Handwriting vs. Keyboarding–from a Student’s Perspective

Jacqui provides insight on keyboarding vs. handwriting speed for upper elementary/middle school students. As OT’s this is a process that we typically do with students we support individually. It is a great perspective to gain Jacqui’s insight on typical students responses and progress!
Thanks Ask a Teacher!

Ask a Tech Teacher

keyboardingEvery year, I have 4th grade students compare handwriting speed to keyboarding speed. We run it like an experiment.

  • we discuss the evidence–pros and cons
  • we develop a hypothesis
  • we test the hypothesis (with a series of four tests)
  • we revise if necessary

I wanted to test some of the reasons students come up with on both sides of this issue. I framed the discussion with Common Core standards for keyboarding as well as my school’s guidelines:

  • students must type 25 wpm by 4th grade, 30 by 5th, 35 by 6th, 40 by 7th, 45 by 8th
  • students must type 2 pages in a single seating. That roughly 500 words. at the 4th grade required speed, that’s 20 minutes of typing at a single sitting

Since fourth graders for both years I’ve done this have (from a show of hands) believed handwriting was faster, I put that as pro. I…

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About Carol Leynse Harpold, MS, OTR/L, SCLV, ATP, CATIS

OTR/L with more than 35 years experience in pediatrics, school based therapy and adult rehabilitation. Masters of Science in Adaptive Education/Assistive Technology with 20 years experience in AT in education of elementary, middle school, secondary, post secondary students and work environments for adult clients. A RESNA Assistive Technology Practitioner with ACVREP CATIS credentials, AOTA Specialty Certification in Low Vision, USC Davis Executive Certificate in Home Modifications, servicing adults and students with disabilities in employment, education, and home environments. A 2020 graduate of the University of Alabama Birmingham Low Vision Certification Program.
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4 Responses to Handwriting vs. Keyboarding–from a Student’s Perspective

  1. I don’t know why schools don’t look to keyboarding more often for students who struggle with handwriting. Do you understand that?

    • Hi Jacqui, I apologize for the delayed response! Great question that I think has many perspectives to it. Most teachers and parent want their students to handwrite and it is a functional life task that is for sure. There is also a lot of research out there suggesting that handwriting is an integral literacy skill that supports both reading and writing. The philosophy of creating more frustration by using keyboarding at an early age when awareness of the keyboard is not yet solid can add an element of frustration to the already frustrating, cognitively loaded process of writing. An then there is always the notion of “it depends” on the student, what students it will work, are motivated by use of a keyboard in the writing production process.

      I think it is always one of a choice of tools to support students. Works with some and not for others (motivationally speaking). Keyboard awareness and early training is needed to support use of word processing for students. For some students who refused to write but would tap on a keyboard, we have used Brother label makers that have a standard keyboard on the device to get them to produce a word, simple sentence, then stuck the label on their work sheet. Provided a motivating writing alternative, keyboard awareness and an emergent writer as well!!

      Jacqui, a question for you- what is the philosophy of cursive handwriting in your school system? Often is can be introduced at the same time as keyboarding instruction – two language system at the same time and both needing practice for automaticity??

      Good question, thank you for your comment and thoughtfulness!

      • Classroom teachers are not ready to give up cursive. I get the argument you raised–that handwriting is tied into thought processes which students need. Students struggle with cursive and given a choice–which I always do (I’m the tech teacher, I’m allowed to), most students select non-cursive. By 6th grade, we are pushing them into homework completion via computers so why all the effort to accomplish cursive?

        I do get that it’s faster, more efficient, but for how long? The more I teach, the more I believe that effort should be focused on keyboarding, not cursive. There are still lots of old-line teachers around who have always considered cursive integral to their curriculum. It’s a tough change. Maybe with Common Core’s focus on online assessments, that will change.

      • Thank you Jacqui for your comment. This is a huge issue. I do believe that many places are dropping cursive. With only so much time in the curriculum, it would seem that something has to go!

        Thank you!

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