ABC, QWERTY, and Learning to Touch-Type


Child's finger on BigKeys keyboard

For very young children (ages 2 to 6), we recommend choosing the ABC layout, with multi-colored keys, because it provides the easiest access to the computer for children who have just learned or are learning their alphabet.


A discussion of this recommendation follows.

Some manufacturers of toy products, belatedly interested in entering the children's computer accessory field, have used "focus group" reactions to decide the layout of a child's keyboard.


Such focus groups are not professional education specialists, but rather "toy buyers." The result has been a plethora of toy-like imitations of daddy's or mummy's keyboard, which have practically no educational value.


At Greystone Digital, we regard such product design and marketing techniques as a disservice to the educational field, and hope that our BigKeys products will be but the first of many professionally designed children's educationally valuable computer hardware accessories.


We have occasionally had a negative reaction to an alphabetically arranged keyboard (one of the features of BigKeys!). The argument by these few objectors is that when the child becomes ready for "touch-typing" (ideally at age 8), the previous exposure to an alphabetic keyboard would inhibit acquisition of "keyboarding" skill on a qwerty keyboard.


Such objectors, however, are not acquainted with human factors research. This research shows that confusion can arise when two quite similar, but slightly different "stimulus" environments are interchanged. The BigKeys keyboard, however, is specifically designed with quite different visual and kinesthetic stimulus properties from those of an adult keyboard.


That is, the large colorful keys with large key separation presents the BigKeys user with a definitely different image and feel from that of an adult "qwerty" computer keyboard, thus obviating any impediment to subsequently learning touch-typing on a standard keyboard.


Use of a keyboard by very young children (2 to 6 years), is that of visually searching for the right letter -- which reinforces letter recognition if the keyboard is alphabetically arranged -- and then pressing a key.


In other words, the typing procedure used by the young child is "hunt-and-peck."


Learning "Hunt-and-Peck" on a qwerty keyboard forms a visual image of the key layout, which is specifically NOT what touch-typing training requires. An alphabetic keyboard visually remembered will not impede subsequent learning "through the fingers," which is the proper (and traditional) way to acquire touch-typing skill.


As many educational experts agree, and as one eminent education expert has explicitly said, in discounting any impediment in later learning touch-typing:


"... I would be more concerned with motivation for learning and for access to whatever is made available on the computer than I would of inhibition for touch typing later on."


Private communication; Prof. Richard Venezky, Chairman, Advisory Board for the American Initiative on Reading and Writing


This is precisely the purpose for which BigKeys was designed!