What’s the best keyboard cover to keep students from looking at the keys?

December 5th, 2017 Mike Gecawich

Hi everybody. It’s Mike Gecawich, Co-founder of Teaching.com, EduTyping, and Typing.com. Welcome back to another episode of Ask EduTyping where we field questions from our usual audience from all around the globe. Users of Typing.com, EduTyping as well as the keyboarding world at large.

So each week we start out with a new typing tip. And this is the holiday season. And if you didn’t join me last week we addressed a number of different activities and lots of concerns from our user audience that, you know, during the holiday season Thanksgiving, Christmas and other celebrations, this is definitely a high distraction time of year where students are very interested in many other things.

Sometimes other than keyboarding. And you have to compete with many personalities like the turkey as well as Santa Claus and no matter how hard you fight Santa Claus, he’s probably going to trump you at this time of year.

So what I prepared for this week’s Tip is an activity that I think you’re going to love, and your students are definitely going to love. So it’s called Play Alphabet Soup. So this activity is super simple. What you’ll need to play this activity is a timer and for the timer you can use your phone or a regular kitchen timer. And you’re gonna want to set that somewhere between about three and five minutes.

And then what you do is divide up your class and let your students know you’re going to be playing a game called Alphabet Soup and you’ll read a passage, not a passage but a theme topic and what the objective is that your students will sit at their keyboard using any word processing software and they’ll begin to type with the first letter of the alphabet and go down to the letter Z thinking of words that are relevant to the topic.

So for example, you may say something like, the fashion industry or popular brands of clothing. So the students will begin on your cue, you would say start, and they would start by typing a brand name that start with the letter A like Abercrombie and Fitch and then B- Banana Republic and they’ll go through the entire alphabet until the time expires.

And then the winner is determined by whoever was able to populate their letters A to Z with the most relevant words. And of course what you need to consider is accuracy, as well as speed will come into play here. So you could award a prize for the first second and third place winner and you could pick any topic you could be brand names in a supermarket, names of streets, popular cities.

So it’s a lot of fun and it does take that monotony out of the day to day grind of each lesson and as well as let the student kind of experience a little bit of excitement. Another great topic to do is just holiday songs or holiday themes and it kind of gets them in the spirit. And like I said last week, if you didn’t join me, the important thing around holiday season is to acknowledge the excitement and kind of engage with the students in that. So each week we field questions from our user audience, and this week I’m joined by my colleague John DiCarly who will read our first question. So John, if you would please–

All right the first question comes from Lori in Glen Rock, Wyoming who asks, When one of my fifth graders is practicing. He gets frustrated very easily when he makes a mistake. He always wants to go back and start over and/or fix it before going on. I was encouraging him to just pause, think about the keys and his fingers and go on. Don’t worry about fixing the mistakes right now. That through this repetition he is building muscle memory and that it will get better. Is that it– Is that correct advice?

Well first of all Lori that is actually a great question and you are doing all the right things for this particular student. Oftentimes we’ll find that no matter what age level students get frustrated and the tendency to want to go back and start over is definitely a habit you want to break. And it sounds like you are definitely trying to do that.

You’re doing all the right things, positive reinforcement, letting him know that eventually he’ll begin to get into a rhythm of muscle memory. But one of the things that I think might help significantly with this particular student as well as probably many of you other teachers out there who experience similar frustrations from students is– I’m assuming you’re using EduTyping where this feature is available.

So by default your students are allowed to start lessons over again. And what I would recommend is go into the teacher portal and change the setting to not to basically disable so that students are not able to go back to the beginning of a lesson and basically it may be frustrating at first, but what you’ll start to see happen over time is that because the student doesn’t have the option of going back and starting over.

He’ll be forced to continue on with the lesson and over time that habit will become good forming as far as his keyboarding habits and that’s the strategy that I would recommend, although you are doing many of the right things, Lori. So let’s take our second question John.

OK, this one comes from Sharon in Sullivan, Missouri who asks How can I encourage students to position their hands on the home row and anchor those keys? I have used the keyboarding skins as well and halfway through the semester, I had students stop using them. Last year students used covers that also hid their hands but only in a certain position. Sometimes they would look underneath or over the top of the covers. Students in my school are using Chromebooks so I’m still looking for the ideal cover. 

Okay. Well Sharon, first of all keyboarding skins is not something I recommend because– and you said you stopped using them, it might be for this reason it might not be, for other users who are potentially using skins, skins basically are kind of a clear acrylic plastic that lay over the keys. But what it does is it hides the letters which is okay because it forces the students to memorize the letters on the keyboard. Problem here is that, you know, our hands are used to touching the keys.

So by kind of camouflaging that feel it really distracts from the touch of what students need to feel. So for example on the J and the K key are those little bumps and oftentimes they can’t feel those so they don’t even realize that they’re on a home row key. But the other solution that I would recommend, is we actually manufacture a product called No Peek keyboard cover and this cover is engineered to actually work really well with laptops. You said that your students were either looking under the cover or the cover.

But I have a laptop that’s similar in size with me today and it’s basically about the same size of a Chromebook, which is what you say you’re using in your classroom. So if you take a look. It’s a perfect size and it’s very difficult for students to look underneath especially on top of it, because what they would need to do is actually move the laptop back and forth which is going to create real problems for them as far as staying focused and their hands anchored on the home row keys.

So if you don’t have the funds to purchase a commercial product like the keyboard cover I just mentioned, a great idea is to take the top of– if you’ve seen the boxes that paper is shipped in, the top of the cardboard. If you cut out the sides, those make ideal covers for laptop-based keyboards because they are very low to the key keyboard and it’s difficult for students to look underneath. I hope that advice helps. Good luck. Thank you Sharon, for your question. So we’ve got time for one more question. So John if you would read our final question of the week.

Okay this is from Brittany from Omaha, Nebraska who asks Often my students have trouble telling the difference between some of the letters and numbers like lowercase L and number 1 or capital O and 0. They don’t understand why they are stuck or lose accuracy on the lesson. What do you suggest?

Okay, Brittany, by-the-way I want to give a shout out to Omaha, Nebraska, they officially adopted our premium paid edition of EduTyping last year and rolled it out to their entire elementary schools. So somewhere in excess of 25,000 students are now learning the keyboard as early as in first grade. So that’s fantastic because those students are going to be armed with the skill that they’re going to use for life.

So to answer your question Brittany, it’s very difficult, even now, experienced keyboarders like myself and lots of other teachers out there. Sometimes when I see the number 0 or capital O it’s difficult to distinguish between them. So not knowing your grade level, one of the things I would recommend is that prior to beginning any lesson and my guess is that your students have reached the numeric keys already, but if they have not then hopefully they’re not going to see the number one or the number zero within lessons.

What I would do is log in as a student, you can set yourself as an account and project your screen and let the students know what letters they’re going to be learning that day, or let’s just kind of do a walkthrough of some of the lessons so they can actually begin to identify an L, a capital L, the number one and the number zero. So that will give them a visual which will reinforce or hopefully discourage them from making errors throughout each lesson.

But I will say, that you know our alphabet and the numeric system is the way it is and zeros do look like Os and lowercase Ls do look like ones. I still struggle with it myself so hopefully, that little bit of advice will help you alleviate the problem just a little bit. So that’s all we have time for though. But I encourage you, if we didn’t get your questions this week live on Facebook then please join us next week we will air LIVE every Thursday at 4:15 Eastern Standard Time.

And next Thursday I’m really excited because I will be in Nashville Tennessee at the Association of Career Technical Education Conference. So I’ll be airing live right from our booth inside of Nashville. So hopefully you’ll join us. But if we didn’t get time for your question we do our best to get back to every single user who submits something to us. And you can reach us at hashtag #AskEduTyping to either Twitter, Instagram, or on Facebook. So until next week I’ll see everybody and happy keyboarding everybody. Take care.

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