Keyboard Awareness and Typing Skills.
BBC Dance Mat (free online), Doorway touch typing (free online),
Type with Tizzy, Type To Learn, English Type Junior,
KAZ, Adventures in Typing, Nessy Fingers,
2Type, Touch-Type Read & Spell.
I.C.T. is an effective communication tool for dyslexic users. It saves hours of time, especially when planning, writing and editing information. To make the most of word processing it is important to ensure all users have good keyboard awareness and efficient typing skills. Efficient Typing skills are particularly important for those Dyslexics able to use keyboards for exams.
Accurate touch typing at a speed faster than the typist’s hand writing is the ideal. Whilst many keyboard users can achieve this others do not.
In such cases, efficiency and accuracy at a speed as fast, or faster than writing, can be a more achievable and helpful target.
Efficient keyboard skills can be hugely beneficial in education, recording in examinations (where permitted) and at work.
Correct fingering of keys and the using of both hands should be encouraged at the earliest opportunity. This will discourage the learner from developing the habit of typing with only one hand or slow key pecking with one finger. Such habits can be difficult to break.
As with any skill, regular practice is essential for improvement. Typing skills should be practised little and often; newly acquired skills should be applied whenever the keyboard is used.
A bit like learning a musical instrument, the activities may seem tedious and slow to begin with but successful achievements reap great rewards. Individual users will need plenty of encouragement to persevere. Older users will often complete the whole course, whilst younger learners may need a range of activities, both serious and fun.
There are many programs available to help and encourage keyboard awareness, typing and touch typing skills. Most require loading onto a computer and are used interactively in lessons and activities which monitor progress.
Some programs are “paper based schemes” that can be practised on any QWERTY keyboard.
Some younger dyslexic users find the upper case capital letters hard to identify on a standard keyboard. Lower case key stickers (removable), are available from Inclusive Technology to cover the equivalent keys to help overcome this.
Keyboard Awareness programs.
These programs are usually designed for younger users, to encourage quick key finding through a variety of games and activities. Some are linked to Literacy activities.
A low tech alternative is to create key finding games using a Keyboard Mat.
Good touch typing programs are usually interactive, with full speech support, clear instructions and include sets of graded exercises, starting with the “home keys” (*Home keys are usually the middle letter row and have discreet raised markers on F (left hand) and J (right hand) for the index finger positions) or specific key patterns.
As well as auditory prompts, many include visual options of onscreen keyboards displaying the key required or correct finger positions. Many include drill and practice activities with accuracy and speed scores. Some have reward games to improve speed and accuracy.
Several programs are designed to motivate younger users by setting them in an adventure context, or use a familiar cartoon character and include typing and keyboard skills, as well as games. These usually have scores and reward games to increase motivation and speed.
Some recent programs offer a mixture of both standard typing lessons and a choice of activities.
Several programs use specific vocabulary lists to combine spelling and typing practise. Others allow users to create their own lists or sentences for practice, that meet specific needs for learning individual spelling patterns or vocabulary.
Some of the portable writing aids, such as the Neo2 range, have a typing program available for use on their product (e.g. KAZ, Ultra Key). These are available from Renaissance Learning or see the suppliers details below.
BBC Schools website offer a free online typing skills program as part of their Dance Mat series (Dance Mat not required), suitable for children from 7 to 11 years approx.
Doorway Touch Typing also offers a free online typing skills program that would be suitable for KS 2 and beyond.
For those users still struggling to type text at speed or write clearly, see also the Writing Page for information on intelligent and flexible spelling prediction tools, onscreen word banks, digital pens and voice recognition software.
Good sources of a range of Typing Programs are:
- iANSYST Ltd.
- See also Iansyst comparison article about typing tutor programs.
Popular Programs for children include:
- Type with Tizzy. Sherston for younger children.
- Type To Learn. Smart Kids.
- English Type Junior. Englishtype.
- KAZ. Kaz-type.
- Adventures in Typing. Disney/Amazon.
- Nessy Fingers. Nessy Learning Ltd
- 2Type. 2simple Software.
Many dyslexia associations and schools use TouchType, Read and Spell, an online, multisensory course for children and adults. It has no games or gimmicks, but follows the structure of Alpha to Omega with human voice recordings of the words for copy-typing and unseen for dictation. One franchise teacher considers the optimum age for learning touch-typing to be between 8 and 11 years.