I am writing this post on a Dvorak keyboard, and it is slow going. For most of my life, I, like most other people, have used a standard QWERTY keyboard. Despite knowing that this type of keyboard is not optimal for typing fast (many believe that it was designed to slow typists down), I somehow never got around to learning anything better. I first encountered Dvorak whilst volunteering in the computer department at Crossroads in 2001, and I remember the bewildering feeling of typing and making no sense. I am sure it was the manager’s way of keeping pesky volunteers off his computer (thanks, Greg). It intrigued me, and I kept an eye out for one to buy for some time. Never finding on in a shop, I had some students hack one together out of an old iMac keyboard. Despite not using it much myself, it has become a bit of a novelty in the ICT room, and some students seem to really enjoy using it.
What finally made me take the plunge was a student challenging me to a very addictive online speed typing test. More than losing, it was a curiosity about just how fast I could type that really got me going. So, I ordered a KB Covers keyboard sheath from Amazon, and here I am. The sense of becoming a beginner again is enlightening but incredibly frustrating. My neck is sore and my brain hurts from constantly scanning for the right key. Worst of all, I keep losing the “F” key. A few times to today (like right now, in fact), I have had to rip the cover off, switch input modes, and blast out a bunch of text. The frustration just gets to be a little too much.
However, even within just a few hours, I can already feel my speed and confidence creeping up. Despite the doubts (will I still be able to type on a QWERTY after I master Dvorak?), I am set on sticking it out, to see what it is possible. What this has all driven home, though, is how much an activity can vary by person and circumstance. This has given me a new level of empathy for students who take longer to understand things than their classmates: how deeply frustrating they must find it to not be able to achieve what they want.
This is an experiment I would definitely recommend.