If I took typewriting as a class in high school, it didn’t stick. I remember spending hours in front of my Commodore 64 at home, waiting for the blinking cursor to appear, indicating it was time to start typing what appeared on the screen. It was a fun game, but I lost interest quickly. I guess learning to type is kind of like learning a language–if you don’t use it, you lose it. Since I had little cause to type outside of final papers for English class in high school, I still used the hunt-and-peck method on my mother’s typewriter until I got to college, at which point it was clear that learning how to type would be a necessity. Computers–not Commodores–seemed to appear everywhere I looked on campus, and I refused to be that girl in the computer lab. Everyone seemed to have learned how to type in high school, so I just stopped looking at the keyboard. It took a few months, but I eventually learned how to type. What did other people do? What do people do today? Are skills taught for typing on cell phones? Will there be instruction for iPads and other touch-screen devices?
When I started teaching elementary school in 2001, there was a lot of talk about handwriting and how it wasn’t being taught anymore. Indeed, I remember spending hours carefully tracing the cursive alphabet over and over again in the first grade. But we didn’t have enough time in the day to teach something that was clearly becoming obsolete with the surge in digital communication that began with the start of the internet. At the time, the authorization of No Child Left Behind ignited a nationwide panic about test scores, and every extra minute in the day was devoted to test-taking. Neither keyboard skills nor handwriting were taught as part of the curriculum in our school. Now that computers are part of everyday life for so many people, I wonder if keyboard/typing skills are taught, and if so, at what grade level. Are there national standards attached to these skills?
I recently purchased a typewriter (made by Packard, before they were joined by Hewlett), and took it out this morning in an attempt to figure out what to get from Staples to make it work again (I was told, hopefully accurately, that there are really only a few types of typewriter ribbons). I was struck by how beautiful it is, and how odd, set on the table next to a MacBook. There’s a story to be told about these machines that isn’t finished yet, and I wonder how touch screens will continue to catalyze whatever iteration of the keyboard comes next.