For many people, teaching typing skills sounds like a task from a bygone era. It brings up memories of old computers in secondary schools’ ICT suites, of typing classes for receptionists and of old fashioned software guiding you through which finger touches which letter. Most schools these days spend little, if any time, on teaching typing skills. Is that wrong?
At first glance, you may think there’s good reason not to spend too much time on typing skills. Some explanations I’ve heard in the past include:
- “Kids pick up that type of technology skill automatically.”
- “My pupils are using iPads at 3 years old and coding in Key Stage 2. Typing is a basic skill compared to that.”
- “There’s just no time. It’s hard enough getting them to form letters and write in cursive handwriting!”
- “What’s the point? They’ll all be using Siri or Google Assistant anyway.”
You may agree with some of those arguments, but you really shouldn’t. Typing skills are vital! Creating text is included in the ‘Creating’ element of the Framework for every single year group and the list of digital skills provided by the EAS (the consortium in the South East of Wales) includes ‘Begin to use keys to type familiar letters and numbers‘ right down in Nursery.
So why are these skills important? Well, let’s look back at those four arguments above:
“Kids pick up that type of technology skills automatically.”
They really don’t! Go and ask your school’s Year 6 teachers about typing speed in their classes. There’s a good chance they’ll tell you that asking pupils to type work is a long, frustrating process as they take ages to find each key. They may also tell you that the quality of the work typed is low compared to the quality of the same pupils’ handwritten work. That’s because they have to concentrate so much on their typing skills that they aren’t giving enough thought to the task in hand.
“My pupils are using iPads at 3 years old and coding in Key Stage 2. Typing is a basic skill compared to that.”
Whilst many of us adults see touchscreen technology and coding as advanced technology, to our pupils they can be second nature. Many of them have been brought up with an iPad by their bed (or even crib!) and therefore have years of experience in finding their favourite app or video. They simply don’t have the same experience in typing, and the only place they will gain it is through your lessons.
“There’s just no time. It’s hard enough getting them to form letters and write in cursive handwriting!”
Consider the amount of time spent on teaching writing in schools. From letter forming, to cursive handwriting to spelling. Then consider the amount of time pupils practise those skills by writing down their work in every subject. From the Nursery to Year 6, a great deal of time is devoted to learning, and practising, writing by hand. Now, don’t get me wrong here, writing by hand is a vital skill which also teaches hand/eye coordination, develops grip and many more skills that every child needs. But surely a similar amount of time needs to be devoted to typing? Consider these survey results:
- 33% of British adults have not written anything by hand in the past 6 months.
- The average British adult has not written by hand in 41 days.
Yes, writing by hand is still a vital skill for any pupil to learn. But learning to type is just as important, as typing is by far the most common way of writing in our current world.
“What’s the point? They’ll all be using Siri or Google Assistant anyway.”
Voice recognition software has been around for decades, but until a few years ago it was laughably unreliable. Recently however, with the rise of the personal assistants (Siri, Google Assistant, Alexa, Cortana) we can achieve a lot of tasks using just our voice. You can call your mother, play your favourite song or even turn on the light just by saying “Hey Siri” or “OK Google”. So surely typing is on the way out! Right? Well, probably not. Whilst only a fool would try to predict the future, there’s still little evidence that voice recognition software will fully take over from typing. Whilst it’s likely that we’ll be doing most of our web searching or media playing by voice, imagine the difficulties in writing a report or a statement by voice.
So please, start devoting some time in your class to teach typing skills. There are typing activities in the ‘Creating’ element of TwT 360’s Framework Fixer for every year group. Go for it!