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Teaching kids typing skills??

Started by Tash Jacobs 16 Sep 2014 9:11am () Replies (47)

A collegue and I were chatting recently about the debate over need to teach our students handwriting in this new fast changing digital world.  We ended up pondering and debating over the question..

Should we be teaching our students to touch type from an early age?

Since this discussion I have watched several older students typing away somewhat inefficiently with their two finger styles (which are now so embedded as to be hard to change).  

We would be really interested to know what others are thinking and doing around this topic.


  • Allanah King (View all users posts) 16 Sep 2014 9:26am ()

    I gave up teaching handwriting long ago.

    With my year fours the default was to teach legible, efficient printing. Once they could do that and transfer it to life skills in lessons apart from 'handwriting' they were to do activities on line that fostered keyboarding skills. 

    There were never enough devices to use though so that was always problematic.

  • Lisa Malones (View all users posts) 16 Sep 2014 9:43am ()

    I still believe in teaching handwriting and we do a paragraph a day.  It hit home when we received a letter, in beautiful handwriting, and the kids couldn't read it, because the letters were linked.  I still believe in teaching touch typing, of course, but I believe there will always be a place for handwriting...

  • Hamish McLean (View all users posts) 16 Sep 2014 9:43am ()

    Good discussion point Tash.

    Agree with Allanah King.  When I taught year 3 two years ago, I was supposed to be teaching handwriting but I didn't see the need so didn't.  Sure neat handwriting looks nice, but when do we actually see it... and in 5-10 years from now it will be significantly less..  I can see it being an art form a few years from now, but not highly relevant in our future society.

    When I was in 5th form..  (as it was called 18 years ago) I was the only boy in a 'typing' class.  My selection wasn't just because I wanted to be more efficiant at typing... Smile  and when I taught computer science at the same high school, the first 10 minutes of every class was on typing skills.  Hopefully this 10 minutes will be spent more effectively and typing can be part of the primary curriculum.

    Having access to devices is a problem for a lot of schools.  But from what I have heard from a lot of teachers saying that students will just learn how to type with more use on a digital device.  Just like saying give them a pen and they will learn how to write themselves.    Its more efficiant and better practice that primary students are taught which fingers to use and where the keys are.  

    Its fair to say I hated the actualy 'typing' when I was in 5th form, but it set me up for being a fast typer and being able to do it while looking at the screen, and not my fingers. 

  • Mark Maddren (View all users posts) 16 Sep 2014 9:48am ()

    I agree with Allanah, I still use writing for sticky notes and personal brainstorms so think there is a place to teach handwriting to a stage where it is legible and efficent.

     I used to only teach handwriting with my Yr 5/6 if directed from above and ended up putting a handwriting activity in as a self managed learning activity if the students needed to work on being legible.

    I foccused on keyboard skills a couple times a week for 10 minutes at a time. I must admit I have become a quick two finger typer over the years and now really enjoy siri and dragon dictation.

  • Hamish McLean (View all users posts) 16 Sep 2014 9:51am ()

    Hi Mark.  Do you mean actual handwriting or printing?

  • Mark Maddren (View all users posts) 16 Sep 2014 11:33am ()

    Handwriting with linking but could never really see the point of linking.

  • Pauline Moore (View all users posts) 16 Sep 2014 9:54am ()

    I have taught many students in high schools to touch type and, despite giving up valuable curriculum time to the project, failed to teach even more!  I had a much higher rate of take up with adult students because they could see the benefits in terms of gaining employment skills.  It takes perseverance, commitment and practise to give up "hunt and peck" style and most youngsters can't see the point when they think they are already fast on the keyboard. I used to challenge classes to a typing "dual", win every time and that convinced some it was worth sticking with it!   I concluded a "just in time" approach was best - let students (of any age) know there are excellent on line programs they can access in "downtime" or at home that will allow them to improve their keying in speed and efficiency when and if they are ready to improve.

  • Annemarie Hyde (View all users posts) 28 Sep 2014 1:15pm ()

    Agreed. The need must be owned by the learner. If you said to me, "Right Annemarie, you now need to do typing lessons," I'd get really cross. My perception is that my two finger style is fine - especially on my phone and iPad. I'm with Pauline. Imagine if we made the kids have collaboration lessons or building lessons before we let them into Minecraft? *shiver* 

  • Laurence Caltaux (View all users posts) 16 Sep 2014 10:18am ()

    Trial with some NZQA exams online this year, more next year, fully by 2018. I can see benefits if you can type for sure. Will traditional writing in the future become more of a specialist skill, like IT which companies and organisations who require "writers" will just outsource ?

  • Hamish McLean (View all users posts) 16 Sep 2014 10:26am ()

    Good point Laurence.  The more efficient the typer, the better.. not to mention having less stress in an exam environment.  Funny about oursourcing 'writers'.  Back in the day when a 'scribe' was a highly paid job, as not many people were literate.

  • Shona Poppe (View all users posts) 16 Sep 2014 12:10pm ()

    When I had Year 3/4, I rotated the children through Dancemat Typing. Each student got to do typing instead of handwriting at least once a week  during the handwriting lesson. It's a fun self pace programme (web based). This did 2 things: familiarised the children with the Qwerty keyboard and sped up their typing. I continued this with my Year 2 class and it did the same for them, but to a lesser extent.

    i would like to see this carry on through the year levels as I feel the children would end up with a worthwhile skill.

  • Tash Jacobs (View all users posts) 16 Sep 2014 12:34pm ()

    I am so excited by all the responses pouring in.  To be honest part of my motivation for posting this discussion was to illustrate to many colleagues just how valuable being part of an online community is....this discussion between merely two educators has increased to the ideas and opinions of 7 others in less than 3 hours.  Keep the ideas and opinions coming! Smile

  • Carol Johnston (View all users posts) 16 Sep 2014 2:00pm ()



    Reasons to practise handwriting - There are links to handwriting and learning spelling.... although with evolving technologies there are now many other ways of learning and practising spelling than when Charles Cripps researched this.
    I found the point about students not being able to read cursive script really interesting ... it defeats the whole purpose of the communication in the first place.
    I think there is certainly a place for practising handwriting today - we do still need to hand write some things - even if it is just a birthday card. :D

  • Hamish McLean (View all users posts) 16 Sep 2014 2:40pm ()

    My view is that communication is dynamic.  We should not hold onto forms of communication just because they are there. Otherwise we would still be using hieroglyphs to communicate.  I agree that printing has its place 'currently' but the whole purpose of handwriting was for printing to be more efficiant, faster and elegant. In the mid-1700′s, master penmen were employed to copy official documents such as land deeds, birth and marriage certificates, military commissions, and other legal documents.  They were paid a lot of money, which is why hand writing became something important to teach at schools.

    I'm 37 and find it difficult to read my grandmothers writing.  While beautiful, it take me a lot of inferring to gain the meaning.  This is most certianly not the point in communication, and why I believe its and art form.  It should be fast, effortless, and ledgable.  Digital communication is all of these things, so I believe that eventually the pen and paper will disapear like hieroglyphs.  

  • Annemarie Hyde (View all users posts) 28 Sep 2014 1:48pm ()

    I beg to differ. Paula Hogg https://mobile.twitter.com/diana_prince_ww strarted a similar discussion on Twitter, focussing on the effect on reading ability.

    That led me back here.

    I wonder if Cripps' theory is still valid, especially as you point out, with other tools we now have access to?

    I don't think there is a place for handwriting if it is "just in case". Look at the demise of telegrams and printed photos. There are more efficient ways and I'm more likely to Facebook you or text you on your birthday than post a card. Even my shopping list is on an app. While equity of access to digital tools is a issue, I can see a place, but not years of daily drills.

    I heard Russell Burt from Point England, talk about a parent meeting he had with over 80 people present. The same question was asked. He asked the group, "How many of you have good handwriting after 15 minutes a day, 5 days a week for say 7 or 8 years?" Three parents put up their hands. 

    What we don't know is what link there is between physical manipulation of the letters and reading ability. We have manipulated letters since the development of a symbolic way of expressing language. Fine motor skills are important in other areas too. 

    I look forward to seeing where this discussion is going.

  • Fiona Robertson (View all users posts) 16 Sep 2014 8:58pm ()

    I believe that  there is a time and place for handwriting. I still  do handwriting with my students as some of them still need it as they can't form letters correctly and therfore need the formal practice, where as others do not need to practice their handwriting. We also practice our typing skills usiing typing web typing tutor as this is a skill all of the students need. I have seen a greater difference in their typing skills since doing this and the children also enjoy seeing that they are getting quicker.

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