Sunday, September 23, 2007

Touch Typing.

Touch Typing.
Originally uploaded by shutterberry

I have been to post this entry for a while, but now seeing as Simon has written about typing I am going to throw my entry up there,with what we know in Redbridge so far.
We have just completed a pilot for 2Simple software using their 2Type software with a number of our schools. Like Simon, I too had picked up on the Typing expectations within the Renewed Framework, notably:
This expectation from Year 3 in the Presentation strand:

Year 3 Develop accuracy and speed when using keyboard skills to type, edit and re-draft

Prior to this children in Year 1, need to learn how to type their name and using the space bar. Regular readers of this blog, will know that I am evangelical about this skill being taught and taught well and the findings from our pilot have further helped to shape my thinking on this issue.
Before I pass on my thoughts click on the slide show below:

Our pilot involved a number of schools, with some funding from 2Simple. This gave us home versions of the software for the classes involved. The requirement was that the children worked on the software for a regular 15 minute session at home and at school, obviously showing sensitivity to those who were not able to use a PC @ home.

Our Findings:
Teaching is everything- many of the children in the year long project increased their words per minute score and overall accuracy, and we have data to prove this (see slide show). But this was in the classes where the teacher was both enthusiastic and where teachers policed the use of correct finger positioning. Simply asking the children to log on and play the games is pointless. Some teachers failed to see the point and indeed so did the children involved, however many children were enthused and excited by playing the games and they also saw the relevance of why they were learning such a crucial skill, Here are some of their comments:

“There are fun and games and it challenges you”
“I like to beat my time”
“2pop is my favourite game”
“Helps me to learn”
“I liked beating my score”
“the games are fun”
“because it is fun”
“I like to beat my time”
“it’s got fun activities”
“Helps me to write fast

Where staff where positive about 2Type, they too saw it's value as an activity that would be more than just a Primary Strategy fulfillment. After all with all the multimodal stories in Renewed literacy and the VLE requirements, we are going to need to equip children with the skills to use these tools quickly efficiently and safely.You may remember the TUC also endorsed the teaching of this skill recently, making mention of RSI. One teacher who realised the value of teaching such a skill in a structured and consistent enthusiastic environment said:

I do feel that the enthusiasm of the teacher in typing is key to achieving good progress with this programme, children need to be closely monitored and encouraged to do better. Being left with the programme is not enough.

'Structure and differentiation also helped.'

All those involved in the project, have pointed out that the typing sessions would need to form part of a coherent scheme of work. Without this children are just gaming and it would also be hard to see and report on progress. There are other primary typing applications on the market and there is of course the BBC typing dance mat. Those that I have looked at are ok, but the keyboard in such applications does not always reflect a standard keyboard. The extra keys seem to have been removed and the emphasis seems to be on completing a locked down and repetitive game of hunting for the correct key. Out of the two below, Easi Keysi is the worst as it does not make any attempt to teach correct finger positioning, while Type with Tizzy does at least try to familiarise the user with the keyboard.

2Type includes videos and specific colour coded training around posture and finger positioning, but the package is mostly a collection of games. If this were not the case then the children would simply be drilled and skilled in how to touch type. One of the reasons this project worked for us is that the children enjoyed what they were doing. This was not the digital equivalent of handwriting practise. The scoring element motivated children. They wanted to increase their score and the integrated database gave them sensitive feedback and allowed them to move on without a clown shaking it's head at them after only a short period of time!

What's more the ability to alter the settings in 2Type means it is perfect for differentiation and a level of inclusion, the speed of keys in the Tetrisy type games can be increased or decreased and there is real level of personalisation in that users/ teachers can set the class, group or pupil off on a particular row of keys or group of NLS word to work on.

The TEEM evaluationof 2Type said this:

2Type is a well presented and high quality piece of software that has been designed to familiarise children with a keyboard, encourage them to establish the correct finger positions and increase their typing speed. read more here


Two Whizzy said...

Hi Anthony, an amazing post, thanks for sharing. has certainly left me with much food for thought.

Doug said...

Would the results have been the same if other 'ideas' were used? There are a number of free ones available ... 'Sebran' and 'letter rain' would suit ...or, as you say, the good old BBC 'DanceMat'. if you are a Textease user I could send you some files that do similar things.
It is all about enthusiasms and motivation... if you want it to work it will

Anthony Evans said...

Very good point Doug.I agree that teacher motivation was the factor in the improvment and not necessarily the software. Though I am all for free packages like the BBC dance mat, wouldn't we want a pacakge that contains a varied number of applications and activities. The primary strategy implies that by Year 3 there is keyboard familiarity, therefore children could potentially be learning to type from foundation to 3 and possibly beyond.Surely they would not be using the dance mat with it's one look and feel throughout. 2type offers a range of applications from popping letters to formal dictation

However I have learned to be open minded in this role and Textease is a wonderful resource, my more senior ICT coordinators swear by it! I would be keen to see how it could contribute to the teaching of typing. Please do alospass on the links to Sebran and letter rain. Thank you for taking the time to comment Doug.

Linda Bilsborrow said...

This is timely - isn't it funny how we reach a similar point coming from different directions.
I've been working with a Y4 class and have introduced a five minute slot at the end of my sessions using DanceMat. Even with the classteacher and myself, it is difficult to ensure that all the children in this relatively small class are using the correct fingering. On the other hand even for those of us who are destined to be not much more than two finger typists - the practice is developing their familiarity with the keyboard layout.
Doug, if I can talk to you through Andrew, please can I have the Textease resource too!!!!

Anonymous said...

Although I've not had an opportunity to use the 2Simple typing program myself, conversation with colleagues leads me to believe that children find it enoyable to use. Comments also suggested that most children who used the software did not view what they were doing as learning. However, without realising it they were learning to type. Trials in two Redbridge primary schools showed that many children made noticable improvements in their typing speed / skills.

lvbailey11 said...

Year 3 pupils at my school enjoyed learning with the 2 type program in school.Some were very keen to improve their skills to type quickly and used the bbc typing program at home.

Anonymous said...

Typing skills should be taught from an early age and taught properly. Without typing skills children are at a disadvantage in this technological world. We need to skill up our children in order for them to be part of this expanding world.

Anonymous said...

I agree that children should be taught this skill correctly.

To touch type means you are taught to train your brain to type by touch that means not looking at your keys from onset.

If you are taught to touch type this uses the side of the brian that is use when acquiring the skill to ride a bike or swim.

If you are taught to type by looking at the keys first this is stored in a different part of the brian.

We really should consider the size of the keyboards whilst teaching this skills so not to cause strain on our pupils hands, which could also occur it two or three fingers are only being used to type with.

John Sutton said...

Hi Anthony, great post. Aways have been a fan of 2simple products and this looks like another killer. Agree totally that for most kids, just logging on to an online typing game and letting them play is a pointless activity. Apart from BBC Dancemat, more typing resources here:

Ben Annett said...

Great post. In my opinion typing skills are an essential component of functional literacy in the modern world.

I have tried teaching typing in my own context - SEN. Policing the childrens hand position is essential as it just doesn't feel natural at first.

What level of literacy do you feel is necessary before teaching typing skills?

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