Class action: learning typing is key, but there's no need to rush your child

PUBLISHED : Monday, 28 October, 2013, 6:57pm
UPDATED : Monday, 28 October, 2013, 7:03pm

I use touch-typing in my job so know how important it is in the workplace. My daughter has not been taught this important skill, even though she does much of her primary school work on a computer. In fact, she seems quite happy to use only two fingers. Speed typing would help her to complete tasks more quickly as her handwriting is quite slow. How can I encourage her to learn?

There is growing evidence that suggests it is an advantage for students to learn the correct technique for touch typing.

However, I would not be too concerned about your daughter's prospects at this stage, as children pick up typing skills when they need them.

The incentive is often the need to communicate on social networks either through the computer or increasingly via mobile phones (some smarter than others). The social lives of children depend more and more on their ability to communicate via electronic media and this will become a driving force as your daughter gets older.

However, some schools could certainly do more to help children in this regard, even if this only consists of giving them the basic idea of where to place their fingers on the keyboard, and by monitoring how their technique develops.

Many children pick up good enough techniques at home incidentally, while browsing the internet for information or doing homework. This can result in them using an array of different techniques, some very unconventional.

Generally, most people develop a style that suits their needs. The days of having to replicate the exact skill set of a specialist typist in the office typing pool have, mercifully, long gone.

However, to become properly proficient in the way you describe, there are several fun ways to practise speed-typing. Some excellent - and free - programmes are available on the internet. There are also touch-typing courses, if things reach that stage.

If you decide to follow one of these paths, keep practice sessions short (no longer than 10 minutes) so they do not become boring. Try to get your daughter to type something she is interested in.

You could ask for some guidance from her school. Often schools have ICT and literacy specialists who can also make useful suggestions.

Some European countries, for example, have introduced touch-typing into their curriculum. This is food for thought for those schools that do not yet follow this example.

Despite the usefulness of keyboard skills and their relevance in the modern world of rapid communication, remember there is still a need for fluent, cursive handwriting.

Your daughter will need it for note-taking at secondary school, for example, as well as examinations and coursework, in some instances.

Do not underestimate the need to use more traditional writing methodologies.

School handwriting policies vary as to when students are taught to join letters, and even when the cursive style is taught right from the start, it is not always tightly monitored.

Although the latter approach can appear more difficult, it can be much easier in the long run than starting to convert a child from printing at an older age.

Educational research indicates that cursive handwriting not only helps to increase the speed at which pupils work and their fluency, but, even more significantly, it helps to improve spelling accuracy and fluency of thought.

As students move into the upper years of primary, and then onto secondary school, the sheer volume of work created by different subjects demands speedy responses from both computer-based techniques and fluent, legible handwriting.

Julie McGuire teaches at a Hong Kong primary school