Monday, 4 October 2021

Keyboarding is a time skill

Following on from my last post (here), another element of digital competence is keyboarding. We could call it 'a key component' the digital competence skills required in today's workforce (Ala-Mutka, 2011; Anderson & Gantz, 2016). Not being able to keyboard is a key situational barrier for gaining digital competence, as keyboarding is so fundamental to a 21st century life that we take it for granted that everyone has the skill (Muller, 2017). For example, Microsoft surveyed 500 employers on the keyboarding skills required for their staff, and found that many employers won't hire staff who can't touch type. Close to half of the surveyed employers stated that this is a key work skill, linking typing speed to productivity (Bush, 2 September 2014). And please note that this report is seven years old. Keyboarding is even more important and ubiquitous now.

A candidate who is digitally competent will have developed unconscious, implicit keyboard skills, whereas a beginner has to push 'effortful' "explicit knowledge about the task into working memory and manipulat[e] it to support performance" (Snyder, Ashitaka, Shimada, Ulrich, & Logan, 2014, p. 162) . This idea of 'explicit knowledge' is one of the reasons why material learned in short intensive sessions often does not stay with us: it is not rehearsed until it becomes an implicit, automatic skill. Unrehearsed explicit knowledge fades (Snyder et al, 2014), while implicit knowledge stays with us. It converts into "automism", like riding a bike.

A competent typing speed is contested, but ranges between 33 and 70 corrected words per minute, or cwpm (Karat, Halverson, Horn & Karat, 1999; Logan & Crump, 2009; Ostrach, 2010; Ratatype, 2014). The data points are 32.5; 39; 41 and 70, with the average at 45.6, or 11400 keystrokes per hour (KPH, with the standard formula for calculation is (cwpm*5)*50 = kph). Careers New Zealand (2021)  advises that data entry operators require a keyboarding speed of 60 wpm, or 15000 KPH . 

Keyboarding is a learned skill which was once taught within the Commercial Practice stream at New Zealand secondary school for three hours per week until 5th or 6th form until students passed their Pitman’s exams, of around 600 hours. It is likely that approximately half that time investment will take a learner to entry level: perhaps around 300 hours. 

Keyboarding is a “time-skill, where the ticking away of the unforgiving seconds plays a dominant part in both learning and application of the skill” (Canning, 1975, p. 277), now known as sequential and map learning, where a skill becomes implicit and automatic. For best retention, learners need regular, focused practice. Doing several short intensive periods of deliberate and structured rehearsal daily over a sustained period – for example, two half hour learning sessions every day for a year – will help the learner develop and retain more than a single continuous block of time. It is the rehearsal which enables both map and sequential learning to be embedded (Canning, 1975; Rao et al, 2000 ). Mr Gale has some skills, but these would need to be developed over time to become unconscious, implicit learning (Snyder, Ashitaka, Shimada, Ulrich, & Logan, 2014, p. 162). 

We all need to have keyboarding skills to be employable. Those who don't have it are at a serious disadvantage.



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