Don't look at the keys!
April 21, 2016 11:22 AM   Subscribe

Need help finding keyboards with blank keys for kids to learn touch typing.

When using a touch typing learning program like Mavis Beacon Teaches Typing, it's hard for kids to resist looking at the keyboard (when I learned to type, it was on a typewriter and the keys were blank). Which means they are at risk of not fully learning how to touch type.

I've tried some thin film keyboard covers but they slide around a bit. I can't use stickers because the keyboards don't belong to me.

So I started looking around online for keyboards with blank keys and mostly what comes up is Das Keyboard. They are expensive. The compact ones are on sale on the Das Keyboard site for $99, but they have pretty poor reviews on Amazon, and $99 is still very expensive.

Does anyone know of other keyboards that are available with blank keys?
posted by Dansaman to Technology (17 answers total)
When I learned to touch type this was accomplished by placing a piece of paper over each students hands during practice as well as during the testing portions.

Worked for me.
posted by bilabial at 11:24 AM on April 21, 2016 [10 favorites]

I can't use stickers because the keyboards don't belong to me.

If stickers are otherwise good enough, and you're willing to buy a new keyboard, why not just buy a serviceable cheap one and put stickers on it? Or try removing the lettering with sandpaper or nail polish remover or something? Judging by how easily the markings wear off on cheap keyboards, it seems like it shouldn't be that hard to remove on purpose.
posted by primethyme at 11:25 AM on April 21, 2016 [10 favorites]

If not the paper over the hands, what about those trays that are used to support monitors? The ones with legs? Just put the keyboard under it.

FWIW I learned just fine without covering the keyboard up. Learned on both computers and electronic typewriters in typing class.
posted by lizbunny at 11:28 AM on April 21, 2016 [4 favorites]

I don't know anything about blank keyboards, but: Masking tape. Part of its purpose is to be able to come off cleanly.

If you're willing to spend some quality time with scissors, the sticky ends of sticky notes also work great. Or get your kid to do it.
posted by zennie at 11:31 AM on April 21, 2016 [1 favorite]

If the paper solution doesn't work for you, (which sounds like your absolute cheapest option!) and you're willing to spend money on covers, how about getting cheap keyboards ($10 on amazon, possibly less at the thrift store but that might be more time-intensive than you want) and nail polish at the dollar store. Have the students paint out the letters themselves if you want to save yourself some work -- I mean, plan a fun classroom activity ;)
posted by ananci at 11:31 AM on April 21, 2016 [2 favorites]

My typing teacher cut off the long side of a Hammermill box lid and placed it over the keyboard for each student so we couldn't peek.

An alternative to masking tape is painter's tape. It comes off easily and bright blue might be fun for kids.
posted by thewestinggame at 11:36 AM on April 21, 2016 [3 favorites]

This is what you need. I'm sure you could rig up a DIY version with a cut-up shoebox.
posted by amnesia and magnets at 11:36 AM on April 21, 2016 [4 favorites]

Blank keyboards are available, but more more common will be keyboards with stickers on the keys. These stickers can be easily wiped off with rubbing alcohol. This is in contrast to keys that are manufactured out of two types of plastic, where both colors reach the top, one in key shape and one in the shape of the letter.
posted by Phredward at 11:38 AM on April 21, 2016

Goodwill always has a crapton of keyboards. I'd just get one from there and paint the keys. Wouldn't take long if you don't care about neatness.
posted by mattholomew at 11:41 AM on April 21, 2016

Thank you everyone. I like the idea of getting an inexpensive keyboard and putting stickers on it, and I also like this keyboard trainer cover (or the idea to make something similar myself) that amnesia and magnets suggested. Very helpful information and much appreciated.
posted by Dansaman at 11:53 AM on April 21, 2016

I learned with paper over the hands as well. The upside of this is it discourages you from looking down at all. Kids will still look at their hands even if the keys are painted over.
posted by bleep at 11:54 AM on April 21, 2016 [1 favorite]

Rather than using stickers, I'd suggest nailpolish which is what I used. Be careful to make a *really* light coat on the j and f key so the bumps can still be felt.

I used blue for letters, green for the numbers, and black for the symbols and FN keys. This way, there's some visual sensory guidance which aids quick placement. For example, my current keyboard is unpolished, but I can just barely feel the nubs on the j/f key. If your keyboard is similar, a quick look down will be able to easily center on the middle row of letters with the left pinky and right ring on the ends.

Stickers will become sticky and peel, but the nailpolish lasted 3+ years as a CS major in college without touch ups.
posted by nobeagle at 12:04 PM on April 21, 2016 [2 favorites]

A USB keyboard costs less than $20 these days, and can be plugged into pretty much any PC, even laptops.

At that price there's no real reason to worry about permanently altering the keyboard, with nail polish or something equivalent.
posted by Chocolate Pickle at 12:13 PM on April 21, 2016

Paper is really the easiest. Anything more is overproduced for adults, not kiddos. I learned that way and now type a very happy 90 wpm.
posted by fritillary at 12:52 PM on April 21, 2016

Box lid is good. You can also cut a rectangle of cardboard or brown paper bag and fold the back 3-5" down and tape that edge to the back of the keyboard, so there's some room to put their hands under the paper without immediately pushing it loose.
posted by Lyn Never at 12:55 PM on April 21, 2016

Fingernail polish remover will take they white paint of letters off most black keyboards really quickly. You should be able to buy a new one for under 20 or a used one for less. Also its a good back up when a kid inevitably dumps a drink onto a keyboard.
posted by AlexiaSky at 5:35 PM on April 21, 2016

Along the lines of paper - a tea towel draped over the hands should work, and would stay in place better than paper.
posted by bunderful at 6:52 PM on April 21, 2016 [1 favorite]

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