some states have been proactive in developing core curriculum for technology instruction. Parents interested in checking up on their children's keyboard skill development can use Utah's keyboard curriculum guidelines as a reference point:
Grades K-2: Students will be introduced to keyboarding techniques and correct fingering.
Grades 3-5: Students will learn keyboarding techniques and correct fingering, and achieve a minimum of 25 words per minute.
Grades 6-8: Students will use proper touch keyboarding techniques, and use basic word processing functions and proofreading. They will achieve a minimum of 45 words per minute.
Grades 9-12: Students will exhibit keyboarding competency in other curriculum areas and pass a class in computer technology as a graduation requirement.