Sunday, 20 September 2015

Typing Club - our touch typing tutor

Typing Club is an excellent touch-typing tutor. Since the introduction of student laptops, the ability to type accurately and quickly has become an important skill that sits alongside handwriting and other communication skills. The site is free so anyone can open and website and give it a try.

We suggest that our students work through the hundred lessons at their own pace and focus on the feedback that the typing tutor offers. Before each lesson a small animation is shown which highlights finger positioning and effective technique. Throughout the lesson the website records speed, accuracy and key strokes and provides a graphical summary at the end which provides useful feedback. Overtime we hope that our students feel comfortable typing and that is becomes and life-long skill.

As students complete lessons they receive points which reflect their typing accuracy and speed. Each tutor group in in a discreet online space so if they want to compare their progress to other students they can check out the class scoreboard. Other than some broad observations from the points collected, their will not be a direct assessment of the student progress by the individual tutors.

Handwriting or drawing are essential skills for our students. Therefore assessments are frequently in the written format and students are encouraged to take hand-written notes in many subjects.

Note from SMc (another DLC)

If you have not been set up to use the college account (grades 4-7), fret not, you can use the public site (not the college link) here: (Public link - paid with advertising) (Private UWC link, needs student GMail log in)

Another great free option, especially for Primary kids is on the BBC site: 

or Ratatype

And these sites are great motivator for kids to increase their WPM through 'gamification':, and

How long does it take to learn to touch type?

"Practising 'little and often' (15 -30 minutes a day) works much better than an hour or more once a week. If you practise regularly and don't give up, you should be able to learn to touch type fluently in 2-3 months, maybe even less. A total of 10 – 15 hours of practice should get you touch typing slowly:

What soon can kids start learning touch typing?

Developmental appropriateness is key here, obviously they need to be able to write sentences, and they need to have hands/fingers long enough to reach from the home keys to the other keys, eg from the 'f' to the r, t, g, c, v—and still be able to tap the spacebar with a thumb... Bear in mind they will almost certainly be learning this on a keyboard designed for adult hands, and no they can't learn how to touch type on a touch screen like an iPad.

The general consensus seems to be from Grade 3/age 8:
" it’s generally believed that they may not have the motor coordination or finger span to truly touch type until about seven or 8 years of age." 
"kids gain the finger span and motor coordination to touch type around 7 and 8 years old."
"They can start this as early as the first grade, but their hand span and the length of their fingers can cover the entire keyboard area comfortably only by the time they are 7 or 8 years old. By this age, they can start building their typing test wpm speed."

When are you going to teach touch typing to all students at school?

It's time to accept that typing is now effectively writing, so for a school to purport to be teaching their students elementary skills like writing, it is fair to ask why would anyone emphasise the teaching of handwriting over the skill of typing? Surely the aim with both is fluidity; essentially we want our students to be able to write 'at the speed of thought' or as close to that as possible, regardless of the medium.

WPM (Words per minute)

The fact is that the speed of (legible) handwriting (with or without cursive) is much slower with touch-typing. Over to Wikipedia for the breakdown of relative speeds:

The average human being hand-writes at 31 words per minute for memorised text and 22 words per minute while copying (Brown CM, 1988).

Whereas an average professional typist types usually in speeds of 50 to 80 wpm, some advanced typists work at speeds above 120 wpm. "Hunt and peck" typists, commonly reach sustained speeds of about 37 wpm for memorised text and 27 wpm when copying text.

Go on, try it yourself, I used typeracer, and scored 35 wpm, first try, them timed myself writing the same text (so a slight advantage) as fast as I could by hand, focusing on speed over beauty, but still maintaining legibility, and scored ... 17 wpm. Pathetic, I know.

So to summarise: that's handwriting at 22 wpm, hunt & peck at 27 wpm (about the same) and between 50-120 wpm for touch-typists. So if we don't teach our students how to touch-type they are in theory at least no worse off than they would have been if we asked them to write it all by hand. But the gains in terms of speed with touch-typing hovering in the range of double to triple the speed are clearly something we'd be crazy to ignore. Even with my own rudimentary experiment I was twice the speed with my tedious 'hunt and peck' technique than I was with handwriting... And of course digital text is capable of so much more than handwritten—it's situated, accessible, mutable...

Ok, I'm convinced, so how? When?

Touch typing is really the kind of thing best done at home, due to the need for it to be extended, diligent, and regular. We just don't have the time in school to dedicate to this, and to be honest, it's not a great use of a teacher's time, as they wouldn't be actually teaching, they'd just be invigilating silent drilling. This really is one of those things best done at home with a dedicated parent, I often suggest this a good holiday target, with a reward for the kids who learn it.

Really the only way I can see touch typing becoming a school focus is if it replaced the teaching of handwriting/cursive, which is exactly what they're doing in Finland. Something tells me that would not go down well with most parents though!

Brown CM (1988). Human-computer interface design guidelines. Norwood, NJ: Ablex Publishing.