Inside, half a dozen seventh-graders were fine-tuning their use of the shift key as two National Honor Society students circled the room offering instruction and helpful hints.
The students are part of Whitehall High School’s newest extracurricular group, a typing club where pupils learn the basics of keyboarding.
It may be surprising in today’s age of tablet computers, netbooks, and smart phones that students who are in many instances more tech savvy than their parents, would willingly stay after school and practice their keyboarding skills, but that’s exactly what these students are doing.
“I want to learn how to type properly,” said Steven Gosselin.
“I want to type faster,” added William VanGuilder.
“My mom made me,” said Noah Ramey, adding that he would like to become a faster typist.
According to Topher Montville, the Junior High guidance counselor, the club was borne from a perceived need and parent-school district cooperation.
“We were approached by parents who were concerned with their kids’ ability to type and we asked ourselves what we could do to help out,” Montville said.
Years ago Whitehall used to allot time to teach keyboarding skills during students’ sixth- and seventh-grade years, but the practice was abandoned. What followed was a generation of students who learned how to type using their thumbs to send text messages via their cell phones and who didn’t know what and where a home row was (it’s the middle rows of keys, starting with “A” and ending with the colon/semi-colon key).
With budget constraints making a keyboarding class unlikely, Montville decided to organize a typing club.
“It was a unique opportunity to help,” said Montville. “It was, see a need, fill a need.”
“It’s a great example of parents and the school working together to fill a need.”
The students gather for 45 minutes, from 2:15 to 3 p.m., every Wednesday to work on basic skills.
Students in the club started out by receiving instruction on the home row and the proper keys on which their fingers should be placed. After gaining some familiarity with the home row they moved onto to the top row and then the bottom row.
“Now we are having them work on using the shift key and next is numbers,” said Kassi Van Guilder, one of two juniors, the other is Carli Varmette, at Whitehall high school who volunteer to instruct the students.
Montville said the girls are what make the club work.
“They make the program. They work very well with the kids and it’s nice to see these guys step up and give back. They’ve been phenomenal.”
Montville said the younger students look up to the instructors and because they learned how to type only a few years, they understand the nuances that go into the learning how to type.
“There all sorts of little tricks they learned in their class that they can share with their fellow students,” Montville said.
“We’re using many of the same techniques we learned in our class,” Varmette said.
For instance, when the students were learning how to use the home row, the girls knew a number of words that could be typed solely from the nine letters on that row.
While both girls are laid back, they do have a few rules.
They ask the students not to use the backspace key so they can keep track of the mistakes they make, and they require their pupils to keep their fingers on the home row.
“They can peek as long as their fingers are in the right place,” Varmette said.
Both say they have seen steady improvement.
“The keys with their pinky fingers are the most difficult,” Van Guilder said. “But they’ve gotten better.”
The club lasts for seven to eight weeks and the entire process will start anew in a few weeks with a different group of students.
“It’s a really important skill and it’s something they are going to have to use when they get older,” Varmette said.