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The Case For Mandatory Touch-Typing In High School

kdawson posted about 5 years ago | from the quick-brown-fox dept.

Education 705

Hugh Pickens writes "With the perspective of forty-plus years since my graduation, I would say the single most useful course I took in high school was a business class in touch-typing that gave me a head start for writing and with computers that I have benefited from my entire life. So it was with particular interest that I read Gordon Rayner's essay in the Telegraph proposing that schools add a mandatory course in touch typing to the cornerstones of education: reading, writing and arithmetic. 'Regardless of the career a child takes up when they leave school, a high percentage of them will use a keyboard in their daily work, and all of them are likely to use a keyboard in their leisure time,' writes Rayner. 'Touch-typing would help every child throughout their lives — so why are our schools so blind to this?'"

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Schools dont change (1)

Anonymous Coward | about 5 years ago | (#29347681)

I'm pretty sure because its change, schools don't like change, change is hard, it means more work, teachers already have enough work to do, lets go shopping.

Re:Schools dont change (4, Insightful)

incognito84 (903401) | about 5 years ago | (#29347711)

Touch-typing is a drop in the bucket.

First, we'd have to begin to get rid of the lecture method with all it's crotchety old proponents who over-emphasize the main learning stream while under-emphasizing the alternatives.

Then we'd have to rebuild education metholodogy to suit the 21st century. I'd say we're a few generations behind.

Re:Schools dont change (4, Interesting)

cp.tar (871488) | about 5 years ago | (#29347925)

Touch-typing is a drop in the bucket. First, we'd have to begin to get rid of the lecture method with all it's crotchety old proponents who over-emphasize the main learning stream while under-emphasizing the alternatives. Then we'd have to rebuild education metholodogy to suit the 21st century. I'd say we're a few generations behind.

When you take a better look at it, our education system has just been adding more of the same. My grandmother took four years of obligatory education (this was in Yugoslavia, now Croatia; YGMMMV). My parents and I took eight years of primary school. The current government, may it burn in seven hells, wants to make the first twelve years of education obligatory.
The worst part is that the second four years of education are rather alike the first four, albeit with several new subjects, i.e. some old subjects diverging into several new ones. To top it all, the four years of current secondary education are just a rehash of the second four years of primary education.

The system's efficiency is dropping steadily and steeply; teachers are out of touch with current technologies, and those who train teachers are even worse. The school system has increasingly less connection to both the real world and to its basic purpose, i.e. teaching. Instead, schools' primary purpose is becoming something quite different: keep the children trapped in the system, and keep young people at children's level for as long as possible.

Touch typing would be a giant step forward in any education system since a primary skill would be taught. However, I abhor the idea of such a skill being graded, as it usually happens with anything taught in schools.

BTW curious tidbit just crossed my mind: instead of teaching touch typing, Croatian schools recently reintroduced calligraphy. Instead of learning normal cursive script (joined-up writing), first-graders are taught old-style calligraphy. The fact that practically no-one uses a pen these days seems to have escaped the 19th century educators.
Bloody morons.

Re:Schools dont change (5, Insightful)

Fred_A (10934) | about 5 years ago | (#29348127)

Touch-typing is a drop in the bucket.

Agreed. Since most people can't write, there's no point in having them touch type.

Re:Schools dont change (1)

jesset77 (759149) | about 5 years ago | (#29347757)

I taught myself to type, from the age of 4, and I do not (repeat do NOT) use the "home keys".

Result: 65wpm, and I've been typing for many hours a day for decades with NO TRACE of carpel tunnel.

thus, not really a fan of the party line typing techniques, and I hope my children never learn those.

Besides: "high school"? What the hell? Like kids won't have tons of typing experience by then?

Better idea still: adults teaching classes where kids can learn to text.</haha>

Re:Schools dont change (5, Funny)

BadAnalogyGuy (945258) | about 5 years ago | (#29347855)

I do not (repeat do NOT) use the "home keys"

I can understand getting away with not using the ';', but this post itself contains all the home keys.

You must be some kind of savant.

Re:Schools dont change (2)

causality (777677) | about 5 years ago | (#29347935)

I do not (repeat do NOT) use the "home keys"

I can understand getting away with not using the ';', but this post itself contains all the home keys.

You must be some kind of savant.

Maybe he's holding down ALT while using the numeric keypad to input ASCII/ANSI codes?

Re:Schools dont change (1)

esper (11644) | about 5 years ago | (#29347987)

I didn't start using keyboards seriously until I was 8 (I had played with my mom's typewriter before that, but doubt I picked up any real speed there) and my experiences are much the same as yours. I spent a few years doing temp work after college and consistently tested in the upper-60s wpm on their tests, occasionally getting astonished comments from the temp agency's workers that I'd completed the test so quickly and with so few errors.

Also like you, I spend many hours a day on a keyboard and have never shown any signs of RSI or similar issues. I'm not sure I would entirely attribute that to the non-"standard" typing technique, though - I expect that my tendency to do everything by keyboard and rarely reaching for the mouse contributes as well.

"Proper" typing technique is highly, highly overrated.

Re:Schools dont change (1)

JordanL (886154) | about 5 years ago | (#29347815)

Where I live touch-typing has been a mandatory 6th-8th grade class for about 15 years.

Re:Schools dont change (1)

Opportunist (166417) | about 5 years ago | (#29348125)

Same. And I know no business or technical oriented school here that doesn't teach at least 2 years of typing. It may be different for trade schools.

Re:Schools dont change (2, Insightful)

Opportunist (166417) | about 5 years ago | (#29347917)

I was about to write this. It wasn't in the curriculum 30 years ago, so it is not needed. Oh, sure, we caught up and teach now the Vietnam war in history (not instead of other junk but on top of it), but new courses? Get real. We're glad if we don't drop courses because the budget gets cut away again and again.

Besides, how much typing skill do those dropouts need to carry a gun around?

Re:Schools dont change (3, Insightful)

advocate_one (662832) | about 5 years ago | (#29348065)

Besides, how much typing skill do those dropouts need to carry a gun around?

the last thing you want in the front line is to be on the receiving end of a "typo" when someone has keyed the wrong coordinates in for an artillery mission or airstrike...

Re:Schools dont change (2, Interesting)

Hadlock (143607) | about 5 years ago | (#29347927)

Most people learn to touch type by age 12. If you don't figure it out by age 18 then it's pretty likely you won't ever need that skill. Driving lessons aren't mandatory, but people who need it learn how to drive anyways. I'm sorry, but this is probably one of the dumbest slashdot articles I've ever seen.

That's not really the issue here. (4, Funny)

Useful Wheat (1488675) | about 5 years ago | (#29347697)

Say goodbye evolution/creation debate. Say hello keyboard layout wars.

I won't have you teaching my children DVORAK, you left wing hippie! If QWERTY was good enough for our founding fathers, its good enough for us!

Re:That's not really the issue here. (0)

sofar (317980) | about 5 years ago | (#29347823)


I can't touch type yet everyone using a Linux kernel uses code I typed. I can't write the way it was required to in schools a hudred years ago yet I can write a letter manually and it's readable. Forcing everyone to learn touch typing is wrong, just learn people how to type and let them optionally improve their skills.

Who cares how you tie your shoelaces if you don't fall flat on your face every three steps?

Re:That's not really the issue here. (1)

Opportunist (166417) | about 5 years ago | (#29347949)


Ok, this isn't so much an issue when coding. Hell, ever tried to write C-Code on a German keyboard layout? The brackets you need the most are on Alt-7 and Alt-0. But hardly everyone who comes out of a school will end up writing code. Most will be writing memos, emails, offers, requests and so on. And while I do agree that slowing that flood of junk down would in general help the productivity of most offices, ... umm...

You're right!

Re:That's not really the issue here. (1)

aaarrrgggh (9205) | about 5 years ago | (#29347999)

They aren't talking about mandatory 60wpm in order to graduate, but at least push the class on people. I praise Buddha that I didn't learn my dad's way of touch typing, with his "home row" being AWEF JIO;.

It is extremely useful for separating the mechanical task of documenting your thoughts. Most people (seem to) need reinforcement of looking at their words to continue processing thoughts. Dictation requires repetition to be effective.

Re:That's not really the issue here. (4, Insightful)

EdIII (1114411) | about 5 years ago | (#29347837)

That's not even the issue.

Children will be typing before they can even understand what evolution is or who Jesus is.

High School? Are they kidding? That's like trying to have mandatory sex education classes for 35 year old people. Maybe useful on /. but hardly far too late for the rest of the world.

Typing is merely an interface to some sort of computerized system. Children learn surprisingly quickly. The other day I saw a 4 year old girl log into a Vista machine, start Firefox, and then *TYPE* the address for some website so she could play a game.

Holy shit. Maybe she was exceptional, I don't know since I am not around kids that often. But, if 4 year old girls are doing it right now, then kids should already be typing experts by high school.

Re:That's not really the issue here. (1)

Opportunist (166417) | about 5 years ago | (#29347965)

Most kids I know are. But only when it comes to writing text messages on cellphones.

Maybe that's the keyboard of the future. Hell, they outmatch me (and I can get to over 300 a minute on a well working keyboard) when using one of those cells with an auto-completing dictionary.

Re:That's not really the issue here. (1, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | about 5 years ago | (#29348053)

Not that different from a 4 year old loading and running a c64-game :)

Re:That's not really the issue here. (1)

Mozk (844858) | about 5 years ago | (#29347919)

My school taught typing with "Quick Ask Zoey What Stops X-rays", etc., which is clearly the best way to do it. With Dvorak, that becomes "'A;,OQ", and what the hell is that supposed to mean?

Re:That's not really the issue here. (-1, Flamebait)

rtb61 (674572) | about 5 years ago | (#29348087)

Regardless still teaching qwerty for qwerty keyboards is long since well past being stupid. The real reason it hasn't changed, the honest to god true reason it hasn't changed, male dominated societies and bosses fucking their secretarys, really lame isn't it. Here we decades after the reason for qwerty [] jamming type bars on 19th century typewriters, because secretaries are to lazy to change and they can manipulate the boss with a good BJ.

At the very least all primary and secondary grade smartbooks (netbooks have become so declasse) should be alphabetic by default and the nonsense can be put to bed and not a bed involving a boss and his errant penis or (to cheer up crazy republicans) meandering cigars.

Re:That's not really the issue here. (1)

twitchingbug (701187) | about 5 years ago | (#29347921)

Being somewhat serious here, there will be no keyboard layout war. QWERTY has won the day as the defacto standard. I know there are a few people who will cling to claims of DVORAK being better/faster and they may be right, but the energy/economics/brainshare required to overcome QWERTY as a standard is enormous, and it won't happen.

I think there's more chance of the US changing to the metric system than DVORAK seriously contending against QWERTY.

Re:That's not really the issue here. (1)

bkpark (1253468) | about 5 years ago | (#29348059)

I won't have you teaching my children DVORAK, you left wing hippie! If QWERTY was good enough for our founding fathers, its good enough for us!

Hey, touch-typing is more of a basic motor skill, not specific set of finger-memory attained, like Newtonian mechanics is more about learning the "right" way to think about science, not teaching actually correct science, which would be quantum mechanics, as far as we know.

Besides, all the modern operating systems let you set your own keyboard layout. I've used Dvorak (BTW, "Dvorak", unlike "QWERTY", is an actual proper name (i.e. last name of the guy who invented it), so it's not supposed to be all caps unless you are yelling for Dvorak) layout on school computers before, even though QWERTY, or as some call it, "US" layout is default on the computers.

As far as teaching goes, you still place your fingers on the home row when you type on Dvorak, as well as when you type on QWERTY. It's just more useful to do that when you type on Dvorak.

IT Industry (3, Interesting)

Rophuine (946411) | about 5 years ago | (#29347701)

I'm a software engineer, and I get to work daily with some people who never learned to touch-type. It would be a nice bonus to productivity if everyone around me could; not ground-breaking, but nice. I think, by and large, by the time people hit the workforce, their typing habits are pretty unlikely to change without some major effort. Is even high school too late? Most kids are regularly using computers right through primary school. I think learning to type is a responsibility shared by parents and primary schools these days.

Re:IT Industry (4, Insightful)

AuMatar (183847) | about 5 years ago | (#29347761)

I'm a software engineer who can't touch type. And I can honestly say that learning wouldn't increase my productivity in any measurable way. I don't spend a majority of my day typing. For every minute spent typing I spend at least 15 thinking, debugging, etc. Even giving it a 25% increase (which is more than it's likely to be) would be negligible.

On top of that touch typing just isn't comfortable for many people. I tried learning back in school. Hurt my wrists horribly to try to type like that. I'm pretty sure that touch typing position is the reason so many people get carpal tunnel. What is useful is learning the layout of the keyboard so you don't have to hunt and peck, but actually touch typing and returning to home row after every keypress is horribly overrated.

Re:IT Industry (0, Troll)

BadAnalogyGuy (945258) | about 5 years ago | (#29347793)

I'm a software engineer who can't touch type. And I can honestly say that learning wouldn't increase my productivity in any measurable way. I don't spend a majority of my day typing. For every minute spent typing I spend at least 15 thinking, debugging, etc.

Maybe you suck at software engineering. That's a possibility.

There are those of us whose code is pristine and perfect the moment if flows from our brain cells down to our fingers and into the computer. Thinking takes 15 times longer than doing? I hope someone else makes the decision where and what you eat for lunch everyday. Debugging? Maybe you need to spend a little more time thinking if your code still has bugs when you finally type it in to the computer.

Re:IT Industry (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 5 years ago | (#29347841)

Anyone who says their code is perfect the moment it leaves their brain is laughable.

Re:IT Industry (1)

AuMatar (183847) | about 5 years ago | (#29347985)

Yes, thinking easily takes 15x the time of doing it. First you design a piece of code (which may include typing up a design document, or may not depending on the size of the project). There's research if it's non-trivial. I do a lot of cross OS porting to proprietary OSes, so I'm frequently reading docs to find the functionality I need and to make sure the corner cases match up to the way our core code thinks it will, or thinking up ways to make the corner cases work if they don't natively. When the code is written I'm going to test it. Test case failures will be debugged, which may require multiple passes of similar code, or may require use of an interactive debugger. In either case I'm once again thinking to figure out what the mistake is. And of course when writing I'm thinking about the best way to structure the code and if the code is clean enough and commented enough. This of course ignores intra-team communication and meetings. Typing is a relatively small portion of my day.

Re:IT Industry (1)

psm321 (450181) | about 5 years ago | (#29347863)

Exactly. Typing was a required class for me in middle school and I'm sure I barely passed. I can type pretty fast, probably not as fast as some, but really, I can type as fast as I think so who cares? Hasn't hurt me in software development at all. (I have a weird peck method where I use about 4 fingers total. I have muscle memory of where all the keys are, but probably couldn't tell you most if asked. I usually look at the keyboard while typing but sometimes catch myself not looking.)

Re:IT Industry (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 5 years ago | (#29347865)

If i found out i hired any kind of software ANYTHING who couldn't touch type. I'd fire them so fast..... And have no fear of a lawsuit over it.

That's like a basic skill now. Especially anywhere in the IT industry.

And anyone who has gotten to the IT workforce with out learning it. Yeah. You're a failure. That's like not being able to add and subtract it's so basic anymore.

And here you're proud of it. That's just fucking sad. Proud you never learned a basic skill and have to watch the keyboard to type anything useful. Dude.... SAD!

And you really believe not knowing how to touch type does not slow you down. Wow. Sad and stupid.

Re:IT Industry (2, Funny)

MrMr (219533) | about 5 years ago | (#29348105)

You hire people for your mom's basement?

Re:IT Industry (1)

Rophuine (946411) | about 5 years ago | (#29347869)

I disagree with the lack of quantifiable benefit. Let's say you only spend 1 minute in 30 typing, and are able to cut 15 seconds off that minute by being a good touch typist. At the end of an 8-hour cycle, you've saved 4 minutes. That's an extra 20 minutes a week, which is like... ah screw it, we're reading slashdot, we're not THAT concerned with productivity.

My real worry is that touch typing hurt. That's more likely to be a problem with keyboard positioning and wrist alignment than typing style. I've been touch typing since I was about 15, and now I spend several hours a day typing (I enjoy recreational writing after hours). Well over a decade of heavy touch-typing has failed to produce any sort of pain. Admittedly I'm only one data point, so my opinion is really pretty useless.

Re:IT Industry (1)

AuMatar (183847) | about 5 years ago | (#29348019)

I may have genetics against me- my father did have carpal tunnel, bad enough to have surgery in the 80s. Which didn't well, but that's another story. My current method of typing (which tends to use 4 fingers and no home row return) gets me above 50 wpm when I'm trying, a little less if I'm stalling as I think of how to word something. So I'm happy with how it is. If I really wanted to improve my productivity (I don't really care to at the moment) there's far larger targets.

Re:IT Industry (5, Insightful)

Mr Z (6791) | about 5 years ago | (#29347957)

I find people who type faster are more likely to document their work because it takes less time to do so. After all, you've spent all that time thinking, what is it to write a half page summary of what that new module does and why it does it, and why it does it the way it does it? If you're hunting and pecking, it could take you longer to write the summary than it did to think of the code. If you can touch type (or at the very least type faster than 40-50WPM by whatever means), then it's no real burden. After all, if you're spending that much time thinking about your work, then you've already worked out pretty much everything you need to say.

I type 80-90WPM from copy myself, thanks to having taking a touch typing course. Granted, I don't follow 100% proper classroom technique, but I do pretty well. Before that, I was a four-finger typer that did pretty good. I managed 35WPM from copy on my first typing test when I started my touch typing course. That was hard won from typing BASIC programs on my TI home computer as well as any other 80s machine I could get time on.

I enjoy the freedom that touch typing gives me. In the same amount of time I can write much clearer and more complete documentation, clearer, more complete emails, and generally get communication done with and out of the way much more fluidly. I can type almost as fast as I can think. When I was pecking away at 35WPM, I was thinking way faster than I wrote, and so I wrote only the minimum, and ended up with cryptic crud.


Meanwhile, Back in Reality... (4, Insightful)

LKM (227954) | about 5 years ago | (#29348081)

I'm a software engineer who can't touch type. And I can honestly say that learning wouldn't increase my productivity in any measurable way.

I'm a software engineer who can touch type. And I can honestly say that not knowing how to touch type would decrease my productivity in a measurable way.

That's anecdotal evidence, by the way.

Let's look at the larger picture here. You're correct that the "typing" part only makes up part of what a software engineer does. I'd say about 25-50% of my time is spent typing (not only code, also documentation, e-mails, blog posts on the internal company blog, wiki updates, etc.). Wikipedia says:

An average professional typist reaches 50 to 70 wpm, while some positions can require 80 to 95 (usually the minimum required for dispatch positions and other time-sensitive typing jobs), and some advanced typists work at speeds above 120.
Two-finger typists, sometimes also referred to as "hunt and peck" typists, commonly reach sustained speeds of about 37 wpm for memorized text, and 27 wpm when copying text but in bursts may be able to reach up to 60 to 70 wpm.

So let's say it's 60 wpm for touch typing (I know I'm quite a bit faster than that, but we want to go with averages) and 37 wpm for two-finger typing.

So, considering all this data: We probably spend about a third of our work time typing, and touch typing is on average roughly 1.6 times as fast as two-finger typing. For an 8-hour work day, that results in 2.7 hours of typing, of which roughly one hour is "wasted" for two-finger typers.

I'd say one hour each day is a measurable increase (or decrease) in productivity.

On top of that touch typing just isn't comfortable for many people.

Then many people learned it wrongly.

Hurt my wrists horribly to try to type like that.

Then your position is incorrect. You really should have learned how to touch type properly :-)

Re:IT Industry (4, Insightful)

PitaBred (632671) | about 5 years ago | (#29348101)

Touch typing is just being able to type without looking at the keyboard. If you don't use the "standard" techniques, that's fine. But being able to put thoughts down with the keyboard quickly is essential when writing. Rather than focusing on HOW you're writing, you're able to focus on WHAT you're writing. I'm all for having children just have a minimum "40wpm" limit or something like that.

Re:IT Industry (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 5 years ago | (#29347769)

I learned to type properly in high school. I had no friends (I guess I was already a geek) and just sat in the computer room every day over lunch for 3 or 4 months and went through a whole "learn to type fast" type software.

So, no, I would say high school is not too late. Granted I might have been more motivated than most.

Would it help them to type fast enough (1)

webreaper (1313213) | about 5 years ago | (#29347705) be first?

Re:Would it help them to type fast enough (0, Offtopic)

webreaper (1313213) | about 5 years ago | (#29347709)

Or not. Bah. ;)

It shouldn't be about speed (1)

brentonboy (1067468) | about 5 years ago | (#29347877)

My high school required everyone to type at least 45 WPM in order to graduate. I did this very well... using the hunt and peck method!!

I spent the entire summer before college agonizingly unlearning the wrong muscle memory and learning correct touch-typing. One of the hardest and most stressful things I've ever done. After that my WPM was at like 35, but with time that has grown to the 80WPM I work at now.

Needless to say, the requirement shouldn't be a set WPM, but the ability to touch type without looking a certain range of characters (say upper and lowercase alpha plus the common punctuation). Once this foundation is set, speed will increase proportionally to the amount that the person uses a computer.

If you need it, you'll know it (4, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | about 5 years ago | (#29347717)

I had mandatory touch-typing in middle school (6th-8th grades) and it was worthless. I didn't learn a thing - I typed slowly and uncomfortably.

Then one day, I decided I wanted to learn to program computers. I taught myself C, and halfway through the project discovered that I had become a pretty good touch typist. Typing is a skill like riding a bike - you'll learn it by doing it. Forcing it on kids (who would rather be taking another, more meaningful course but can't because their schedule is full of crap) is only going to make them resent it.

Just because something is valuable doesn't mean public education has to teach it. As I student, I can say that the room in our schedules is finite, and if it's both useful and easy (like typing) we'll get it on our own, we don't need it taking up scarce time slots.

Re:If you need it, you'll know it (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 5 years ago | (#29347977)

Typing is a skill like riding a bike - you'll learn it by doing it.

you and i perhaps, but it seems like plenty of older folk I interact with who have jobs entering customer details into computers (tellers at banks etc) do the two finger hunt and peck. some people really do need that shit rammed down their throat because they are too lazy/stupid to learn it any other way, even when it's a skill they use all day, 5 days a week. i guess they're just so stimulated by their job that they cant possibly fit learning to use their keyboard into their day.

Re:If you need it, you'll know it (4, Insightful)

Max Romantschuk (132276) | about 5 years ago | (#29348027)

I've been working with computers over ten years now, and playing with them since elementary school. I'm a programmer by trade, and I don't touch type.

Sure, I don't at the keyboard, but my typing technique could be way better. I'm using two-three fingers per hand, plus thumbs.

I've been trying to use the exellent Klavaro ( [] ) to improve my skill, there has been some progress but nothing huge. I can't be bothered quite enough.

I for one would have been grateful to have been force-fed the basics all those years back. I'm not saying it's the only option, I type fairly fast, but it's hard to unlearn all that muscle memory and use all fingers even if I'd want to.

Re:If you need it, you'll know it (1)

PitaBred (632671) | about 5 years ago | (#29348115)

My best advice is to just try to do a "brain dump" into Notepad. Try to type out everything you're thinking about some subject as quickly as possible. You'll find your optimal technique when you can type all the words without having to look at the keyboard or think about where all the letters are

Re:If you need it, you'll know it (1)

QuantumG (50515) | about 5 years ago | (#29348119)

Do you look at the keyboard? No? Then you're touch typing.

"Homerow" is bad, don't learn it, don't do it. Your thumbs should be on the space bar and your fingers should *reach* for the keys.. until you need a key you shouldn't be placing your fingers, they should hover freely where-ever they are most comfortable.

Proper Touch Typing (2, Interesting)

LKM (227954) | about 5 years ago | (#29348099)

Proper touch typing is important; improper touch typing (wrong hand position, using the wrong shift key for capitals, etc) can cause physical harm to your hands and wrists. Thus I would say that it is important for children to learn how to touch type properly, even if they only get to really use it at a later date.

That would be a disaster! (2, Funny)

Anonymous Coward | about 5 years ago | (#29347731)

Think about how much it would hurt their texting speed to have to work on a layout as large as a full-sized keyboard.

I don't type very fast. (5, Funny)

Supurcell (834022) | about 5 years ago | (#29347733)

I don't type very fast, but I also don't really have anything too interesting to say.

Re:I don't type very fast. (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 5 years ago | (#29347991)

And yet you took the time to tell us so. We should feel honored!

Can you type typing pool? (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 5 years ago | (#29347737)

Why schools ignore it? Because it's vocation education.

Touch typing is irrelevant (3, Insightful)

LostMyBeaver (1226054) | about 5 years ago | (#29347739)

Typing speed is what matters. I've never taken a single touch typing class, and with the exception of knowing what the two notches on the F and J keys are there for, I have little idea of what finger is for what key. The result? I type at 90+ words per minute and have extremely high accuracy.

Touch typing classes were MUCH more relevant in the days when correction tape was used and it meant that important papers would have to be completely retyped when there was a mistake. Alternately, it was important when correction tape or white out was actually a major office expense. Both of these issues are entirely irrelevant today.

If you want to push for something, how about hand writing classes since there are massive numbers of people that after leaving high school use a pen or pencil for little more than writing their names or doodling a picture on their notepad during a meeting. Penmanship is at an all-time low. Boys who were classically bad writers to begin with are probably unlikely to be able to read their own writing anymore. Girls are the new boys, their handwriting is deplorable as well now.

An even better idea, how about mandatory short-hand classes so that when people do not have computers available to them (for example in meetings) will be able to write in some for or another that allows them to take accurate notes and still read it afterwards when they're back in front of their computers. It's been around since the days of Caesar, believed to have been invented by Cicero's manservant Marcus Tullius Tiro and yet, while being a most efficient form of writing is still barely used outside of court rooms.

People who need to learn to type will learn on their own. On top of that, it's rare that you encounter a high school student these days that can't manage at least 30 words per minute. Their greatest flaw is no longer in typing speed, but the fact that even with a spell checker, they can't spell for shit. Let's not forget that spell checkers don't cover things like They're Their and There.

Re:Touch typing is irrelevant (1)

TeXMaster (593524) | about 5 years ago | (#29347787)

Typing speed is what matters. I've never taken a single touch typing class, and with the exception of knowing what the two notches on the F and J keys are there for, I have little idea of what finger is for what key. The result? I type at 90+ words per minute and have extremely high accuracy.

I had no idea what the notches on the F and J keys were for, but now that you mentioned them in this context they make perfect sense. Thanks.

Re:Touch typing is irrelevant (3, Insightful)

Technician (215283) | about 5 years ago | (#29347923)

In the 1970's I took a typing class before the PC was invented and on the market. Computers were on the way, but just a novelty in the hobby market. The class was filled with typewriters with all blank keys. You touch type or else. This was great as it started me typing without looking at the keys. I very quickly learned to find the keys with the notches. Correction tape was a pain.

The biggest problem now is not QWERTY vs Dorvak, it's the layout of the rest of the keys. This is highly non-standard. Using multiple keyboards as I move about home and factory, the delete and escapse keys are located everywhere from top left to the key cluster between the numeric pad to in the numeric pad to stuffed down by the Windows key on either side. In short, they could be anywhere except in the middle of the regular typing keys.

My favorite keyboard overall is the old IBM klacky keyboard without the Windows key. It's one of the few keyboards that doesn't have a sticky spacebar. Way too many keyboards have a wide space bar that won't press down unless you hit it directly in the middle. Having to go back and insert missing spaces cuts typing speed.

Re:Touch typing is irrelevant (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 5 years ago | (#29347881)

Wow, "girls are the new boys", I really wish I hadn't heard that from my ex too...

Re:Touch typing is irrelevant (1)

Opportunist (166417) | about 5 years ago | (#29348005)

I still had mandatory shorthand courses (yes, I'm THAT old!). It didn't do much for me. Even during my university time, I usually either had a computer with me (and my typing skill beats my shorthand any time) or there wasn't much to be written.

Kids these days would probably just replace it with cells and text their notes. I've seen them text. Some of them can probably outmatch a court stenographer.

Re:Touch typing is irrelevant (5, Insightful)

jimicus (737525) | about 5 years ago | (#29348035)

You'd be surprised. Touch-typing doesn't just teach "how to type fast and accurately", it also teaches "how to type with minimum strain on your hands/wrists".

If this hasn't affected you, you're lucky. If this has, you know exactly what I mean.

Agreed, but already almost too late to matter (1)

Alan R Light (1277886) | about 5 years ago | (#29347743)

On the one hand, I absolutely agree with the author. I graduated from high school in 1988, and within 5 years I had recognized that the single most important course I took was a half-semester of typing. (Naturally, other subjects - taken as a whole - were more important.)

However, while students today would still be well-served to learn how to type, the technologies are now being developed which will eventually allow even faster data manipulation with direct mind interfaces that will make keyboards appear, as Scotty in Star Trek IV put it, "quaint". Intelligent students of education have long understood that by the time an educational institution understands the importance of new information, it has already been superseded - so I expect typing classes will become mandatory just about the time that the mainstream has forgotten about keyboards entirely.

Re:Agreed, but already almost too late to matter (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 5 years ago | (#29347839)

It's my understanding that this "direct mind interface" equipment will debut alongside Duke Nukem Forever.

Re:Agreed, but already almost too late to matter (1)

sofar (317980) | about 5 years ago | (#29347847)

and within 5 years I had recognized that the single most important course I took was a half-semester of typing

seriously, your school must have sucked.

Equal time (5, Funny)

has2k1 (787264) | about 5 years ago | (#29347745)

As chairman of the Hunt-And-Peck Association of Typists (HPAT), I demand equal representation in the class room.

I hear they're a pain in the... (1)

Qubit (100461) | about 5 years ago | (#29348123)

Okay, okay, we'll give you a seat at the table...keyboard...whatever. Just don't invite the ASSociation of Hunt And Typers School, whatever you do.

They don't do that already? (5, Insightful)

mepperpint (790350) | about 5 years ago | (#29347751)

When I was in elementary school, we went to the computer lab a couple days a week and were forced to use the PAWS typing tutor software on the Apple IIe. Is it really that case that there are still schools that don't teach this? Also, based on my experience, I don't think we should wait until high school to teach people to type. Elementary school seems like the right place, as children are learning to read and write, why not learn to type too?

Re:They don't do that already? (1)

vxvxvxvx (745287) | about 5 years ago | (#29347845)

I sure thought they did. I know when I was in highschool in the 90's my school had only two computer classes. One was "web design" (code for "how to use microsoft front page"), and the other was "keyboarding". Now, you could take a test to get a waiver out of keyboarding but otherwise it was required. To pass the test you had to do at least 30wpm.

DVORAK? (2, Interesting)

pipatron (966506) | about 5 years ago | (#29347753)

So now is the chance to get people to start using DVORAK or maybe something even better (maybe there's been more research on this the last decades). Personally I still use QWERTY but that's just because of 20+ years of being used to it. Would be nice with a thought-through layout as standard.

Re:DVORAK? (2, Insightful)

El_Muerte_TDS (592157) | about 5 years ago | (#29347911)

I don't see the need for DVORAK. Sure, you might be able to type faster in case you are writing plain English. But that's not very useful to me, because I'm either programming (which isn't plain english) or typing Dutch or English. Adopting DVORAK doesn't benefit my any more or less than QWERTY. (Well, maybe less because certain keys I often use in programming are now on harder to reach locations).

Anyway... DVORAK seems to focus on people writing more text. But instead people should write less text with a higher quality.

Typing is the new cursive (1)

mark0 (750639) | about 5 years ago | (#29347759)

I never thought I'd be typing for a living. I thank a brief encounter with a VAX 11/780 for inspiring me to take a typing class in HS sophomore year. That said, Just require them to use a keyboard... no need to teach typing. They'll figure it out -- just ask their Xbox

ARE they blind? (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 5 years ago | (#29347765)

I had to take typing in High School (91-95 on electric typewriters). I didn't realize that curriculum had been dropped. Has it? Is this even an issue?

why should this be learned in school? (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 5 years ago | (#29347775)

I thought kids learned to do this on their own once they start using AIM or IRC or social sites?

good idea but wrong age (5, Informative)

belmolis (702863) | about 5 years ago | (#29347777)

Teaching children touch-typing is an excellent idea, but high school is much too late. Even junior high school kids have reports to write, and still younger kids are using computers. Touch-typing should be taught in elementary school. As far as the curriculum is concerned, grade five or six would probably be alright, but it might need to be earlier to prevent kids from fossilizing bad two-finger habits.

I went to an unusual school that taught touch-typing in grade six back in 1968. We didn't have personal computers then, but for me it was a godsend as I have awful handwriting. Judging from my experience in that school, sixth graders have no difficulty learning touch typing.

Don't teach your grandma... (1, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | about 5 years ago | (#29347783)

It's YOUR generation, 'with ... 40 years since [your] graduation' That needs typing lessons, not ours.

No. Not a good idea. (1)

younata (1555631) | about 5 years ago | (#29347789)

If we were forced to learn touch typing, it would be a horrible experience.

First of all, the people who already can touch type would be forced to take a semester or two long course that essentially review. Time that could be better spent taking better classes (like more APs).

Secondly, those of use who use dvorak would be forced to spend a semester or two with a keyboard layout that is horrible, in our perspective.

Ideally, we could test out of it, but, who would offer that choice? I mean, using testing as something OTHER than grading schools? That's crazy talk.

And yeah, I do attend high school in silicon valley, and my school doesn't have ap compsci. Of course I'm pissed at that.

Education vs Vocation (1)

Phurge (1112105) | about 5 years ago | (#29347803)

A high percentage of school children will also end up flipping burgers...... why not teach them that too?

I'm in my early 30's so I may be old fashioned, but I thought school was about providing an education, not about vocational skills.

In any case, if you do end up using a computer, how many of those jobs will require a high wpm count? - Probably only the secretarial type jobs. So let secretarial college teach this.

Re:Education vs Vocation (2, Funny)

Rakshasa Taisab (244699) | about 5 years ago | (#29348093)

Yeah. They should also get rid of that useless physical education thing, it's useless as it's not really education. Of course, they should keep the small part that is theoretical stuff, perhaps roll it into the biology classes.

the IRC typing course (1)

zlel (736107) | about 5 years ago | (#29347809)

I'm in the IT line. I've never attended a typing course in my life but i self-taught myself touch-typing on some freeware, once in QWERTY, once in DVORAK and in either case it took a little less than three weeks. The real speed came from chatting in IRC. My sister is not in the IT line, she went through the same IRC "course" and she types just a little slower than I. As useful as touch typing is - I think it's trivial to pick it up when compared to something as deep as reading and arithmetic. All that being said, I realized that my own way of typing back then was not very much different than the "correct" fingering. When speed matters, we will all develop our own optimal way of typing - which should, IMHO, on average, converge on the prescribed "correct" method.

In my high school... (1)

annex1 (920373) | about 5 years ago | (#29347813)

Typing was a mandatory class for both Grade 9 and Grade 10. Once you entered Grade 11, you had a choice. If you did choose to take typing, you had the option of general and advanced.

Maybe I'm too young... (-1)

Anonymous Coward | about 5 years ago | (#29347825)

I graduated high school two years ago, and this article is the first time I've heard the phrase "touch typing." I'm not even sure what it is. If it's keeping your fingers on the home keys when typing, that's obsolete (or at least unnecessary). I use caps lock (as opposed to shift), 6 fingers, ignore the home keys, and type at 80wpm with pretty good accuracy.

But NOT Qwety, and NOT on "normal" keyboards! (3, Funny)

Hurricane78 (562437) | about 5 years ago | (#29347827)

I don't want their hands to be crippled before they start their first job!

I wouldn't accept anything less than this: []
With a adapted proper layout like DVORAK, or for German keyboards NEO ( [] Because compared to this, DVORAK looks like a bad joke of inside-the-box thinking ^^).

Mandatory? Really? (1)

raju1kabir (251972) | about 5 years ago | (#29347833)

Won't kids learn to type anyway? By the time I was forced to take typing class by my smugly progressive high school in the 1980s I had already taught myself to type. I had a different method (and still do) and resisted the home-key touch-typing method, with the result that I scored poorly in typing class. This was despite the fact that I can type accurately at 90wpm.

Perhaps there are some kids who haven't had much keyboard exposure who would benefit from it, but for those who have and use computers at home, it seems kind of like a waste of time.

Re:Mandatory? Really? (1)

mcarmstrong14 (954208) | about 5 years ago | (#29347953)

I second this. I took a typing class in elementary school and did not get much out of it. At that point in time, it was more like a waste of time. I really learned how to touch type from instant messaging and computer gaming. Computers are used so often nowadays, users of any age should really be picking up typing on their own.

Re:Mandatory? Really? (1)

QuantumG (50515) | about 5 years ago | (#29347959)

Ya, and homerow bullshit is the cause of much of the hand crippling RSI that people experience. It's sad that something so obvious as "that's not natural" has to be argued for.

Re:Mandatory? Really? (2, Informative)

raju1kabir (251972) | about 5 years ago | (#29348015)

Ya, and homerow bullshit is the cause of much of the hand crippling RSI that people experience. It's sad that something so obvious as "that's not natural" has to be argued for.

I've been typing most of the day for 35 years and my hands are fine. All I needed to know was "watch your posture and keep your wrists straight," which my mother told me in about 15 seconds. Not worth a slot that could be used for an actual class on something important.

Yes they should, and do. (1)

skreeech (221390) | about 5 years ago | (#29347835)

This was mandatory in my first year of high school(8-12). It only took a few weeks and was rolled into either the fine arts elective or the everything else course(sex ed, woodwork, cooking, sewing, etc).

Touch Typing could be taught in Elementary School but when I was there the computers were older than the students. The school could have taught touch typing on apple 2s but it did not.

Of course, maybe children are just learning this on their own or from family members now. I was managing to type a few "papers" before being taught touch typing and I do not recall hunting and pecking at the keys to do it.

Will the gain be big enough? (1)

houghi (78078) | about 5 years ago | (#29347849)

I had touch typing in school. I still search and peck. OK, I use 4 fingers instead of two. I would not be better or faster if I had passed that class.

The reason that I do not think it is very important is because I seldom type many words after another. Most of the time I type a few words and then re-think or do a research. e.g. the two few lines took me some 5 minutes, not because I could not find the letters, but because I stop every now and then.

I do not say that touch typing is useless, It is just that often going SLOWER is better then typing at full speed. In a real life explanation: you get an email from somebody in a business environment asking you on your progress on a certain project. I do not know what others do, but what I do is re-read the email, think about who the person is and how I will be answering.

Most of the time I will need to lookup some extra information. So during the answering, I will be twitching with alt/tab between screens. I will also use the mouse to do copy and pasting.

So the speed I might gain with touch typing will be very limited as typing is only part of the process and most of the time not the biggest part. I have tested working processes with people who were able to touch type very fast and the time difference was almost not existing.

Car example: You can have a ferrari and a yugo. You go a a big shopping spree where you drive from store to store and the stores are very close to each other. Say 2 minutes with the ferrari and 3 with the Yugo. Visit 10 stores with 30 minute visites each. That means 320 instead of 330 minutes or a gain of 10 minutes or 3%.

From the point of view of other professions, it might be a good adia to include that, because some people will be writing a lot without stopping in between. So it should depend on what they become later. Oh well, if they start doing it, they just take that time away from gym and kids already hate that.

What, First let's teach them to Breath. (1, Insightful)

GrpA (691294) | about 5 years ago | (#29347853)

How can you forget this most basic of requirements. Don't you know most children will spend the rest of their lives breathing? Some do it professionally, but others do it socially.

Given how important this is for the rest of their lives, let's have a 2 semester course on breathing!

Did I mention eating? How about Viewing?

Typing's the same... It's a subset of communications...

You don't need to teach people how to type. You need to teach them what to type... They'll figure out how to do it themselves and if touch-typing is so important, they'll pursue that independantly.


I'm all for this, under one condition: (3, Interesting)

FSWKU (551325) | about 5 years ago | (#29347875)

That we teach kids how to write properly and put ideas into words FIRST. Being able to type will be of no use whatsoever if you don't know how to communicate. My brother's girlfriend teaches 6th grade, and a good portion of these kids are COMPLETELY unable to put together a coherent sentence. They're writing on at BEST a second grade level (the whole issue of kids not being held back when they need to be is another debate entirely), so a typing class will be of no benefit to them whatsoever. And that's just when you can actually decipher the chicken-scrawl that passes for handwriting these days.

Bottom line is, they need to be learning things in some sort of a sequence so that they can build on what they already know. My opinion is they should go with it as follows:
  1. Reading/Handwriting (and no, I don't mean cursive): Be able to properly and clearly write the letters you will use for the rest of your life and learn it early. Yes, this is still important, because there are many times in daily life you will not have the option to simply punch buttons on a keyboard. If taught while one is still learning to read, the two disciplines will reinforce each other. Also, learning how to write before you can type builds fine motor control.
  2. Grammar & Comprehension: Once you have a solid grasp of how to read words and copy them in your own hand, you can begin the process of learning all the wonderfully annoying nuances of your native language (English being by FAR the most annoying). You don't have to master it overnight, but you want to get the basics down before you move any further. This will ensure that you know how to properly communicate on a functional level, and also that you are able to learn the more complex tidbits more easily.
  3. Typing: Yes, I put typing last on the list. If you don't know how to properly communicate FIRST, then all having the ability to type will do is make you seem like an idiot that much faster. You will get nowhere in life if the extent of your communication skills resembles the output from a pre-alpha version of Babelfish. Once you have a successful grasp on reading/writing/comprehension, only then does typing become an important tool in enabling you to communicate your ideas much faster. Before then, all it will do is become a hinderance.

I am well aware the article talks about teaching this at the high school level, but from what I've seen, it doesn't improve much. When I was in high school, there were juniors and seniors who could barely read, and their handwriting may as well have been from Omicron Persei 8 for how legible it was. We need to make sure kids have a handle on the basic skills BEFORE they get to high school. If we can manage that, I'm pretty sure most will pick up typing quite well on their own.

Re:I'm all for this, under one condition: (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 5 years ago | (#29348049)

I'm a Canadian living in Viet Nam. My son attends local school here, in the mainstream. Each night, he has two to three notebook pages of penmanship practice that he must complete. He must practice properly forming letters with their various diacritical marks (Vietnamese uses a roman alphabet, but has diacritical marks to denote tone). Practice includes not only letters but words. His practice is graded every day. As a result of this, his printing is very neat and extremely easy to read. He's in Grade 1.

His cousin in Grade X has penmanship that resembles the output of an inkjet printer in its consistency...

Wait a minute. You want schools to teach what? (1)

lena_10326 (1100441) | about 5 years ago | (#29347897)

...something that could be applied in the course of future employment? Now, that's just crossing the line right there. You know public school is about sharing feelings and enumerating all the ways white American males are evil.

If it's gonna be mandatory (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 5 years ago | (#29347913)

can we standardize on a more sensible key layout that isn't designed to slow you down?

stunned (3, Interesting)

Locutus (9039) | about 5 years ago | (#29347951)

I'm stunned that it isn't required already. I took typing and even did it with a broken finger taped to a popsicle stick but it was one of the best courses I took. It is agonizing to watch someone poking their fingers on a keyboard with their hands moving all over the place and their eyes looking down and up and down and up. So much wasted effort and time and at the same time, businesses let people get away with this too. I've seen developers who can't touch-type and that is pathetic when such a skill means so much to getting the job done. Would you hire a mechanic who used a wrench for a hammer and screwdriver as a chisel? But, it's allowed, it's accepted, and as we have been made aware in this thread, touch-typing is an after thought in our school system so it's unlikely to change.


Reflection of Ueslessness of Pre-university school (2, Insightful)

colganc (581174) | about 5 years ago | (#29347969)

This says alot more about how useless most of school is. Typing is important, but what are children doing for 99.99% of the time that learning touch typing can be considered such an important cornerstone.

Re:Reflection of Ueslessness of Pre-university sch (1)

Slugster (635830) | about 5 years ago | (#29348069)

This says alot more about how useless most of school is. Typing is important, but what are children doing for 99.99% of the time that learning touch typing can be considered such an important cornerstone.

This is true.
In the US anyway, schools continue to NOT advance with using computers in the classroom--mainly becuase textbook publishers steadfastly refuse to make fully-electronic versions of their materials available.

Additionally--a lot of people won't need typing much, and those that will use it a lot (for business or pleasure) will get gooder at it anyway.
Besides, in about the same time that it would take for US schools to institute a country-wide standard for just one typing course, there will be drastic improvements in voice recognition software and keyboards themselves will disappear from use anyway.

Taught in the least likely of places!? (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 5 years ago | (#29348009)

My case may be out of the ordinary. But in Montana of all places I and everyone else I know had a number of touch typing courses that occured in fourth and fifth grade. Even more shocking perhaps was that we spent 20 days roughly each year for third, fourth, and fifth grade learning and later making little projects with Logo Writer. Is it any wonder that I'm now on /.

Re:Taught in the least likely of places!? (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 5 years ago | (#29348051)

Original Anonymous Coward here. I forgot to mention that it was 1992 when I was in 3rd grade and public school.

Meh. (1)

PCM2 (4486) | about 5 years ago | (#29348033)

I never learned how to type.

To this day, I use an advanced form of hunt-and-peck, where I don't look at the keys but I cross my fingers in odd ways sometimes and I definitely never use home position.

For the last ten years or so, I've made my living as a writer. So go figure.

And besides, this seems like an odd idea to have now. Isn't it the old parents' lament that their kids always know how to use the computer ten times better than they do? How do you get to be fluent on a computer without knowing how to use a keyboard? Seriously -- even in the age of the GUI, what are kids doing with computers if not sending messages to each other?

I hated very minute of it (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 5 years ago | (#29348047)

I had three long years of mandatory typing.
They were awful and pretty much useless.
I don't type any faster than anyone else, I just use more fingers.
The problem is the KEYBOARD layout. Try learning touch typing for a programming language. It is impossible, even the fastest secretary in the world will struggle with a hello world in Java, C or Ruby.

It is great for financial reports, though.

Ow, Templates!

1992 (2, Insightful)

Max Threshold (540114) | about 5 years ago | (#29348077)

I took a touch-typing class in high school in 1992. It was utterly pointless. Touch-typing is learned naturally and quickly by people who use computers regularly, and useless to everyone else. High schools need to focus on the essentials - reading, math, history, logic - and leave specialized skills to the trade schools.

sure, along with calculus and track (1)

dltaylor (7510) | about 5 years ago | (#29348079)

Not everyone can learn to touch type; you either have the necessary talent,
or you don't. Why penalize students who cannot touch type when it just isn't
that useful or necessary, just like calculus and 10-sec 100 meter dash.

I've been a programmer for longer than I care to remember. I took typing
in high school, but never managed to be a touch typist (I memorize enough
at a glance to keep my fingers busy for copying and compose on the fly for
text and programming). I also took calculus in high school (and college),
but have rarely used it since graduate school. I played American football
in high school, too, but have rarely needed to sprint for a 100 yards since
leaving the military.

Offer the option, yes. Mandatory, no.

TOUCH typing? (0, Flamebait)

WebHikerOriginal (605852) | about 5 years ago | (#29348097)

um, what other kind of typing is there? or is this "touch typing" just another retarded redundant Americanism that slithered on to the radar recently?

typing class in jr high in late 1970s (2, Insightful)

Eric Smith (4379) | about 5 years ago | (#29348109)

In the late 1970s I took a typing class in junior high school. Boys were actually discouraged from taking typing, so there were only a few other boys in the class. Despite the speed and accuracy requirements to pass the class being quite low, I barely passed, and the teacher advised me that I should never take a job requiring typing skills.

I've been employed as a programmer almost continuously since that time; I did contract programming work while I was in high school. Learning to touch type made me much more productive than I'd been before the class. Over the years my typing speed has dramatically improved; the last time I checked it was over 100 wpm, though my accuracy hasn't improved nearly as much.

I think any student that doesn't take a typing class in junior high or high school is doing himself or herself quite a disservice. It's a valuable skill even for someone that doesn't need it for a job. I suspect that it's probably easier to learn typing the earlier you do it.

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