Why is learning to touch type important?
Most people will hunt and peck their way around the keyboard for the rest of their lives using 2 - 3 fingers. However, formal touch typing is the ability to maintain focus and concentration completely on the document being produced so it is a far more efficient use of focus, concentration and energy. Around 10% of the population has a dyslexia or hand writing related learning difficulty so touch typing can liberate the writer to effortlessly communicate with the rest of the world.
Touch typing at around 10 - 25 words per minute at 95% accuracy is a comfortable, adult working speed that allows you to type as you think. Touch typing is the shortest distance between a thought and the page. Although we have learners on our courses who are reaching speeds of 40+ wpm at 95% accuracy, we aim to teach to 25 wpm which is where using a lap top will be more efficient than hand writing a piece of work.
There is evidence that touch typing dramatically increases a child's writing skills so that for example, children who reach the age of 11 are outstripped by those who can type their stories and other writing tasks. Touch typing enables a writer to be more detailed, expresssive and effective in their written communication. Work can be edited, ideas explored and developed effortlessly and the writer achieves more impact. Touch typing really is the shortest distance between a thought and the written page.
What about posture, repetitive strain injury etc?
Around 50% of young people are beginning to experience back problems by the age of 16 due to the use of lap tops, tablets and other devices. Using all ten fingers and thumbs, wrists and arms in a correct posture, distributes the effort of typing so it is less tiring and so less potentially harmful in the long term.
The general wisdom is that tablets are best for consumption of content and lap tops or pcs best for producing content. If your child has a tablet you should get a wireless, bluetooth keyboard to make the best use of it.
Should my child practise or learn at home?
Some children actively want to practise at home but often mistakes and errors creep in so we aim to teach touch typing solely through attendence of a weekly school club or holiday course. Many children are very tired at the end of the school day, especially dyslexic learners and we don't want learning to touch type to become a battle. There are many stand alone touch typing programmes but if you invest in tuition for your child it is probably one of the most invaluable skills they will ever learn.
What is the best age to learn?
We have successfully taught children between the age of 6 - 18 but we believe the best time to learn is between Year 4 and Year 9. Having said this, we have many successful Year 3 learners who are better than older children so learning so there is no right age. By running our programme in schools as a club, children can come at any age and stay for as many terms as they want. There is no sense of a course to be passed or failed. However, in the clubs every minute is spent learning as efficiently and effectively as possible so children learn at their own rate in the most efficient way appropriate to them.
Do children in your clubs have special educational needs?
We teach around a hundred children every week in our school clubs and around 25% have dyslexia, dyspraxia or other additional needs. We have worked effectively with children on the autism spectrum. Most of the learners attend because their parents really want them to learn as using a computer is the basis for most types of work and study in today's world.
Is the use of the computer keyboard being superceded by voice recognition software?
It is actually much faster to type than to speak. In a world where learners will be increasingly expected to learn computer code, typing a string of letters, symbols and numbers is always going to be faster than speaking. A number of our pupils attend because they want to be faster coders.
What else do you do in your touch typing clubs and courses?
Learning to touch type is more than plugging into a software programme. We spend a lot of time with children individually, helping them to discover more about themselves as learners. For example, our visual learners tune into fingers having different colours so the red finger will type f, r, t, g, b and v while the green finger will type j, u, h, m, n and y. However, our auditory learners will benefit from finding the i key because it is above k - imagining the right index finger kik - kicking the keys. We play games such as human bingo or making letters out of playdough which helps our kinaesthetic learners to spatially orientate themselves around the keyboard.
Our approach is based on precision teaching which aims to retain knowledge and skills in the long term memory. Taxi drivers have denser brain matter in the hippocampus area (the spatial processing part of the brain) as they "hardwire" the "knowledge" into their brain matter. Similarly artists, musicians and even footballers have also shown to have much more electrical activity going on in this part of the brain using MRI scans.
Typing's Cool is all about teaching the learner to retain their knowledge as "muscle memory" and this is what makes touch typing an instinctive, automatic activity that aligns with the body and brain's systems. Using precision teaching, we relentlessly focus on the letter that the child finds hardest to touch type and so on, until their weakest letters start to achieve the highest level of speed and accuracy. We are very fortunate to harness software programmes that give us this kind of feedback as tutors to help children learn most effectively.
However, many children lack resilience to really push through when they lack confidence, ability or are just tired and switched off. Typing's Cool recognises this through using a coaching approach that continuously encourages the child, is quick to recognise praise, paces the session to avoid boredom, stimulates a vision that the child can succeed while relentless challenging poor results. As a result children often finish a session very tired but happy because they have been pushed beyond their comfort zone to achieve fantastic results of which they are rightly proud.
What happens in a Typing's Cool holiday club?
The courses run for two hours and fifteen minutes per session over four days to provide an eight hour course. Learners don't spend the whole time typing as it's probably not healthy to spend so much time staring at a screen. Instead we have adapted lots of youth work games that get learners mixing up and getting to know each other while playing typing related games such as Chinese Typing, Simon Types, Keyboard Boggle and the typing chocolate challenge. There is a 15 minute break mid session when we provide fruit juice and biscuits. Water is available throughout the sessions.