A good typing method not only enables faster writing, it also frees up the brain’s resources for the complex mental processes that writing requires (Johansson et al., 2009). Regular practice and good typing skills therefore allow students to write better (Wideman and Owston, 2000). Furthermore, their typed texts are of a higher quality than those written by hand (Crook, 2007). Researchers recommend that students learn the correct technique as early as possible (Wichter et al., 1997), preferably through frequent 15-minute sessions over the course of more than one school year (Losier, 2002).
Typing Practice in the Teaching Program
One of the main objectives of school education is to prepare young people to take an active part in society later in life. Given the growing role of information and communication technologies (ICT) in the development of modern economies, ICT education is both valuable and necessary.
Those who lack sufficient technological skills could fall foul of the “digital divide” (Organisation de coopération et de développement économiques, 2010).
Of the various digital skills to master, typing is one of the most essential (White, 2003) and should even be part of early primary school education (Wichter et al.,1997).
Excerpts from various teaching programs show that typing is already an integral part of students’ education, leading many schools and teachers to look for an effective training program to help their students develop this essential skill.
The Perfect Time to Begin Training
The majority of students do not have access to their own computer at school, and computer lab sessions are often sporadic. Most student work at both primary and secondary level is still written by hand.
Even so, Wichter et al. (1997) argue that typing training should take place as early as possible. Researchers suggest that this training should begin before students start to use computers in a more general manner, since older students may be more reluctant to learn than their younger counterparts. Children in primary school should therefore receive typing training regardless of the intensity of their computer use.
Sooner or later, quick typing is certain to become an essential skill in schools, even at the primary level. A growing number of primary and secondary teaching establishments in North America and elsewhere are already starting to assign a computer or tablet to every student (Associated Press, 2012).
Without the proper training, some students develop an incorrect typing technique. While this does not necessarily prevent them from typing quickly (Gemmell, 2003), their typing speed will nonetheless plateau after a given point. Worse, they risk damaging their tendons in the long term. Unfortunately, once the typing rate has reached a certain level of efficiency, an incorrect typing technique becomes much more difficult to fix (Yechiam et al., 2003). It is therefore crucial to avoid bad typing habits from becoming entrenched and thus impossible to correct.
Whether students type quickly using a poor technique, or slowly with their eyes glued to the keyboard, they stand to gain from typing training from the first years of primary school onwards, no matter the frequency of their computer use. Yet the advantages of a good typing technique are not limited to writing speed, precision, and ergonomic optimization. Indeed, researchers have obtained results that point to unexpected advantages, particularly regarding the quality of written texts.
When researchers compared a group of subjects who had mastered a good typing technique with a group that had not, the first group were found—unsurprisingly—to write longer texts, and more quickly, than the second group. More striking perhaps was that the first group’s texts were also of a higher quality than those of the second group.
This is explained by the fact that a good typing technique frees up internal resources, leading to better execution of connected secondary tasks (Johansson et al., 2009). As such, reflection and creative processes are not hampered by a constant visual recourse to the keyboard.
Teachers can thus benefit from training their students to type before giving them computer-based writing projects. Not only could faster completion of the task make up for the training time, the finished text may also be of higher quality.
Once they learn to type efficiently, students who use a computer often write higher-quality texts than those who write by hand. Crook (2007) explains this difference by the cognitive load associated with handwriting which he believes impacts the composition process. In addition, using a keyboard is less intimidating and requires fewer psychomotor skills than handwriting does, especially for young children (Balajthy, 1988 and Campbell, 1973). Texts typed on the computer are also easier to write, revise, and alter than those written by hand (Gemmell, 2003).
Wilderman and Owston (2000) found that students who regularly write on a computer produce texts of a higher quality in terms of style and structure. The researchers conclude that regular use of word-processing software contributes to the qualitative improvement of students’ written work.
For Crook (2007), this underscores the importance of a good typing technique in ensuring that computer-based writing is as rapid and fluent as possible. Meanwhile for Johansson and his team (2009), automation of the typing process and the habit of continually looking at the screen mean that the brain’s resources are freed up for the more complex mental tasks involved in writing. These researchers noticed that typists who keep their eyes on the screen also re-read their own texts more frequently and edit them more.
Overall, those who keep their eyes on the screen are faster and more productive, tend to re-read their work more frequently, and are more capable of mental multitasking. Research led by Crook (2007) and published in scientific literature has established a correlation between writing speed and compositional quality of texts by children aged 7 to 9.
The importance of teaching a good typing method in schools is clear. Daily practice with Typing Pal, integrated into the teaching program, considerably improves students’ chances of mastering a good typing technique. In turn, this progressive improvement allows students to concentrate on the quality and richness of their texts. While research has already made great progress in this domain, we must continue to explore typing methods and their positive effects on learning. By doing so, will we be able to hone our teaching practices.
The Typing Pal team is always looking for new studies on this subject that will help improve its pedagogical approach. If you have any suggestions for scientific texts on the acquisition of typing techniques, please feel free to share them with us. We are committed to providing students with the best possible tool, informed by research in science and education.
- Associated Press. (November 24, 2012). California among few states clinging to pen as cursive writing is erased from curriculum. The Washington Post.
- Associated Press. (2012). Les enfants et les professeurs se détachent des lettres attachées. Journal Métro, 12(180), 28.
- Balajthy, E. (February 1988). Keyboarding, Language Arts, and the Elementary School Child. The Computing Teacher, 15(5), 40-43.
- Council of Chief State School Officers and the National Governors Association. (2010). Common Core State Standards for English Language Arts & Literacy in History/Social Studies, Science, and Technical Subjects. Council of Chief State School Officers and the National Governors Association.
- Crook, C. (2007). Does using a computer disturb the organization of children’s writing? The British Psychological Society, 25, 313-321.
- Gemmell, S. (April 2003). A Study of Keyboarding Instruction and the Acquisition of Word Processing Skills. Philadelphia, PA, USA: Chestnut Hill College.
- Johansson, R., Wengelin, A., Johansson, V., & Holmqvist, K. (2009). Looking at the keyboard or the monitor: Relationship with text production processes. Springer, 23(7), 835-851.
- Losier, H. (2002). Master’s dissertation presented to faculty of Sciences de l’éducation. Moncton.
- Organisation de coopération et de développement économiques. (2010). Are the New Millennium Learners Making the Grade? Organisation de coopération et de développement économiques, Centre pour la recherche et l'innovation dans l'enseignement, Paris.
- White, N. (November 17, 2003). Speeding up the quick brown fox; Keyboarding an essential skill for job market Repetitive strain injuries are a concern for kids. Toronto Star.
- Wichter, S., Haas, M., Canzoneri, S., & Alexander, R. (August 19, 1997). Keyboarding Skills for Middle School Students. Consulted October 11, 2012, on Alton C. Crews Middle School: http://www.crews.org/curriculum/ex/compsci/teachers/keybd-res/keyboard.html
- Wideman, H., & Owston, R. (2000). Learning with eMates in Etobicoke; Final Project Report. York University, Centre for the Study of Computers in Education.
- Yechiam, E., Erev, I., Yehene, V., & Gopher, D. (2003). Melioration and the Transition from Touch-Typing Training to Everyday Use. Human Factors, 45(4), 671-684.