Do you remember learning keyboarding at school? Depending on when and where you grew up, you may have studied touch typing as part of a computer science course. That’s because before personal computers became common, a school’s computer lab was just about the only place where students had the opportunity to learn and practice correct finger placement and typing without looking at the keyboard.
This is no longer the case as kids today are exposed to keyboards on a range of devices and from an early age. Yet despite their enhanced familiarity (and a massive increase in the amount of school work which must be completed electronically), not all of them can type.
When we talk about typing we don’t mean the hunt-and-peck method of visually searching for keys using a few fingers. Keyboarding involves understanding how to reach for letters and still return the hands to the home row position.
Typing without looking at the keyboard automatizes the process of translating ideas into writing. Thoughts flow freely through the fingertips and onto the screen, freeing up cognitive attention and working memory for other tasks.
Kids who learn touch typing have a chance to develop heightened writing skills because they spend more time focusing on the content of classroom assignments, instead of the mechanics of handwriting.
Depending on the particular course, typing programs also strengthen reading comprehension, improve spelling skills and build students’ self-esteem. That’s why it’s so important for schools to continue to offer typing courses.
Typing in education
In the past, being able to type was seen as an advantage for anyone pursuing higher education, as assignments grew in length and handwriting became unfeasible. It was also a valuable career skill and adults would often enrol in typing courses to add typing to their CVs. Learn more about jobs that require typing skills.
Nonetheless, in the early days of the Internet, there were no online apps to teach keyboarding. Schools would hire trained teachers and later purchase professional programs to ensure kids learned. At that time it was still possible to write assignments by hand and research was mostly done in the library.
Today, touch typing may be offered as an elective. Yet given education requires students to use a computer for almost everything they do in junior high and high school, it is surprising that more schools don’t have typing as a requirement.
This is particularly true when you consider the amount of standardized tests students will need to take on a computer. In a test environment speed is power and being able to type quickly gives kids a huge advantage.
Typing facilitates note-taking and helps students focus on content vs. worrying about spelling and format. It also makes it much easier to do effective research online.
What else can students learn from typing?
In a multi-sensory typing program, students learn by hearing a letter or word read aloud, seeing it on the screen and then physically typing the keys. This process involves mapping sounds to letters and is a kind of phonics training that reinforces reading and helps children master literacy skills.
Spelling and Sight Words
Repeated exposure to the words being typed also does wonders for spelling abilities and increases the chance that high-frequency English words are recognized by sight vs. sounded out by beginner readers. This is important for English language learners too, as they often need to increase their vocabulary.
In modular programs, the student is in charge of how quickly he or she progresses through the material. Giving kids an opportunity to learn at their own pace removes any stigma attached to having to repeat modules. Providing plenty of positive feedback for each milestone also teaches them to be more self-efficacious about their learning. Almost any task can be mastered if it is broken down into manageable steps.
Successfully mastering a skill often does wonders to boost kids’ self-esteem. Feedback provided when students reach and complete milestones keeps them motivated and engaged, and over time, helps them gain confidence. If the program is taken in the classroom, it can create lasting positive associations with learning. This is especially beneficial for those kids with learning difficulties or behavioural issues who are not used to doing well at school.
Keyboarding for every student
Individuals with dyslexia will benefit from learning to type because it gives them the opportunity to practice phonics skills and learn the spelling of common words using muscle memory as an aid. They may also find it easier to type than write by hand, as no letter formation is required. Learn more about typing programs for students with dyslexia.
ADHD, ADD and Slow Processing
In a modular course, lessons can be repeated until students achieve mastery and there is no shame involved as each student learns at his or her own pace. This means individuals who struggle to focus, such as is the case for kids with, ADHD and ADD, can take as much time as they need to learn material. Removing time constraints and reducing cognitive load is also a plus for kids with slow processing.
Teachers who work with special needs kids understand the value of teaching touch typing. Many children with Down syndrome can benefit from learning to read and learning to type at the same time. That’s because they may need to overlearn sound-letter connections due to hearing impairments. A computer program is a means for repeating information as many times as the student needs and gives plenty of positive feedback along the way.
Typing is a crucial skill for students who have low vision because it allows them to navigate a computer without relying on sight. It’s a way to write quickly and accurately without using the eyes to guide letter formation and placement.
Dyspraxia and Dysgraphia
Touch-typing is a solution for students who struggle to hold a pen or pencil, correctly form letters and achieve standardized spacing between the words on a page. These issues tend to be encountered in dyspraxia and dysgraphia, where handwriting and fine-motor skills are involved.
Touch-type Read and Spell
TTRS offers schools, tutor centers and adult education programs a multi-sensory and modular approach that helps students get the most out of learning how to type.
Touch typing is skill that can be learned in as little as a few weeks or that can take several months to a year to develop, depending on the amount of time a learner commits and his or her abilities. Most kids are ready to learn typing at the age of 6 or 7, when their hands fit comfortably on a keyboard.
Students who use TTRS strengthen literacy skills and develop the self-confidence they need to engage in self-directed learning, stay positive and achieve their potential at school.
How do they teach typing at your school? Join the discussion in the comments!