Teacher-Authors: What’s on my Ed Blog

A lot of teacher-authors read my WordDreams blog. In this monthly column, I share the most popular post from the past month on my teacher education blog, Ask a Tech Teacher. 

Good efriend Robbie over at Roberta Writes did research on the benefits of children learning to read using an ipad versus a paperback book. She came up with interesting findings (click to read them). She inspired me to share anecdotal research I did in the classroom with my students (I taught K-8 technology) on whether handwriting or keyboarding was a better choice:


keyboardingEvery year, I have 4th-grade students compare handwriting speed to keyboarding speed. We follow the Scientific Method:

  • discuss the evidence–pros and cons
  • develop a hypothesis
  • test the hypothesis (with a series of four tests)
  • revise if necessary

I wanted to test the reasons students come up with on both sides of this issue. I framed the discussion with state standards for keyboarding in mind as well as my school’s guidelines:

  • students must type 2 pages in a single seating. That’s roughly 500 words at the 4th grade required speed or 20 minutes of typing at a single sitting
  • students must type 25 wpm by 4th grade, 30 by 5th, 35 by 6th, 40 by 7th, 45 by 8th

Since fourth graders believed handwriting was faster, I put that as pro. Pros and cons came from a student discussion prior to the experiment.

Pro–handwriting is faster than keyboarding

  • Students are better at handwriting. They’ve had more practice.
  • With handwriting, students don’t have to search for the keys.
  • I can handwrite forever. Keyboarding–I get frustrated
  • With keyboarding, students have to use two keys for some symbols which slows it down

Con–keyboarding is faster than handwriting

  • No worry about losing your paper.
  • Pencils break, erasers disappear, points get dull. Then, I have to take time to get a replacement. Never happens with a keyboard.
  • Hand never gets tired keyboarding [I disagree with that but this is student input, not my judgments].
  • Eyes must constantly move from sheet to pencil. Once keys are memorized, I don’t have to do that anymore.
  • Handwriting gives you writers bump if you do it too long—hurts for 4th graders.
  • Erasing is easier on a computer.
  • Spell check is easier on a computer.
  • Writing on a computer is always legible.
  • Quick formatting on a computer lets thoughts stand out.
  • Correcting grammar and spelling is easier.
  • Shortcuts in keyboarding make typing even faster.
  • It doesn’t waste paper.
  • My input to the students: You can only get so fast at handwriting–say, 45 wpm. Most students will exceed that speed with typing. Lots of people type 65 wpm. I type 120 (well, not anymore because of my arthritis). In the big picture, the average student will never handwrite as fast as keyboard.

Students really got into this discussion. There were hands up frantically waving until I had to pull the plug because we’d run out of time.

The test (five minutes typing and five minutes handwriting the same selection) had mixed results. No surprise, the better kids were at keyboarding, the more they liked it over handwriting and the faster they were. Most kids don’t handwrite much faster than about 32 wpm, a speed keyboarding can overtake by about fifth grade (Here’s another link to a comprehensive study on handwriting speeds).

The take-away after discussion: Handwriting maxed out at a much lower speed than keyboarding did. That motivated students to work on keyboarding because in the long run, it would allow them to complete homework faster, leaving them more free time for hobbies.

Truth, the results didn’t matter to me. We had a great time applying scientific experimentation to an authentic situation that students could relate to. Students talked about it for months afterward and were proud of themselves when one of our quarterly speed quizzes showed that they–finally–typed faster than their handwriting.


I don’t get a lot of comments on my teacher blog, Ask a Tech Teacher, so if you’re a teacher-author, I’d love if you’d drop by. If you leave a comment, I’ll definitely come visit you!

Jacqui Murray has been teaching K-18 technology for 30 years. She is the editor/author of over a hundred tech ed resources including a K-12 technology curriculum, K-8 keyboard curriculum, K-8 Digital Citizenship curriculum. She is an adjunct professor in tech ed, Master Teacher, webmaster for four blogs, an Amazon Vine Voice, CSTA presentation reviewer, freelance journalist on tech ed topics, contributor to NEA Today, and author of the tech thrillers, To Hunt a Sub and Twenty-four Days. You can find her resources at Structured Learning.

74 thoughts on “Teacher-Authors: What’s on my Ed Blog

  1. Good information on Tech Today , it is the only clarity with ease that matters and understand through tech . We are living a Digital life today, wherein all information, commerce and communication are digitally supported….


    Liked by 1 person

  2. Belated – but like Darlene and others, keyboarding changed my world. My writing’s terrible, no matter how hard I try. At my high school, this led to many massive lost mark penalties – 30% once .
    But some well known writers insist that writing by hand is essential for creativity. .
    Ashamed of my poor writing, I don’t respect the words I’ve just written. Keyboard, they’re transformed.

    Liked by 1 person

    • There is some truth in the power of handwriting but there is also a lot of power to keyboarding. Your thoughts flow better, more smoothly, and usually at about the pace of keyboarding. Often, those who like handwriting best are those who aren’t great at keyboarding (and vice versa). I type pretty darn fast so guess what–I love keyboarding! I often type while talking to someone which drives them batty!


  3. I make my students write notes. From my experiences in the classroom, students use 3 processes when writing – reading the content, translating and comprehending. I even tell the parents during interview times. Interesting to read, Jacqui.

    Liked by 1 person

  4. Thank you for sharing interesting thoughts!… whatever method I choose, the most important thing to me is to make sure my heart is doing the talking… “The teacher who is indeed wise does not bid you to enter the house of his wisdom but rather leads you to the threshold of your mind.” (Kahlil Gibran )… 🙂

    Until we meet again…

    May your day be touched
    by a bit of Irish luck,
    Brightened by a song
    in your heart,
    And warmed by the smiles
    of people you love.
    (Irish Saying)

    Liked by 1 person

  5. I liked that when using a computer, we don’t worry about losing paper, no breaking of pencils, easy formatting, autocorrect of spelling… Your students favored computer over handwriting, Jacqui. It was a success story of being a tech teacher. You typed 120 wpm! Wow, I could see the fingers flying! The one thing that hits me is that kids who learn to play piano at a very young age, their fingers probably hit more than 120 times per minute on the keyboard.

    Liked by 1 person

      • It’s important for the kids to start technology early so they can do it for fun in the lower grade before they use technology to research, to read and write in the upper grades.
        My daughter wants Autumn to learn piano at four!

        Liked by 1 person

          • I didn’t draw those. In fact I tried but didn’t like the way I did portrait. So far I only paint landscape.

            Of course, grab a few just not to show where the mom found the girls.

            I was going to pick a sample page for each post anyway.

            I’m glad you liked the illustrations. It took me six months to find him (I don’t know why he used Victoria as pen name).

            Liked by 1 person

            • Perfect. Actually, any page will do. I want to show how beautiful the artwork is and how it compliments the story perfectly. That’s not always true in graphic stories.


  6. I can touch type so I don’t mind handwriting or typing. I wish my Barbarians had learnt to type at school. I tried to teach them and Jeckle persisted and can now touch type but Heckle procrastinated so he hasn’t and is now suffering for it as so many important tests are online. Hopefully it will spur him to practice!

    Liked by 1 person

  7. The most important one for me is – Writing on a computer is always legible. My handwriting is terrible and even I can’t read it sometimes. I do however sometimes take a notebook and sit outside and handwrite, especially if I am stuck with my WIP. It does start the creative juices flowing. I could never hand write an entire novel though. I love this experiment.

    Liked by 1 person

  8. Hi Jacqui, thank you for a second shout out, you are very kind. This is an interesting post. I must be honest that I will take typing over handwriting any day. I type much faster and it is easier to correct, edit and change. My handwriting looks beautiful but is difficult to read and I write slowly. I do get side effects from to much typing though. My neck and back get tight and my wrists can get tight and sore too.

    Liked by 1 person

  9. Keyboarding is eventually faster for most people, but writing by hand gives us time to ponder the words more (IMHO). Then again, keyboarding allows for easier editing. I think it’s good to be proficient in both methods, especially if you need to write “HELP” in the sand of a desert island.

    Liked by 1 person

  10. What a great scientific experience, Jacqui! I can write fast, but later can’t read it. My hands can only take so much writing now, typing is preferred:)

    Liked by 1 person

  11. I love this whole post, Jacqui. (I’m surprised that Robbie’s post slipped by me. It must have been on the rare week when I wasn’t blogging or happened more than two years ago. By the way, I think you forgot to leave the link for her findings as I went to read it.)

    Great job of engaging the kids in a thoughtful discussion and weighing the pros and cons. Getting kids’ opinions would immediately draw them in and get them invested in the lesson. I think both typing and handwriting obviously are important skills to read. Do you have a keyboarding program that you recommend for teaching kids this skill?

    When I taught grades 4-6, the kids usually did a Science Fair or History Day project. This would make an ideal project to teach them the scientific method. Great post!

    Liked by 1 person

    • I knew you’d like this one, Pete. And I really did want their input. To me, keyboarding is the obvious choice but I got so much pushback. I wanted to understand why. Their reasons make it clear, don’t they?

      I have a bunch of keyboarding suggestions here–https://askatechteacher.com/great-kids-websites/keyboarding-websites/. So much depends upon the child.

      Ooh, the science fair and history day would make great experiments. Good thinking.

      Liked by 1 person

  12. I was so bad at handwriting that my teachers begged my parents to send me to typing class and get a typewriter. That was in ’74 before computers. Still can’t handwrite, and unless I type it, you’ll never be able to read it.

    Liked by 1 person

  13. What an interesting bit of research, Jacqui. Most definitely, keyboarding is much faster than handwriting, but it engages differently in the brain. Many authors prefer to handwrite their manuscripts as they swear it increases creativity. I cannot imagine the time it would take to handwrite an entire novel. I prefer keyboarding for sure, and so do my grandchildren. Thank you for sharing!

    Liked by 2 people

  14. I do so much typing and am able to type faster than I can write–but there is something about handwriting. I have always kept a handwritten journal. in the 90s and early 2000s, I only used the handwritten one for wilderness travel, but about 15 years ago, I went back to handwriting only in my journal. I also do handwritten thank you notes. Outside of that, it’s the keyboard!

    Interesting findings. I had my first typing class (with manual typewriters) when I was in junior high.

    Liked by 1 person

  15. Love this discussion, Jacqui, especially that it was undertaken by children. I agree with the pros and cons on both sides. I can definitely type faster than I can write (or in my case print), but I retain better when I handwrite. I think it goes back to the way I learned in school. And I still have a very slight writer’s bump on my index finger from those days of writing novels longhand! 🙂

    Liked by 1 person

    • Interesting, Mae. That ability to type faster than handwrite was pretty compelling for many. Others just didn’t believe me. That’s why I added the test of handwriting speed. I agree about remembering more when I handwrite. I don’t see that from keyboarding.

      Liked by 1 person

  16. How cool that the students were excited about the topic and their own discussion and input. I definitely type faster than I can write, and that’s how I compose my stories. However, there is something soothing and meditative about taking pen to paper, especially the rhythm of cursive, and I journal every day, longhand.

    Liked by 1 person

    • It was always fun to teach this lesson, especially in collaboration with the science teacher and bringing in older students with their results. Nice way to bring technology into all aspects of life.


  17. This was such an interesting read and experiment on keyboarding and writing speeds, Jacqui. It is great to hear the students were really enthused about the discussion and ran out of time. I personally prefer typing when I am writing, for example writing a blog post, a chapter of a book, an article and also planning a draft. Typing is definitely faster for me. I do prefer handwriting when it comes to journaling or writing down thoughts or writing reflections. There’s something about putting pen to paper and letting the energy from within me translate slowly onto paper

    Liked by 1 person

    • My students came up with a lot more pros and cons than I ever did. The first year I did this experiment, I didn’t have nearly as long a list!

      I agree about the energy from pen to paper. I think we’re going to lose that. Handwriting is becoming a lost art I fear.

      Liked by 1 person

  18. What a great discussion was had by the children and what great suggestions and reasons they came up with. I definitely prefer to type. I have no idea of my speed but it’s certainly faster than handwriting. I think today’s children are at an advantage learning to type from a young age. I taught myself as an adult. I now compose at the computer, though I know many writers still prefer to compose in longhand. For me, it was a long slow process to change from longhand to computer with many small steps on the way. Now I couldn’t go back. In fact, I don’t like to start composing (though I may do a lot of thinking beforehand) until my fingers are on the keyboard. That kicks the brain intot gear.

    Liked by 2 people

    • That ‘compose’ is a whole different animal than copying, innit. When I had the time, I added that piece to the puzzle–“take five minutes to write on this prompt”. That was always so much slower!


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