When I was in school (many years ago) there wasn’t any need to learn how to touch type unless you were going into secretarial work (in fact, when picking your options in Year 9, you could choose a course that included shorthand and touch typing if you were that way inclined). How times have changed. With more and more people using a computer for all sorts of things in their everyday lives touch typing is now a skill everyone can benefit from. Yes – we all know lots of people who manage perfectly well on a computer keyboard using the one or two fingered method (wow – both hands!!!) but to overlook touch typing as a skill that we need to get children using is quite remiss. More people will need to type – so let’s make it easy for them.
There are a number of great games about that encourage keyboard skills, one of which is Keyboard Climber. It’s just a bit of fun but children seem to like it and it’s free. Also slightly addictive – I know of some grown ups who like to have a go!
Another nice activity for younger ones, this time working on structured touch typing skills, is the BBC’s Dance Mat Typing. This is set up in 4 levels, working on keyboard skills in a progressive manner. Again this is freely available and obviously aimed at children. On the downside the characters narrating certain parts can be a little annoying and the layout can be a little too busy for pupils who need a clearer layout. I’ve also noticed, when using it with pupils, that they tend to start at the beginning every time because they like the funny introductions and want to see silly bits they enjoyed seeing last time around. So, all in all. it makes typing fun but can be a little too distracting (and is a little too childish for older pupils).
If it’s a free activity you’re after and you need it to be structured a good choice with available via Doorway Online. This fantastically accessible site has options for the visually impaired, is well structured (giving percentage scores for each level so you can track progress) and has lots of options so you can choose how keys/fingers etc. are highlighted or appear on screen. Pupils can see how much progress they are making and activities aren’t timed,giving children time to respond to instructions. The other excellent activities on this site (all designed by Philip Whittaker and directly targeting those with SEN) are worth trying out too. Although they are designed for pupils with SEN they are also useful for general class use. Definitely worth a look.
If you have got a little money to spend why not visit the ever excellent 2Simple site and get your hands on 2Type. The program has a number of excellent activities – starting from very basic keyboard skills upwards – and has editable options (change the speed/timing etc). As with all 2Simple stuff this is a visual treat (yet still clearly laid out) and pupils pick up the skills quickly.
Of course there are loads more options to choose from when looking at touch typing. There are a number of great pieces of kit that require dipping into pockets. I have first hand experience of First Keys (screen shots of the latest version shown above) as I’ve used it with a number of pupils with SEN using a Big Keys LX keyboard. It’s a fabulous product and, because it’s from the people at Widgit, you’ve got PCS and Widgit Symbols if you need them. The newest version even links to Jolly Phonics and you can easily add custom word lists to encourage spelling/development of topic based vocabulary. But it’s definitely not for all – it’s accessible software aimed at use by pupils with SEN and is priced accordingly. Luckily, on the flip side, other free applications are available for you to try out: Alex Colket has kindly led me to his site The Keyboard Playground which looks extremely helpful. You should also check out Free Typing Games and 10 Finger Breakout (I find this addictive but that’s because it totally brings me back to my youth rather than focusing on typing skills). Why not try a few and see which solution suits you?