Keyboards? Who Needs Keyboards?

For quite a while now, I’ve been concerned that not enough writing is going on in our classrooms1. It seems as though we really want our students to write, but we never seem to give them time or models of writing.

Now that devices are going into our classrooms, I regularly see concerns raised that without keyboards on those devices, our students will never be able to write either fast enough, or correctly, or in the same way that they’ll be expected to in an assessment. So they never write.

Might it be that we are stuck on the notion that writing happens when keys are touched and that the only way words go into computers is via keyboards?

What did we do before keyboards, and is it possible for the first time we are in a world where we can think about what will do after them?

It might be a little premature to think about a post-keyboard world, but I sure think we’re getting close.2

  1. That’s not just me – the .  I suspect that didn’t happen. []
  2. How, where, and when are you working with dictation and input tools that aren’t keyboards? []

18 thoughts on “Keyboards? Who Needs Keyboards?

  1. Hi Bud, I’ve been hearing early adopters talk about this for the last few years, especially since Siri and OK Google have been released and increasing in accuracy. It seems to me that most people making claims that we’re moving into a post-keyboard world are settling for dictation as the replacement.

    My concern with dictation is not accuracy, I’m sure that will get better and better very quickly – it’s the distraction of verbalizing everything, both for the speaker and for those around.

    These thoughts are undeveloped, so I hope you bear with me. For the speaker, dictating seems to use different brain functions. Perhaps because I’m trained this way, it seems that developing long-form writing is more difficult as your brain is focused on listening to yourself and reading what you’ve just said, thus taking away from future-thought processing. I’d be very interested to see some research in this area.

    Second is the distraction that it causes to the people nearby. Have you ever noticed how much more distracting it is listening to someone at the coffee shop talking on the phone than it is to have two people talking with each other? There are some interesting theories on this, but the long and short of it is that we focus on individual speakers more than conversations. If everybody starts talking at their phones, we will all quickly become frustrated with the high-stimuli surrounding us.

    Finally, the ability to take notes is still vital to the learning process. At the moment I haven’t come up with a way that students can take dictation notes while a teacher is talking that wouldn’t quickly make steam blow out of the teacher’s ears! The first argument I’ve heard to this is that students will just record what the teacher says and use that as notes, but we all know that direct transcripts don’t serve as useful study guides.

    Anyway, I’m interested to see what’s going to happen in this field. Perhaps the answer isn’t dictation, but some kind of brain-scan technology? (not joking, this is happening). I love the keyboard myself, and have yet to hear a convincing argument to move away from it, but I’m keeping my mind open!
    Brent Warner´s last blog post ..Watch YouTube in Class Without Worry Using ViewPure

    1. Brent,

      I really appreciate the thoughtful response – it echoes much of my own thinking.
      I guess I wouldn’t say that dictation is the only modality that’s coming – handwriting seems back, in some ways – but I’ve noticed how quickly the voice stuff has really gotten *much* better in the last year or two.
      As to note taking, I’m thinking that we’ll see a combination of tools and options begin to make much more sense. If I can record/transcribe your speaking or the experience I want to capture, then my note taking, via keys or pen or stylus or whatever will begin to take on a new life beyond simple transcription.

      And, yeah, narration can be distracting, but it also might not be if it becomes a new habit. I don’t know – and my stubbornly-clings-to-my-keyboard self is interested in exploring the possibilities.

      I know there’s value in thinking out loud just as there is in quietly piecing words together with pencil or keyboard. But I am beginning to be certain that the keyboard’s dominance as the primary “words go into computers” method is nearing, in some ways, its end.

      1. Hi Bud,

        Thanks for writing back! I do see a lot of my students (as well as classmates in my night classes) using pen and paper for note taking. It would be interesting to take a survey to see how students are writing from home (Traditional Keyboard, touch-screen keyboard, swype-type touch-screen keyboards, dictation, other?) . I’m also interested in smartpens, but I can’t afford one at the moment to try it out.

        There’s an interesting infographic which shows how much faster speaking is than typing, so in terms of saved time, I can definitely see the value:

        My guess is that ultimately, much like you suggested, there will be some sort of blend. Because of the increasingly mobile developments for computers, my guess is that traditional keyboards will be used less and less if solely so that people don’t have to carry them around.

        Still, people are going to have to pry the keyboard from my cold, dead, carpal-tunnel syndromed fingers.
        Brent Warner´s last blog post ..Watch YouTube in Class Without Worry Using ViewPure

  2. I’m getting to this late as the first month or so of kindergarten has meant I am way behind in my professional reading.

    I struggle(d) with this as a primary teacher. For the past six years I taught first graders and felt they had such amazing stories they told. When they wrote, with pen and paper, those stories were reduced to a few words. It pained me.

    I started using Pixie to have them record their stories and illustrate them. We could then watch them as movies. It wasn’t too different from the books they listened to on computers. So they saw it as writing in that sense.

    My newest struggle is to figure out exactly what this means. Is there no difference between their recording and their more traditional writing? Does it matter if they are doing both or only one? Do we need to be transitioning from one to another? Are the skills the same? What do they miss in one that they need in the other?

    It’s a fascinating question and I’m grateful for the push to think more about it.
    Jenny´s last blog post ..The ‘Power’ of the Reading Log

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