Learning to type can be one of the most useful things you can do

2010-05-24 00:00

AS with most aspects of modern life information and communication technology (ICT) has made a big impact in education. Multimedia en- cyclopaedias­, able to introduce you to almost every topic under the sun, have been around for more than two decades and have superseded the huge printed volumes that I grew up with. Many software houses have developed packages specifically designed for the school curriculum, and there are an abundance of specialised DVDs that can teach you French, Spanish or Italian, with an air stewardess­ voice-over making sure that you get the correct pronunciation.

Others have amazing 3D capabilities that make it possible for you to design your dream house or landscape your garden. And if one of your children needs to view video footage of Martin Luther King’s famous “I have a dream” speech for a school project, just go online to YouTube and you can have it playing in a few seconds­.

There is an abundance of impressive multi-media educational resources all just a few mouse clicks away.

But there is a piece of learning software that has been around for some time now that is largely uncelebrated. Not only does it teach a highly underrated­ ICT skill, it also teaches some important life lessons in the process. You will find it living on one of the lower rungs of the educational software ladder; it is the humble typing­ tutor.

Typing tutors are explicitly designed to teach people to touch-type via computer-based instructions that typically include drills, exercises and games. Look a bit closer and you will see that it also does a whole lot more. The process of learning to touch-type using a typing tutor also teaches several crucial life lessons. These are old-fashioned and enduring, so I have put them into an old-fashioned list.

To learn to touch-type using a typing tutor you need to demonstrate the following:

• Hard work: while some people may have more dexterous fingers than others, no one is really typey in the sense that some people are musical or sporty. To learn to touch-type successfully no one gets exempt from many hours of good old-fashioned hard work.

• Self-management: a crucial life skill while studying and in the modern workplace. Typing tutor sessions aren’t timetabled, nor are they part of a class that is run twice weekly by a fastidious teacher in a pencil skirt and crisply ironed white blouse. You have to be responsible for directing and managing your learning.

• Commitment: learning to touch- type definitely isn’t a just-add-water thing, and in a world where instant gratification so often holds sway, staying committed can be a stern test all on its own. As is the case with acquiring many worthwhile skills, it’s the long haul or nothing at all.

• Consistency: most worthwhile things in life get accomplished through hard, smart and consistent work. Achievements born from sporadic­ wild bursts of concentrated energy are generally reserved for certain­ artists and the occasional mad scientist. Touch-typing is no different. Random and brief forays into the touch-typing arena do not bear fruit.

• And importantly, all of the above are dynamically interlinked. Not enough hard work and you won’t get it right. Too little commitment and you will fail. The same goes for self- management and consistency. So if you know someone who has taught themselves to touch-type using a typing­ tutor — show them some respect.

If having to come to terms successfully with some critical life skills is the outcome of the typing-tutor journey­, acquiring a hugely valuable hard skill is the destination. Being able to touch-type at a reasonable speed won’t help you write an insightful­ history essay on the end of the Cold War, or a persuasive covering letter for a position you hope to get. What  it  will do  though,  is  enable you to type these up in about half the time.

If the ability to save time was listed as a commodity on the Johannesburg Stock Exchange, typing tutors would be considered blue-chip investments.

Just consider the number of hours that so many of us spend each day painstakingly tapping information into our computers via a keyboard.

Investing in a typing tutor could easily halve this, over time saving you literally hundreds and hundreds of hours. Which is not bad for such underrated­ software.

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