My husband is a computer software engineer. He spends a lot of time on the computer. About two years ago, he started to experience symptoms of carpal tunnel syndrome. His hands would cramp up while he was typing. As he has always been fascinated by ergonomic products and procedures, he started researching what he could do to make typing more comfortable for him. His research led him to Dvorak.
There is a lot on the web about what Dvorak is, how and why it was developed, studies comparing Dvorak to QWERTY. We ultimately decided to go with Dvorak, and we haven’t looked back. Michael’s cramps mostly stopped, although his pinkies get more tired as Dvorak puts them to work a little more. I joined him, and after about a month of adapting through sight-typing (we put stickers on our keyboard), I was up to my old speed. I make fewer typing errors now, and I love it.
So then comes the question, “What are we going to do for our children?” Oh boy. We have discussed this at great length. The biggest advantage to QWERTY is that qwerty is standard. Everywhere you go, if you use a public computer, it will be in qwerty. There are myriads of typing programs for children designed for qwerty. Shortcuts on the computer like copy and paste were designed for QWERTY. After we became proficient in Dvorak, we discovered Colemak, which leaves common shortcuts where they are, as well as a few other keys. They say that Colemak is easier to switch to from QWERTY than Dvorak is, but that Dvorak is easier to learn from scratch.
Think about this for a minute. Look on your home-row and see how many words you can make with the letters on your home-row.
Wow, one of them isn’t even a letter. How many vowels? One. On Wheel of Fortune, at the end they give you “RSTLNE” because those are the most commonly used letters. How many on the home row? Two, S and L.
With Dvorak, you have all of the vowels on the home row.
There are a lot more words that you can make with the home-row keys. All of the vowels are in the left hand, and “RSTLN” is all in the right hand, with three on the home-row.
Colemak may be more efficient, but that month of switching over was a pain, and neither Michael or I type enough to make it worth the effort. Which is better? It’s a toss-up. I have plugged in a few of my blog posts in a keyboard layout analyzer, and Dvorak wins over Colemak for my typing/language habits. We are staying put.
*Edit: For kicks and giggles, here are the results of this blog post: (I use Simplified Dvorak). It’s tiny, but Dvorak and Colemak are close at 65%, and Qwerty falls far behind at 52%. I don’t know anything about Capewell.
Will we do our children a disservice by teaching them an unconventional way of typing? Well, that’s up for debate. On our home computers, we use Dvorak, and where we homeschool, his exposure to other computers will be slim. The local library has only mouse-driven programs for kids. Starfall is the same way. Michael and I still hunt and peck QWERTY on the iPad on a daily basis, but that kind of typing is different enough from Dvorak that we both can sub-consciously make the switch easily and well.
However, while we discussed the logistics, and pros and cons, there was a problem happening for our little boy that we only recently noticed. I had Dvorak stickers on my keyboard, but the keyboard died. Michael pulled out an old one for me and I have been using it. Since I could already touch-type Dvorak well when this happened, we didn’t worry about buying stickers again.
Peter uses my computer. He is a bright child and knows how to navigate well with a mouse. He knows where the search engine is. Over the last few months, I have come to my computer noticing several searches for “ttttttttttttttttttppppppppppfffffffff” Or “tpfyr”. I didn’t think much of it, thinking that the younger kids had been banging on the computer. Then one day, I noticed Peter being very frustrated on the computer. “What’s wrong?” I asked. “Your keyboard is broken, Mommy.” All of this time, he has been trying to type “Krypto” into the search engine so that he could watch “Krypto the Superdog” on YouTube.
Oh dear! Here my husband and I are trying to be a techie family, teaching our children how to use technology, and a love for computers, and while we have been discussing all the benefits of Dvorak for our kids, we were unknowingly giving our oldest child a handicap. How on earth could he have known about an alternate keyboard layout without us telling him? Why would he even think that?
Big oops. Well, the stickers are in the mail now, and hopefully we can remedy the situation. When we explained what had happened to Peter, the look of relief on his face was very evident. He had wondered if typing would be too hard for him, and when we told him that we had failed him, and that we were sorry, it really boosted his confidence. He is excited to learn how to type his own blog posts. (he started a private blog this year).
So, the moral of the story is, if you decide to switch to a different keyboard layout, there can be a lot of benefits. If there are children in the home, let them in on your little secret.
Hmm, it may be time to look into a net-nanny program as well. That’s a debate/discussion for another day.