5 reasons to learn to touch type

Google’s definition of touch typing is to “type using all one’s fingers and without looking at the keys.” Some would argue that this has become a life-skill in today’s digital world. I went to a very academic high-school and went back to school early one semester to start what was then called a ‘secretarial’ course before starting my final two years of academic subjects at the school. I learned short-hand and touch typing. We have all heard “if you don’t use it, you lose it”- this certainly applied to these two skills. After the 6 weeks, I stopped using the short-hand and lost the skill. (I wish I hadn’t lost it- how good would it have been at university?)

Fortunately, I used the typing skills, and I am so glad I mastered the keyboard when I did. I would argue it is far more beneficial to me to able to type at 75 words per minute than it is me knowing the difference between a stalactite and stalagmite. I use this skill every day and it allows me to be efficient in my work. It is so good, in fact, that I prefer to type than use Dragon dictation for written tasks.

So, should our children/ students learn to touch type? If so, why, when and how?

Here are 5 reasons why they absolutely should:

1.  95% of assignments in high school will be on a computer. I ‘sell’ the typing requirement to students with this argument: “We are getting you ready for high-school now. You will be able to do your assignments faster if you can type without needing to look at the keyboard and this means you will have more time to do what you want to do!”

The thought of being able to do more of what children want to do is a great ‘carrot’ to get the typing happening!

2. Your job will most likely require you to use a computer. As this article relates, Computer literacy is set to become a non-negotiable requirement for 90 per cent of roles within five years, in occupations from carpentry to plumbing and law. Need we say more?

3. Naplan is set to be online. Whether you are a fan of Naplan or not, is here to stay for now and in the next few years this national testing measure will be online. Students in year 5 and above will need to do their written task on a computer rather than by hand. For this reason, students simply must be able to type without looking at the keyboard. There is so much involved in the writing process: thinking about what to write, how to create a good sentence, how to spell the words and punctuate etc. If we then add into the mix the challenge of finding the keys on the keyboard, our students will be at a distinct disadvantage if they can’t type.

4. Working memory is freed up when you can type. As mentioned above, there are many processes required for successful writing and this can consume our limited working memory. If our fingers already know where the letter is to type without stopping, thinking and looking, our thoughts are not interrupted and we can write with greater ease and speed.

5. Learning touch typing properly prevents bad habits. Children are needing to use a keyboard earlier than before and are learning bad habits more quickly than ever before. I hear parents and teachers say how “well” their students type using two or four fingers. On the surface it may look fast, but check the accuracy. All students that I have seen, who on the face of it, appear to be “efficient” 2-4 finger typists are actually quite inaccurate. This means they waste much type pressing the backspace/delete button. This slows down their actual speed. Don’t we always aim for the best for our children and students? For this reason, teach them early to touch-type. At the age of 7 they are developmentally ready to learn to type- and one is never too old to learn! Many parents learn with their children and it becomes a family challenge- who can type at 25 words per minute with 95% accuracy first?

There are many typing programs available- both paid and free. The absolute best program I have found is Touch Type Read Spell. Whilst the name suggests it will improve reading and spelling, its primary focus is typing- to me, if it improves reading and spelling that is a bonus.

This is my program of choice because it has a graphic to show the students which finger to use: this trains them from the beginning to look at the screen, not at their fingers or the keyboard. It is multisensory: it says the letter/ word the student needs to type when they need to type it. (The more senses we use, the more parts of our brain are activated and the faster and easier the learning will be.) Most programs I have seen play random music in the background and don’t have the graphic. Touch Type Read Spell incorporates punctuation and capital letters from early stages whereas other programs have it as an extra- so if you never click on the option children never learn to use the keys for punctuation etc. This program also insists on accuracy– mistakes aren’t just ignored which is the case in many other programs. There are other popular programs, but they don’t do what TTRS does. For more information on TTRS as well as how to get your child to type and recommended speeds see this page.