Friday, February 10, 2017

A Note About Typing Skills

My first manual typewriter looked like this.
My mother told me there were three things she never learned while young that she wanted to make sure her four boys learned. They were: how to swim, how to drive and how to type.

I'm especially grateful that she had me take a typing class in high school I received my first typewriter as a graduation present. Even if typewriters are dinosaurs now, mine proved invaluable when I attended college. To this day I love the QWERTY keyboard.

There are many ways to tell one's life story. One way could be to follow the thread of one's relationships to their typewriters. Mine began with that first cool blue Smith Corona.

When I was in Bible school eight years later I did an internship in Puerto Rico and did not bring my typewriter. A classmate named Maggie Godward, who was doing prison ministry here in Minnesota, said there was a fellow there who would benefit from having a typewriter because he wanted to write his life story. So it was that my Smith Corona went to prison. (Ironically, when I got to Puerto Rico, I was invited to help do some prison ministry there, at the Bayamon Prison outside of Old San Juan.)

My Olivetti looked like this.
When I returned from Puerto Rico for my senior year at Bethany, the Bible school, I acquired a typewriter for the year from another student who was leaving for his internship. (Thank you, Ray Heath!) When he returned I bought a used Olivetti manual typewriter that was so flat that it could be slid under the front seat of my car when we went to Mexico after graduation. I loved that Olivetti. It was so compact, a well-engineered machine.

But manual typewriters had certain limitations, and eventually I bought a Brother electric typewriter as I became more serious about my writing. This was the 1980s and though we were on the threshold of the digital we weren't quite there yet. In 1987 all that changed. I acquired my first McIntosh, a 512Ke. That is, a small box with 512K of computing power, and 1 MB of temporary memory. With no hard drive to write to at all, one had to have a second disc drive to save your work to a floppy. This was 30 years ago, but that Mac still works to this day.

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Typing Skills Still Matter

There was a time when literacy was not a necessary survival skill. In today's world, however, reading and writing skills are assumed. Job postings often outline the software programs now required for these openings.

What about typing skills? I recently heard someone say that with the advent of voice-recognition software, typing will become a thing of the past. I'm willing to wager that this won't happen in my lifetime, and it may not happen in your children's either. In a country where we have difficulty even feeding a large swath of the population it is hard to imagine a day when everyone will own computers with voice-recognition software.

It takes time to learn how to type well, but there's a payoff. The ability to type well is empowering. Good typing skills means more than just being a fast typist. Accuracy is essential.

For home school teachers who want to help their children become faster and better on a keyboard, there are plenty of software programs that can assist. Do a little research first, though. Make sure it's compatible with your operating system. And, if available, read reviews of others' experiences, especially with tech support if a complication should come up. There are also free online tutorials that don't require a download.

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Some of the information on this blog post was excerpted from my book Writing Exercises: How to Teach Writing and Prepare Your Favorite Students for College, Life and Everything Else. Writing Exercises was written to help homeschoolers teach the important skill of writing. The books is $7.95 and I promise that any homeschool parent who applies its principles will see improvement in their children's writing skills.

Meantime... life goes on. Have a great weekend and stay warm.

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