Monday, 21 March 2016

Typing Club Tips

Use TypingClub, or the UWCSEA Portal

Typing Club is the online tool we encourage our students (and teachers) to use at UWCSEA to learn how to touch-type, so in the interests of 'walking the walk' I thought I'd better have a go myself. In so doing, I have gleaned some experience that I believe will come in useful for anyone attempting to do likewise.

Don't look down

Whatever you do, don't look at the keys! If this too tempting to resist, then maybe place something like a tea-towel over your hands/keyboard. Some people even cut down a cardboard box so a flap can be placed over your keyboard.

Courtesy of Wendy Jones - Touch-typing expert!
Or just fold a sheet of A3 paper...

Set your sights low! 

The goal is not to hit 50-100 wpm—yet. The goal is to become 'functional' ie type with all 10 fingers with capital letters and basic punctuation, even if the speed is relatively low, eg 25 WPM - at this point students can stop hunting and pecking and touch type, then anytime they type, they would effectively be practising. I reckon aiming for a minimum of 3 stars should suffice, and would mitigate the frustration they will most likely encounter if they try to get 4 or even 5 stars. If they switch to touch-typing for everyday use, they'd probably find that if they return to the typing tutor after a month they'd be able to turn those 3s into 4s and 5s without too much trouble. If they're anything like me, they will find that their touch-typing speed is probably slower than their 'hunt and peck' speed, but this is an investment, if they stick with it, they will be much better off in the long run.

Top Typing Club Tips

You start off typing gibberish, but fret not, most of the typing you'll be doing will be real words, even if the sentences don't make much sense.

Command R (refresh) to retry when (not if) you mess up right at the start.

Commit to at least 10-15 mins a day. This is all about making your subconscious know the keys without thinking about it, tedious repetition is the only way to do this!

Much like Maths, there's no point trying to be fast, focus on being accurate, and speed will come naturally and gradually with confidence. Focusing on speed will just stress you out, causing you to make more errors.

Give up (sometimes)! Sometimes your fingers just won't respond to your mind, and you'll find yourself going backwards! This is really frustrating,  you just need to take a break, do something else, come back in half an hour and try again.

Practice Makes Permanent!
You only get good at games like this through repetition, lots of repetition...  

Treat it like a platform video game, albeit not a very exciting one... It's the same kind of 'twitch' skill you learn through tedious repetition that is essential for mastering a platforming game like Super Mario Bros, or Geometry Dash, but a lot more useful! Soon you'll have a rhythm and your fingers will find the keys without you needing to consciously think about it. 

Ignore the backspace key, focus on getting it right without it, you can still get 3-5 stars even with some errors; the faffing about you'll be doing fixing the errors will actually lower your score more than you would if you just ignore the typos and keep going.

Star stress; the 'gamification' of this tool by rewarding you with stars is fine at the early stages, when hitting high scores is relatively easy... The problem is before too long this becomes a source of great frustration! My advice is that obtaining 3 stars (or higher) is more than enough. They can always return later and turn those 3 stars into or 5 stars when their skills have improved. There are other typing tools out there, like typingstudy that don't focus on these kinds of shallow motivators, which you might want to consider if the stars are causing stress!

Turn this off in settings as soon as you feel capable

Turn off the visual assistance ASAP, you need to be able to rely on touch as quickly as you can. I'd abandoned it by stage 10. I notice my speed increased significantly once I did that.

Focus on the first 56

Don't let the magical 100 bother you; by the time you hit 56 you will be able to touch-type, not fast, yet, but at least you'll have done the hardest part! As you can see from my stats above, I did, so can you! Out of curiousity, I decided to do the test review, which is kind of cheating, as you're supposed to do all the stages up to 75 first... But I 'passed' the test, I confess, I 'hunted and pecked' the numbers, still, I did it, and I couldn't have done it a few weeks ago!

How long does it take?

Based on the stats, it's taken me a total of 11 hours to get this far, or 660 minutes, which works out as 44 lots of 15 minute sessions—or about 6-7 weeks. Not a bad result considering this is an investment in a skill I'll be able to use for the rest of my life!*

So, you to can learn to touch-type in a couple of months, what are you waiting for?


*The sharp eyed amongst you may have noticed that my highest speed on the stats was 47 WPM, which is a bit of an irregularity; that's because about half way through I decided to compare my hunt and peck speed to my touch typing speed, which isn't really fair considering that I've been practising my hunt and peck technique for nearly 30 years, and I've only been touch typing for a few weeks! Still, the truth is that my touch-typing speed is easily half of my hunt and peck speed, but I shall persevere. Let's see how they compare next year...