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Tech Tip #89: Use Keyboard Shortcuts With Students

Posted by on June 10, 2014

As a working technology teacher, I get hundreds of questions from parents about their home computers, how to do stuff, how to solve problems. Each week, I’ll share one of those with you. They’re always brief and always focused. Enjoy!

Q: When tech gets difficult, my students stop trying. Class goes fine when the skills are similar to those used in their online games, but if it gets challenging, like remembering all the steps required to add a border to an Excel cell (or you fill in the blank with that show-stopping skill that everyone turns off to), they aren’t interested. What do I do?

A: After twelve years of teaching K-5, I know as sure as I know who our president is that kids will try harder if its fun. The challenge for us teachers: How do we make a multi-step skill that they may rarely use ‘fun’?

The answer is keyboard shortcuts–aka shortkeys. My students love them. I start in kindergarten with the easy ones–like Alt+F4 to exit a program–and build each year until they’re finding them themselves. Throw in a few that are quirky–that motivate students to find a place to use them, and you’ve one their hearts and minds. My two favorites are –> and :). OK–yeah, in WordPress it isn’t cool, but how about in Word:

keyboard shortcuts

Two shortkeys students love learning

  1. To create the first one: Type –> and Word automatically switches it to an arrow
  2. To create the second one: Type 🙂 and Word automatically switches it to a smiley face

Adjust the font sizes, placement of the parts to get different arrows and faces. Soon, students are proud to show off their shortkeys, their techi-ness, and borders in Excel become a point of pride.

BTW, here are the shortkeys for Excel borders:

  • ALT+T top border
  • ALT+B bottom border
  • ALT+L left border
  • ALT+R right border
  • ALT+D diagonal and down
  • ALT+U diagonal and up
  • ALT+H horizontal
  • ALT+V vertical

If you’re looking for Mac shortkeys, try Dan Rodney’s great list here.

More Keyboard articles:

Common Core Breathes Life into Keyboarding

Dear Otto: Are there any Good Keyboarding Apps?

Summer Online Keyboarding

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Jacqui Murray has been teaching K-8 technology for 15 years. She is the editor of a K-8 technology curriculum, K-8 keyboard curriculum, K-8 Digital Citizenship curriculum, and creator of dozens of technology training books that integrate technology into education. She is webmaster for six blogs, CSG Master Teacher, an Amazon Vine Voice book reviewer, Editorial Review Board member for Journal for Computing Teachers, CSTA presentation reviewer, freelance journalist on tech ed topics, a tech ed columnist for, and a weekly contributor to TeachHUB. Currently, she’s editing a techno-thriller that should be out next summer.

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