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Education Technology

Is Typing a Necessary Skill? 1065 1065

cloudwilliam asks: "The Christian Science Monitor has an interesting article on how many schools have stopped teaching touch-typing as a necessary office skill and are now often saying that basic computer skills are more important. I'd agree with the latter, but what about typing? I learned to type on an IBM Selectric II (and still own one, as a matter of fact) in the mid-1980s, and the last time I was tested, touch-typed at around 60 wpm. Is this an obsolete skill? With handwriting and voice recognition technologies, is using a QWERTY keyboard with nine out of ten fingers something worth knowing anymore?"
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Is Typing a Necessary Skill?

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  • YES. End of story. (Score:4, Informative)

    by GerbilSoft (761537) on Wednesday August 04, 2004 @05:20PM (#9882864)
    Too many people I know don't know how to type correctly and use the hunt-and-peck method. They're amazed when I'm able to type up a 100-word paragraph in a few minutes, when it takes them up to half an hour. (I'd also classify them as AOLers, i.e. people that say "wut r u doing 2nite?" on IM services.)
  • by rleibman (622895) on Wednesday August 04, 2004 @05:34PM (#9883138) Homepage
    I have nothing to say to this, but it's a keyboard related topic and I must thus write something about Dvorak keyboards, in which I type and which are so much superior to Qwerty.

    Can someone tie Dvorak into the subject a bit better?
  • Re:No (Score:2, Informative)

    by hellings (703622) <jesusislord8@@@yahoo...com> on Wednesday August 04, 2004 @05:48PM (#9883334)
    FYI: Man in room = Doctor McCoy
  • by Lev13than (581686) on Wednesday August 04, 2004 @05:50PM (#9883355) Homepage
    (although I do type incorrectly, I can hit over 80 WPM)

    This comment made me realize that I had no idea how fast I could type (never took a course). So, after a quick search here are some free on-line typing tests:

    TypingPal.com [typingpal.com]
    TypingTest.com [typingtest.com]

    Turns out that I'm in the 2nd decile with a respectable 58 wpm (mean is approx. 40, and anyone who claims >100 is either in the 99.8%-ile or is full of BS). A thorough analysis of typing speeds can be found here [fivestarstaff.com].
  • Yes (Score:5, Informative)

    by nanojath (265940) on Wednesday August 04, 2004 @05:55PM (#9883413) Homepage Journal
    If you're talking about clerical work, typing is absolutely still a necessary skill. Whoever said that employers no longer specify WPM or that 30 WPM is sufficient for most clerical jobs was simply wrong. Read the want ads. I got a typing test at each of the three temp agencies I've worked for and over the last 5 years been administered several typing tests applying for jobs.

    It is not a substitute for computer skills. You need both in any modern office job with an emphasis on writing. I don't think typing should be required (I never took it in school, I taught myself to touch type, it ain't rocket science). But it should be offered.
  • Stressed (Score:3, Informative)

    by tepples (727027) <tepples@g[ ]l.com ['mai' in gap]> on Wednesday August 04, 2004 @06:02PM (#9883495) Homepage Journal

    youcantotallyunderstandmeifijusttypewhatiwanttosay right?

    Thedifferencehereisthatinspeech stresshelpstodelimitthemorphemes.

  • by gilroy (155262) on Wednesday August 04, 2004 @06:26PM (#9883763) Homepage Journal
    Words per minute and keystrokes per minute were vastly more important measures of productivity when your job consisted mostly of taking someone's document and rendering it in type, whether that document was your boss's longhand letter or your own shorthand notes of a meeting. But that meant you were a secretary. Most people typing today are not transferring it from one form to another; they are composing at the keyboard. Thought speed is going to be the bottleneck.

    Put another way: I read lots of things from people who type as fast as they think. Generally, I wish they had taken longer and thought more.

    I'll admit to a bias here: I am an old-fashioned hunt-and-peck typist. I can generally get about 55-60 wpm, which is clearly on the impaired side. But (if you'll forgive the pun) it hasn't slowed me down, because very rarely do I need to put out 100 words in a minute. My thoughts generally simmer longer than that.

    Even when I post to slashdot. :)
  • by jdreyer (121294) on Wednesday August 04, 2004 @07:16PM (#9884244) Homepage

    Touch typing has been an extremely useful skill in my career as a nerd, but I have also had more than my share of tendinitis in my wrists because I learned typing the old-fashioned "right way". In my extremely unscientific survey of my colleagues, those who learned on their own seem to have much healthier wrists than those of us who learned the "right way".

    My physical therapist taught me some tricks that have helped a lot:

    • Keep wrists in neutral position (so fingers do not rest on the "asdf" and "jkl;" line, but rather make more of a V)
    • Hover over keys, moving hands rather than extending/contorting fingers
    • hit keys lightly
    • Use an ergonomic keyboard

    Unfortunately they still teach the old contorted wrist, contorted fingers "right way", at least in my kids' middle school. Because of computers, typing is much more a part of life now than it was when I was a kid. We still need to teach typing, but we need to bring typing instruction in line with what is known about ergonomics or else many of today's kids will be crippled in a few decades.

  • by mnemonic_ (164550) <jamec@umich.eQUOTEdu minus punct> on Wednesday August 04, 2004 @07:26PM (#9884322) Homepage Journal
    What's special about the Dvorak Simplified Keyboard [wikipedia.org] is its more efficient key placement. QWERTY was purely intended to reduce typewriter jams (though not necessarily make typing slower), with no regard given to letter frequency in the english language (Why is "e" not on the home row?) nor the difficulty of reaching different rows. Upon viewing the layout [wikipedia.org] it should be quite apparent to the layperson how much simpler it is than QWERTY. The Dvorak layout not only allows for faster typing, but also a lower occurrence of repetitive stress injury.
  • by Peter H.S. (38077) on Wednesday August 04, 2004 @07:42PM (#9884474) Homepage
    Ktouch is part of KDE. Quite good actually, but I don't know gtypist so I can't say if it is better.
    I still can't touch type. The problem is that in the beginning when learning touch typing, I type much slower than my homebrew hunt-and-peck system. I don't seem to have the discipline (yet) to continue to use my touch typing skills until I can reach an acceptable speed.
    Still, give Ktouch a try. No matter what, you will become a faster typist, even if you don't bother to master touch typing.
  • by badasscat (563442) <basscadet75.yahoo@com> on Wednesday August 04, 2004 @11:15PM (#9885786)
    I also forgot to say that the standard touch-typing posture can easily lead to carpal tunnel or repetitive stress disorder because of the angle of your hands on a standard keyboard. This is one reason so-called "ergonomic" keyboards exist. But the way I've taught myself to type, my hands are naturally angled even on a straight keyboard, so I can type for extremely long periods without any fatigue and I've been typing hours per day for 20 years now with no problems at all. Something I think is really important to think about given how much some of us have to type - you can always buy an ergonomic keyboard for yourself if you're a touch-typist but you may not have that luxury at work, or in internet cafes, or wherever else you use a PC. So I think in some ways it's actually better to learn alternate ways of typing; whatever's most comfortable for you.
  • Re:Vastly important (Score:3, Informative)

    by dwillden (521345) on Thursday August 05, 2004 @01:51AM (#9886349) Homepage
    I have to strongly disagree with this statement. Can you get around with less than 40 wpm? Yes, but you will be far less productive than someone who can type faster. This even applies when programming. I find that having the ability to type quickly allows me to get my thoughts into code quickly which contributes to shorter development times.
    That depends.

    On formal typing tests I usually hit around 35 wpm. It as blocked me from a few jobs. But take a look at every formal typing test you've ever taken. They all consist of measuring your ability to read from one document and type what you've read into the test program.

    Now try just freestyle typing. When copying a document I have a hard time exceeding 40wpm on a great day. But free style I type well in excess of 60wpm.

    Most coders I know don't code word for word from a document in front of them. They know what they want the code to do, they know how to phrase the code to do it, and they just type it, and at a greater speed than any formal test would indicate they could do.

    Same goes for writers.

    As well with my dead-end customer support job. I don't transcribe text, I make notes based on my conversation with the people yelling at me.

  • by DunbarTheInept (764) on Thursday August 05, 2004 @02:14AM (#9886422) Homepage
    TypingPal was also terrible because it assumed any attempt to hit backspace was an invalid key and marked you accordingly - which meant that one error became two since everyone used to typing on a computer has an unstoppable instant backspace reflex. Also, other automatic reflex actions became errors as well - like hitting space twice after
    ending a sentence with a period - since the source text has only one space between sentences, that extra space was a "mistake". Also, sometimes it wrapped the cursor to the start of the next line as soon as you hit the end of a previous line. Other times it did not. Thus you had to watch where the cursor went or end up with an "error" from hitting return when you weren't supposed to.

    Also, the tendency of the interface to not do what my reflexes expected it to do was a source of cognative dissonance that added more errors - like when backspace didn't visually do anything, I'd hit the key again several more times by reflex before my brain caught up and stopped me, and this results in losing precious seconds to stop and think.

    Typing is a reflex action - but these tests ruin this by turning it into a congative one by making the interface not work as you'd expect it to, so you have to always stop and not be "in the groove" where you type unthinkingly.

    My speed with the test was - 62 words per minute, with 17 errors (really only about 4 errors, but each error resulted in three or four others being counted since I keep on typing the rest of the word before I notice the cursor isn't advancing and so the stupid test thinks I'm trying (and failling) to finally get that letter right when really I'm just typing the rest of the word.)

    I guess that a more real-world test would put my speed at about 65 WPM after errors are accounted for (probably about 80 WPM raw, with 15 WPM lossage from backspacing. I backspace a lot, which is why an input tool that makes backspacing fail to operate the way it naturally should gives me a low score. Not only does the backspacing itself penalize me (understandable), but the cognative dissonance that breaks my stride when the interface behaves in a crippled fashion wrecks my speed far more than that.).

  • Typing of the Dead (Score:2, Informative)

    by SeanDuggan (732224) on Thursday August 05, 2004 @08:51AM (#9887673) Homepage Journal
    I didn't learn to touch type for years. It wasn't required in High School (Ok, we had one teacher who tried to get us to do it, but I only did touch-typing when she was watching. Otherwise, I'd use my usual methods and easily reach the typing speeds she was suggesting. *wry grin* And that using only my index fingers...) and I knew enough from working with computers to be able to type at a reasonable speed, enough to keep up with my thoughts most of the time. (Copying text, as people have mentioned, tends to be different.) It was only in the last year that I started learning proper touch typing. (I'd been assimilating some parts of it, using my thumb for the space key and utilizing all the fingers but my little finger for something on the keyboard) The reason? It's a little game called Typing of the Dead [mobygames.com]. ^_^ For those not familiar with the game, they basically took House of the Dead 2 [ign.com] and changed your method of taking down zombies from using a light gun to typing in the words and phrases above their heads. After a few goes at playing the game with my usual typing led to repeated deaths (the in-game animation during the tutorial of the guy getting whacked by zombies because he keeps glancing away from them to his keyboard is pretty accurate...), so I took their tutorials and started learning touch-typing. ^_^ And it's actually pretty fun. Personally, I think every school should include this game in their curriculum if they want to teach typing.

    Unsolicited advertising aside, when I first learned to type (back as a little kid, probably somewhere around 1st grade), I remember learning the keyboard as a series of word-pictures. I knew that "print" involved kind of a lasso picture on the keyboard as you hit the keys. Ditto with things like "goto" or "input." (Yes, I made my start with BASIC. Please, look away from my shame...) Anyone else find themselves learning this way? You know, seeing the words as chunks to type rather than parsing it as letters initially?

  • by figa (25712) on Thursday August 05, 2004 @11:48AM (#9889548) Journal
    I can't find it anymore, but Adams used to include a bit in his bio about how typing was the most useful thing he learned in his entire education. If I remember right, he took typing his senior year of HS, while his contender for valedictorian took something like AP organic chemistry. He concluded with a taunt about how he ended up as valedictorian for acing typing, that he enjoys typing every day, and he never would have used organic chemistry.
  • by DunbarTheInept (764) on Thursday August 05, 2004 @03:40PM (#9892589) Homepage
    I took a real typing course. That has no bearing on my complaints. Did you take *THIS* test to see what I was talking about before making that asinine comment? Did you?

    This test does not allow you to just go forward and leave an error in place. It *requires* that you fix up the error before continuing, and every keypress which is not the right letter for the current cursor position is counted as an additional error. It is most certainly NOT a manual typewriter typing test for that reason, and it is NOT just counting the whole word as a single error. For example, If I am supposed to type:
    It was the best of times.
    and instead I screw up one letter and type this:
    It was the bust of times.
    That ends up getting counted as 11 errors instead of just one, because the cursor stopped on the 'e' in 'best' when I hit 'u', and expected me to try again until I got it before it would go on, so it ends up looking like this:
    It was the b I(type 'u')
    It was the b I(type 's')
    It was the b I(type 't')
    It was the b I(type ' ')
    It was the b I(type 'o')
    It was the b I(type 'f')
    It was the b I(type ' ')
    It was the b I(type 't')
    It was the b I(type 'i')
    It was the b I(type 'm')
    It was the b I(type 'e' - now it accepts because it's the letter 'e'.)
    It was the be I(type 's' - another error.)

    When in reality I only typed one letter wrong. (Now, in reality I would be looking at the screen and catch it before it got that far, but the test messes up because what I am physically typing is actually something like this:
    It was the bust ofest of times.
    (because when I see the cursor has not moved, I have to type from that point on, and NOT use the backspace either, which is the natural reflex.

    So the test only tests how good I am at typing into an interface that works like NO word processer or text editor out there.
  • by Fashnek (804459) on Tuesday August 10, 2004 @09:30PM (#9935924)
    I'll take edited quotes for $300, Alex.... my real quote (http://www.bash.org/?367896) was: Capitalization is the difference between "I had to help my uncle Jack off a horse.." and "I had to help my uncle jack off a horse.."

    ---

    "Capitalization? I always thought comma's did better job of keeping your message clear. For example: Helping your uncle, jack, off a horse."

    Well, first of all, "commas" has no apostrophe. That's elementary. Second, if you're trying to use commas to signify that you are referring to an uncle named Jack, the word must indeed be capitalized as all proper nouns are.

    ---

    "Yes, but with proper punctuation that sentence is: 'Helping your uncle, Jack, off a horse.'"

    Nope, not quite. :)

    Visit the following websites to get a better understanding on just why it's better NOT to use commas there:

    - http://www.ucalgary.ca/UofC/eduweb/grammar/course/ punctuation/3_4g.htm
    - http://www.english.uiuc.edu/cws/wworkshop/grammar/ appositives.htm
    - http://owl.english.purdue.edu/handouts/grammar/g_a ppos.html

    The first website uses the following example:

    "My sister Jane studies in England."

    The restrictive appositive "Jane" implies that I have one specific sister who studies in England, while my other sisters (Marta and Suzanne) study elsewhere. Therefore, "Jane" is essential to the meaning of the sentence.

    Because there is an implication that the uncle in question is not the only uncle and the clarification of his name is for the sole purpose of identifying him rather than describing him, commas are best omitted.

    That's why my original sentence ("I had to help my uncle Jack off a horse") is perfectly correct. I know my grammar pretty well, whether I always use it or not. :P

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