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Why aren’t schools teaching typing more widely these days?

Nov 11, 2020

I look at my kid and know that something is wrong with this picture. She sits on a chair, rhythmically two-thumb tapping on her phone. Her forehead is creased, her mouth pursed. Her posture makes me fearful of early-onset Dowager's hump. “Can you please stop texting?” I ask, “you're supposed to be working on your scene study.”

She shoots me that arched-eyebrow look. "I am. I'm doing it on my phone."

As I watch her hunt and peck each letter on an impossibly small phone keyboard, I wonder why they don't teach touch typing anymore. QWERTY is the English-speaking go-to computer interface, but most kids grow up using it without ever having had a lesson. And while many type hunt-and-peck style, most do it at roughly half the speed and proficiency of a trained touch typist. Even the old-school term 'typing' has been usurped by 'keyboarding.' Call it what you will, it's been my experience that the benefits of proficient touch-typing are many and last throughout life.

"The trick to touch typing, she would say, is to focus your eyes on the screen, knowing that your fingers will accurately find their way."

My typing teacher, Ms. Gretta Grundy, was a well-postured, soft-spoken woman. I can see her now, standing at the front of the class and calling out various letter combinations to the beat of her pointer on the green board. After every class, she would admonish us for looking at our fingers. The trick to touch typing, she would say, is to focus your eyes on the screen, knowing that your fingers will accurately find their way. Free your fingers, and you will free your mind, Ms. Grundy would intone, holding up her hands, wiggling her digits. I wondered what my fingers would get up to, untethered from my conscious mind.


Sometimes parents will do anything to keep their kids off their phones. Read another POV from Craig here.


Somehow it all worked. Although it would be several years before my hands would ever touch another keyboard, it was a skill that stuck. I had no way of knowing it then, but I would spend most of my ensuing years typing many millions of words with the speed and accuracy that would make Ms. Grundy proud. All of which, I believe, gives me the street cred to heartily endorse teaching kids touch typing. The good news is that many school boards recognize the benefits of this skill, which I hope leads to it being offered in schools across Canada.

In the meantime, if you are thinking about homeschooling keyboard skills, here are a few tips to keep in mind:

Get to it early

Touch typing can be learned at any time in life. But like most skills, the sooner you start, the better you'll be. Try and begin by the time your child's hand can comfortably span the full keyboard, usually around seven or eight.

Give it time

Much like playing an instrument, a typist must develop muscle memory, which is the ability to move fingers to the required keys without conscious thought. It takes many hours and constant repetition to do this proficiently, but once your fingers get it, they won't forget it.

Accuracy tops speed

As I would say to my daughter countless times when she practiced piano, If you can't play it slow, you can't play it fast. Just like playing an instrument, slow and steady typing wins the race — no way around it.

Posture is important

Human fingers are magnificently complex, and like any machine, must be operated at peak efficiency. That means sitting up straight, shoulders back, wrists and forearms parallel, and eyes looking straight ahead.

Make it fun

These days, there are all kinds of online resources available that take the monotony out of repetitive learning. Gamifying keyboarding is a great way to get the gain without (some of) the pain.

You may be thinking that adding another skill to your homeschooling responsibilities is untenable these days. At the same time, the productivity payoff of learning this skill can't be denied. Freeing your child's mind from the keyboard to focus on the concept puts learning on the fast track. Developing proper keyboard posture offers protection from repetitive strain injury.

When you consider the amount of time your child is likely to spend on a keyboard, it only makes sense that kids develop the one skill that will make learning for life faster, easier and more rewarding.

Article Author Craig Stephens
Craig Stephens

Craig Stephens is an award-winning writer and documentary film producer who is passionate about developing projects that explore social issues and innovation. He is currently shooting and producing Long Ride Home, a project that explores innovative healing paths for post-traumatic stress. Craig lives in Toronto with his wife, a writer, theatre producer, and podcaster, and their tween daughter – his most challenging and rewarding project to date!  You can catch his latest work at mediadiner.com.

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