Monday, March 24, 2014

The elusive keyboarding unicorn...

Raise your hand if you've worked with/know a student with well documented fine motor issues and prescribed/asked for a key-boarding program for that student with all the home-row bells and whistles?

I have.

For years I've followed this protocol.

Sometimes I still will. But, if someone struggles with fine motor activities, does it make sense to ask this person to isolate individual fingers, utilizing all 10 in unison, with timing, precision, and speed, key-boarding from the home-row? Might that itself be a tremendous challenge? A very interesting, short, and understandable study by Niles-Campbell, Tam, Mays, and Skidmore in the Canadian Association of Occupational Therapists journal dared utter this phrase:
"Ten finger touch-typing is a gold standard that may not produce gold"
 ZOIKS!!! Heresy!

The authors of this study suggest that for many students developing competence and functionality with a hunt and peck method may be a best outcome. They also go on to state that the "[engagement] in meaningful keyboarding activities is the best way to learn keyboarding", which then suggests NOT keyboarding programs.

Whoa! Meaningful activities?! Darned Occupational Therapists! Perhaps laboring over a keyboarding program for lengthy periods everyday is not ideal.

I still ask students to participate for 10 minutes 3-5 days a week if they do not have a sense of key-location. It should be an iterative process. Starting with a goal for home-row keys, but carefully monitoring and changing those expectations as necessary. If a student can type with a hunt and peck method faster or with dramatically increased legibility over their hand-writing, this is functional, and may be the end goal.

In addition to a keyboarding program, students will best acquire skills engaged in keyboarding activities that have meaning such as tackling homework, chatting online with a friend, writing emails or stories. The more interactive and non-repetitive the task, the more "fun" it's likely to be.

I'd love to hear other's thoughts on this topic.

Happy Therapy!

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