Thursday, November 20, 2008

Tickling The (Alphanumeric) Ivories

When I was in 9th grade, I signed up for an introductory typing class. My Dad predicted at the time that it would be without a doubt the most useful course of study of my entire academic career, and he was right. Nothing else even comes close.

The Periodic Table? Please. Abstract multi-colored wallpaper speaks more clearly to me at this point than that inscrutable collection of big and small letters and numbers.

French? I took five years of French across Junior High and High School and do you know how many times in my life I have used this abundance of practical knowledge? Exactly once. I remember the moment. Spring of 1987, standing in line at a McDonald's restaurant in Geneva during a brief visit with some college friends who were also doing a semester abroad (mine was in London), staring up at the menu board, frozen and dumbfounded.

From some dark recess of my mind I was suddenly able to summon the word "poisson," probably just a moment or two before the frustrated patrons behind me would have been driven to play a game called Throttle The Mute American. That was it. That Filet-O-Fish sandwich was the crowning moment - the only moment - that could even remotely be considered a payoff for all those hundreds of hours spent listening to Mr. Ethier torture us with staccato recitations of verb conjugations like "je suis, tu es, il est, nous sommes, vous ĂȘtes, ils sont..."

Typing is different. This is a skill I use all day, every day. Whether at work or at home, I feel like I'm on a keyboard all the time. The rise of the Internet and e-mail has only made this more the case. Sounds kind of strange to say it, but putting fingers to keys is almost like breathing to me.

So I was particularly encouraged when Madison came home talking excitedly about this great typing education Web site her 2nd Grade class had been introduced to during computer lab, something for kids from the BBC called Dance Mat Typing. She's only about seven years ahead of my pace in this regard, which sounds about right.

I spent a little time this morning watching her work on some of the drills, and then Ava joined in, and it was really terrific. We haven't gotten too far into it yet, they begin with some very basic QWERTY "home row" tutorials - presented in a fun and interactive style - and move on from there.

Got home from work tonight and the girls were again clamoring to get on the computer and back to Dance Mat Typing, which I thought was a very good development and time well spent. This is something we're going to encourage.

They'll get hit with the Periodic Table and Mr. Ethier soon enough.


Anonymous Anonymous said...

Very cool---I'll use it at school AND at home. Thanks for the link.

12:04 PM  
Blogger Katherine said...

It is amazing. I didn't have an e-mail account until late in to my college years, and learned typing during middle school. But my first grade son already has computer classes, can type a little, and told me he "needed" e-mail. Can't believe how things change.

3:44 PM  
Blogger Eric said...

Dancing and typing? Whoever figured out how to combine those two is brilliant ;-)

3:52 PM  

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