Students Learn Keyboarding Skills, Build Foundation for Success
Students who type 15 words per minute (WPM) will take about 67 minutes to type a 1,000-word paper – not including the time required to research, write and edit. However, students who type 50 WPM can type the same paper in just 20 minutes.
Typing skills are fundamental to success in school and the workplace. For students, having the ability to type fast and accurately is not only more efficient, but it helps cultivate reading and writing skills and think faster. When students can type efficiently, they’re allowed to get their ideas down on paper at the speed of thought.
Farnsworth Aerospace Pre K-8, a Science, Technology, Engineering and Math (STEM) school in St. Paul’s Payne Phalen neighborhood, saw the impact the lack of formal keyboarding training had on their students. 40 percent of the students at Farnsworth Aerospace don’t have access to computers at home – making it difficult for them to hone their typing skills and learn how to use basic programs such as Microsoft Word and Excel. The lack of typing skills causes frustration for many students because of the extra time required to complete schoolwork.
In 2011, Gregg Adler, a business and agriculture teacher at Farnsworth Aerospace, developed an elective class to teach students keyboarding skills and introduce them to the Microsoft Office suite – Word, Excel and PowerPoint.
Students use an online program called Keyboard Mastery; the software tracks the amount of time on task typing in the curriculum’s 33 lessons. Gregg’s goal is for every student to complete the first 11 keyboarding fundamentals lessons at 35 WPM.
During the program’s first trimester students did a pretty good job, but Gregg wanted to see them work harder and complete more lessons. In order to encourage students to push themselves, Gregg created an incentive program. He reached out to Minnesota Computers for Schools (MCFS) and told them about his idea: to incentivize students to work hard and complete more lessons with an opportunity to earn a laptop by completing the entire keyboarding course at 35 WPM or faster or win a laptop in a drawing with the number of chances based on time on task.
MCFS donated 10 laptops to Gregg’s keyboarding class and at the end of the school year they were given to students who worked hard on the lessons. For every hour spent on-task a student gets one entry for a chance to win a laptop. Every student who completes the first 11 lessons gets another entry. Students who complete all lessons at 35 WPM or faster are awarded a laptop.
“The number of individuals retiring from STEM-related careers is surpassing the number of students studying and preparing for a career in STEM fields,” said Tamara Gillard, executive director, Minnesota Computers for Schools. “Gregg Adler’s program at Farnsworth is igniting students’ interest in these important subjects and we’re excited to be a partner in preparing the students for success.”
At the end of the school year, 20 students earned a free laptop. Before the laptop incentive program was introduced to the class, on average, students were completing 6.45 lessons at 35 WPM. After the incentive program began, the average number of lessons completed increased 49 percent to an average of 9.62 lessons.
The students who completed all 33 lessons are now typing at an average speed of 56 WPM, compared to 24.8 WPM, the average typing speed for all students enrolled.
“The program is a win-win. Students who complete the course learn a valuable skill that will allow them to be more successful in school and will help them be employable in the workforce,” said Adler. “The key to success in keyboarding is time on task. Students who invest the time and effort are rewarded with a lifetime skill. The ability to be hired and earning a paycheck is much more important than earning or winning a free laptop.”