Sometimes, we do things just because we don’t know what else to do. For example, we’re in quarantine and suddenly everyone’s house is clean. Don’t know what to do? Clean the house.

It’s the same in the vision field. When I started my first job, I was given a 5th and 6th grade class of mostly braille readers and was told to teach them technology. I had no idea what to do. So what did I teach? Keyboarding. While touting the slogan “If they can’t type, they can’t use a computer”, I persisted for two weeks of excruciating class sessions.

But on the third week, after thinking about the things I could do to make myself stay awake during class, I decided to bite the bullet and actually teach these kids technology.

Whoa whoa yes I know! Keyboarding is a piece of technology instruction, but…. Well just stick with me here.

So on week three, we learned how to read stories on the computer using a screen reader. We talked about text and reading commands, and practiced on different stories in different programs We then moved on to the internet. We learned how to do a google search using JAWS, talked about all of the different elements on the internet and how they interacted with each other. We played role playing games where we pretended to be different elements, practiced navigating tables using a huge replica in the library, and at the end of every lesson, I assigned them keyboarding homework. At the end of the year, each of those students could navigate a computer AND they could type.

After that first year, I vowed to myself that keyboarding was never again going to be something that I teach, it will be something that I assign. Now, as an itinerant, I still carry out this practice. Those of my students that need typing practice get assigned homework (with an incentive attached) and then during our service time, I don’t teach keyboarding, I teach technology.

Now if you truly believe that your students need typing instruction, I’m not here to stand in your way, but in the same way math teachers don’t watch their students to do math facts during class, I will ask the question, can this be assigned for homework?

Don’t know where to start with one of your JAWS users? Check out our website. Take our FREE mini course, Introduction to Screen Reader instruction. Or check out our Screen Reader Curriculum. This curriculum walks you and your learner through the basics of screen reader navigation.