Friday, November 2, 2012

No, I Don’t Teach Typing

Takeaway: After years of the same question, I felt it was high time I answered the question, and explained my rational. No, I don't teach typing...

Every year, at least a dozen times a year, I get asked if I “teach typing.” Why do I place that in quotation marks? Because in general, when people ask, they are referring to basic keyboarding skills. Home keys and such. And no, I don’t “teach typing.” But that doesn’t mean I don’t teach students how to type. But what is more important is that I teach far more than typing. I see students once a week and in my professional opinion, with over nine years’ experience as a computer teacher, “teaching typing” is a waste of time. Time is better spent on technical skills, core technology knowledge base, and creative productivity.

What I teach is how to interact properly and efficiently with the keyboard (and mouse, and software, and the Internet....).  How is that different than keyboarding and home keys? Well, my question to the people who ask is usually “did you learn traditional keyboarding?” and the answer is usually “no”. I then follow up with “do you know how interact efficiently with your keyboard?” to which they always answer, “yes.” I took a typing class in high school, and it did nothing to help my typing skills. What helped me was to type - a lot - and to find my own way around the keyboard so I could develop the most efficient method for myself.

But isn’t teaching typing the most efficient way to type? No.  For a few reasons...
  • the traditional QWERTY keyboard isn’t the only game in town
  • mobile devices are taking over as the dominant computing platform, and those keyboards don’t always support traditional “homekey” style of typing.  Letters are the same, but there aren’t always double-Shift keys, punctuation is often hidden or on a different keyboard, or accessed through a secondary action, etc.
  • T9 anyone?
  • ever use a Samsung Galaxy Tab? With the Swype method of entering text? Throws the homekey style right out the window
  • ever watch a teenager text? all thumbs, literally, and usually faster than the fastest homekey touch typer out there (LOLs and BRBs aside, they’re still usually pretty impressive thumb typists)

Well, then, if I don’t “teach typing,” what do I do? As I stated I only see students once a week, for what amounts to forty-five minutes when factoring in bells and line-up. In that time we cover the basics of the keyboard. I stress proper posture. Two hands on the keyboard at all times. I don’t care if a student uses just one finger from each hand, as long as the student uses both hands. And we type. And type. And type some more. My mandatory high school typing class did nothing for my typing skills. In college I had to write upwards of one hundred pages a week. That volume is what helped me gain the speed and keyboard awareness I have today. Can I type this fast on an iPad? Not yet. Do I currently type more on an iPad then a computer? Yes. I have no doubt my iOS keyboard skills will soon match my traditional ability.

But what I do teach is far more than typing. To me typing is data entry. What comes after the typing is far more important. I teach students to edit and revise, looking for and fixing errors in spelling and grammar. I don’t allow the use of spell-check. We format, changing font styles, sizes, and colors to achieve the look the students want. We search the Internet for appropriate research information and images related to the writing. They take notes and create research-based work, download images and add them to their documents. In fact, we’re not always using documents. Some of the work is done in PowerPoint or Keynote, with full animations & transitions, or on my class blog.

What I teach goes far beyond typing. I am a computer teacher. A technology teacher. I am not a typing teacher. And in my ten years I am confident students leave my computer lab far more knowledgeable about proper and efficient use of technology than when they arrived.

To me that is far more important than “teaching typing.”


  1. I do teach my G5 students to touch type, and that equates to anywhere between a 30 and 100+% speed increase over those students from classes that do not.

    In our school, almost all work-assignments, assessments, activities, are done on laptops.
    Think about the implications of the typing speed in that scenario.

    If I was you, and only had them for such a limited time, I wouldn't teach touch typing either. But that's a matter of priorities, not because something isn't important.

    1. Phillip,
      Thanks for the reply.

      In a 1:1 laptop scenario I can see the value in typing as an activity. The access to technology in your setting is constant so using a portion of the day/week to teach typing isn't a bad idea. My thinking definitely comes from the opposite of a 1:1 scenario, one in which actual tech time is severely limited.

      Now, here's a question...
      ... you are a 1:1 laptop school. What are your thoughts about 1:1 iPad situation? Traditional typing skills don't exactly transfer to the iOS keyboard. Would you still teach keyboarding if you had only iPads (and no external keyboards)?

      Thanks again for the reply, I appreciate the feedback.