Touch typing

It is very possible that handwritten exams will be phased out in the next few years.  None of my older 3 children ever learnt to properly touch type but I recently read that 7 or 8 is a good time to learn so I want to test that out with my fourth child this Summer.

I got in touch with Sue from Englishtype to discover the benefits

Why teach your child to touchtype?

Touch-typing is one of those skills that has been over looked or gone out of fashion. But as computers have become an essential in most areas of life – school, work, home – the most inefficient part is usually the human / computer interface – the keyboard. In fact, it could be one of the most valuable skills your primary school child will ever learn.

Let’s look at the reasons why every child should learn the art of “keyboarding”.

1. When you type by touch, a different part of your brain is in control

When you can type without looking down at the keyboard, your unconscious is in control of what’s happening (it’s like changing gear in a car – you think it and your body does the rest).

What’s in control is the “cerebellum”; also known as your kinaesthetic (or physical) skill centre, or you may have heard the term “muscle memory” (it’s not actually in your muscles!). It really is “let your fingers do the talking”.

This part of the brain automates processes, operations and skills, so that once learned, the process part is unconscious. There are so many advantages to this part of the brain being in control, for example…

– Type more accurately
– Type faster
– Keep your eyes on the screen, no dividing of the attention between the screen and the keyboard
– Your mind is free to concentrate on content and quality of writing
– It’s a different, effective way to spell; words are finger movements and patterns on the keyboard not strings of letters

If you keep switching between looking at the keyboard and the screen, you’re wasting half your time because your brain is trying to focus on two different things at once.

2. Children who can type have an advantage over their peers

John Sutherland, professor of English literature at University College, says, ‘You want to put wings on the heels of your children? Teach them to touch-type. They’ll bless you for it.’

A child who can’t touch type will produce work at less than half the speed of a child who can; knowing that, why wouldn’t you want to give your child that advantage? More and more senior schools are looking for pupils with keyboarding skills already established. Cambridge University announced in 2017 that exams are likely to move to computer from being handwritten, this shows the future is typed. Don’t let your child get left behind.

3. Primary age is the best time to learn

Touch-typing may seem a rather grown-up skill, but primary school kids are perfectly placed to learn. 7-11yrs is ideal, because their hands are the right size, they have the concentration span, and because they love being on the computer, they’re motivated to learn.

Touch-typing can be learnt later on, either at secondary school or in adulthood, but the later you leave it, the more bad habits you’ll have to unlearn. That’s why earlier is better.

4. It helps children with various Special Needs / Neuro-diversity

Touch typing helps children with Dyslexia, Dyspraxia/DCD, ASD/Autism and Visual Impairment. Succeeding and being able to produce written work also gives a huge boost to self esteem.

Getting the powerful cerebellum/muscle memory involved in spelling completely changes the process in the brain. Words aren’t strings of letters, they are finger movements and patterns on the keyboard.

‘Some dyslexic students find typing easier than handwriting, as the tactile element of pressing the keyboard can help with managing difficult words,’ says Linda Eastap, education manager at the British Dyslexia Association. ‘The multisensory aspect of typing can help the child with letter patterns.’

5. It’s quick to learn and fun with Englishtype

Children can master it surprisingly quickly. Using Englishtype’s unique multi-sensory program and coloured keyboard, most children can get to 30wpm in about 10 weeks, with two 10-minute practices per day. Little and often is more effective than doing one hour, once a week.

There’s a great combination of lessons, games and booster (special exercises to build the automatic skill), all while collecting trophies and gems to get Outfits to dress up your little typing companion, Qwerty the Robot.

6. Your children are unlikely to learn at school

Unlike Australia and America, where ‘keyboarding’ is taught universally, children are unlikely to be taught to touch-type at school. The Government says it’s desirable, but it’s not a compulsory part of the curriculum, so most schools don’t offer touch-typing. Englishtype is designed to be self-teaching with minimal parental input, so it’s easy for children to learn at home.

7. The future isn’t going to be “all voice control”

Ever tried dictating a letter? It’s really not easy. If you give a speech, you don’t just stand up and give it, you prepare, making notes, thinking through what you’re going to say. If you’re going to use dictation software, it takes a long time to train your brain and the computer to your voice, plus even if you master it, it’s not something you can then do in a classroom, exam room, on a train as a student, etc.
There’s been a lot of fuss about this recently with Alexa, Siri, Google – all the technology companies jumping aboard for voice activation. It’s hard enough to get your phone to make a call to the right person or play one track on your stereo, never mind dictate a few thousand words!

Going back to the science for a mo, “thought to speech and thought to script have been shown to be different processes in the brain”. So when you are engaged in writing (with a pen or a keyboard), a different part of brain is activated than when you speak. So if you’re going to learn a skill, learning dictation is just as much a new thing typing. Choose carefully!

8. Being honest, it’s not actually about using your little fingers to type P and Q!

There’s been some research going around from Norway that says you don’t need to be a touch typist to type efficiently.

But they identify the factors that make for efficient and effective keyboard use – all of which are fundamentals in touch typing and won’t get learned otherwise…
– Be accurate: you will never be fast if you aren’t accurate. Just one mistake means pressing 3 keys (minimum) instead of 1 – the wrong key, the delete key and then the right key (and that’s if you spot it immediately), so 300% slower
– Look at the screen not down at your hands, you’re faster because your attention is not divided and if you do make a mistake you spot it immediately
– Type pairs and patterns of letters successively; faster typists show different fingers moving at the same time, the second key moving down as the first key moves up and so on

The best way to learn the things they suggest is to learn to touch type – even if you don’t use your pinkie finger for Q, be consistent (ensures accuracy) that’s what matters. Most people never move past having to look down at the keyboard if they aren’t taught, the eyes stay in control of the skill, and “they will hunt & peck like electro-chickens for the rest of their life” (Prof John Sutherland again).

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