“I was envisioning myself, as if in an old western, driving a herd of cattle through the dusty plains of Colorado, seeking new and innovative ways of improving the world,… the wind whistling through my long tussled locks.”

Plenty of teachers would argue that Biology, Math, and Literacy are the most valuable classes for students. I’m here to tell you: these people are wrong! As brazen as this may sound, I firmly believe that of all the classes students take in school, the most important class is keyboarding!

One blisteringly cold Colorado afternoon, I was attending a Career Technical Education (CTE) meeting, happily cuddling with teachers throughout the state of Colorado and listening to a well-respected executive high up in the community college system. He was delivering a keynote to a group of teachers from many different fields: Criminal Justice, Music, Health and Fitness, Welding, Automotive, Art, Culinary, Sports Medicine, and Business and Marketing teachers.

He said, “We are preparing today’s youth for jobs that don’t even exist yet!”, and my mind reeled at this truism. His spoke like a warrior, urging us to not only know our content but acknowledge our own continuing education.  As technology continues to change industry standards, it creates knowledge that is more complex and rigorous in fields that have grown far from their original births. The speaker was fervent in his appeal, like a king cheering on his court, speaking to our hearts and our expertise, telling us to “forge the pathways” and “make the connections to real life” for our kids.

 I was envisioning myself, as if in an old western, driving a herd of cattle through the dusty plains of Colorado, seeking new and innovative ways of improving the world, reinventing the wheel, chewing on beef jerky; the wind whistling through my long and tussled locks.

And then, he said it. Something that still today leaves me in awe, looking much like a stoic statue of the Beyonce meme entitled “ERMIGERRRRD.”

Almost as an afterthought, he said, “My six year old daughter grabbed my iPad the other day, and much to my surprise, she navigated through the apps and internet as though she had been born with it in her hands.”

I remember smiling, until he said:

“And so, the learners of tomorrow, the six year olds of the world, don’t need to waste their time learning Keyboarding… they need to learn how to program, because THAT is the future!”

I almost choked on my imaginary jerky.

Uh, um… what?

Perhaps I exercise a bit of creative license in my recollection of this event, but in short, he wanted to drop the keyboarding credit for high school students all together and replace that course with coding.

The imaginary beef jerky coated my tongue in a heavy, smoky tinge, as I found myself a bit… offended. I thought, “Self, did he just basically say that my beginning/ intermediate keyboarding class  is null and void because his six year old daughter can navigate an iPad?”

There I sat, among the throng of nodding heads, their laughter happening in slow motion, as if recollecting a trip to the fun house (only this was not so fun). What the speaker failed to realize in that moment of privilege is that not ALL six year olds have access to an iPad—much less on a regular basis. Also, the actions and skill set it takes to navigate an iPad are not mutually exclusive to the skills of touch type keyboarding. Finally, keyboarding is different than coding—equally important, dare I say—even more so considering that without keyboarding, there can be no coding.

Teaching keyboarding involves a special talent that no other content area truly magnifies.. In order to be a successful keyboarding instructor, one must be able to do the following:

  • Motivate students who are not interested in failing, again and again and again, until they acquire the motor skills to experience success;
  • Develop monitoring skills to establish proper finger placement and hand-eye coordination in a content area that makes underwater basket weaving seem like bungee jumping;
  • Push students through the initial pain and inflammation of fingers and sore backs until the proper ergonomic kinesthetic movements are mastered;
  • Provide a safe environment for students to make mistakes and continue through the lessons, as opposed to starting over without fully going through the exercises;
  • Dissuade students from self-abuse or the abuse of expensive computer equipment due to low tolerance for mistake-making;
  • Convince students that this skill, regardless of what career choice, they will require keyboarding to some degree.

In thinking about the millions of jobs that require keyboarding, I make the claim that it is the MOST important 21st-century skill we can teach our kids. Typing itself is vital, but the residual effects of grit, perseverance, motivation, and hands-on learning are unparalleled.

So the next time you sit down to compose that blog, lesson plan, or email, consider typing up a little love note to your typing teacher (I am old enough to admit that my training happened on a typewriter; Ms. Walker spoke the letters into a microphone so we could hear her over the taps and dings!)

Just think; what would the internet have been without the important skill of keyboarding?

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