TypingClub "Hacks"

Guest Post by Andrew from MatchNext

 

Our 5th graders are learning how to type. I described the software, TypingClub, in my last post.

We’ve had to figure out how to do it right. Here’re all the questions we’ve been trying to answer, and ‘hacks’ we’ve been testing out.

 

Question 1: Should kids work silently and independently, or...can they talk to each other?

Our answer: silently and independently

  1. First, we started off silently and independently, but it got a little stale.

  2. So we started letting them work in pairs where a student would ‘coach’ the kid that was typing. This was okay for a while, but was really hard to execute. Unless you had a really experienced person in the room really managing and focusing on the conversations, it wasn’t all that productive (also, the whenever a kid was ‘coach,’ they weren’t getting any or their own practice done). You don’t become a better runner by telling someone else how to run.

  3. So we settled back on ‘silent and independent.’  But I think we solved the problem of it getting stale with the ‘tests.’ More on these later.


Question 2: how do you prevent kids from becoming ‘people who have to look at their hands when they type’?

Our answer: strategically cut-up tops of copy paper boxes to cover their hands. Here’s what those look like:

    a. First, we made everybody use the boxes, all the time. Didn’t work for true beginners. They didn’t even know where the home row was, so they were constantly lifting the boxes up. Then we realized they were also not even using the home row, but we were missing it because their hands were covered. b. When this failed, we made the boxes totally optional. Another mistake. Kids got really far into the program, but they were becoming keyboard starers and couldn’t do all the levels without looking down. They’d use the boxes sometimes, but because we weren’t requiring it, they just barreled through all the levels. We had a bunch of kids get really far, but it was a false positive – they hadn’t even memorized where all the keys were. c. Boxes are still optional whenever a kid wants to practice, but now we require kids to use a box when they take a ‘test’ (more on that below). So if a kid wants to ‘pass’ a test level, they need to memorize the keys and be able to type without looking down.     So what’s a test? Answer: What we use to check and make sure kids aren’t getting too deep into the program with bad technique, or not actually memorizing the keys.   a. First (before the tests), we trusted to program to ‘assess’ their progress. We tried to monitor and catch kids as they used the wrong fingers, then we’d correct them in the moment. Once they started getting deep into the program, though, there were just too many balls in the air. More and more kids were slipping by with bad technique, and it was getting too cumbersome to manage. b. Once we realized this wasn't working, we introduced the testing. We assigned a couple levels as 'test' levels. We chose the ones that were basically review. For example, 'Level 9' was a review of the 'home row' ("A" through ";" on the keyboard). Here's what it looks like:  

 

 

a. First, we made everybody use the boxes, all the time. Didn’t work for true beginners. They didn’t even know where the home row was, so they were constantly lifting the boxes up. Then we realized they were also not even using the home row, but we were missing it because their hands were covered.

b. When this failed, we made the boxes totally optional. Another mistake. Kids got really far into the program, but they were becoming keyboard starers and couldn’t do all the levels without looking down. They’d use the boxes sometimes, but because we weren’t requiring it, they just barreled through all the levels. We had a bunch of kids get really far, but it was a false positive – they hadn’t even memorized where all the keys were.

c. Boxes are still optional whenever a kid wants to practice, but now we require kids to use a box when they take a ‘test’ (more on that below). So if a kid wants to ‘pass’ a test level, they need to memorize the keys and be able to type without looking down.  


 

So what’s a test?

Answer: What we use to check and make sure kids aren’t getting too deep into the program with bad technique, or not actually memorizing the keys.

 

a. First (before the tests), we trusted to program to ‘assess’ their progress. We tried to monitor and catch kids as they used the wrong fingers, then we’d correct them in the moment. Once they started getting deep into the program, though, there were just too many balls in the air. More and more kids were slipping by with bad technique, and it was getting too cumbersome to manage.

b. Once we realized this wasn't working, we introduced the testing. We assigned a couple levels as 'test' levels. We chose the ones that were basically review. For example, 'Level 9' was a review of the 'home row' ("A" through ";" on the keyboard). Here's what it looks like:

 

  c. When a student takes a test, they need to do a couple things.      i. Cover their hands with a box.      ii. Remove the image of the keyboard/fingers from the screen (pictured below).   

 

c. When a student takes a test, they need to do a couple things.

     i. Cover their hands with a box.

     ii. Remove the image of the keyboard/fingers from the screen (pictured below). 

 

 

     iii. Get at least 95%, and type at a certain speed in order to pass (the speed varies depending on the level).

d. If they pass, they need to mark their progress on a chart. Here’s what that looks like.



 

The good parts about doing it this way:

 

  1. It’s simple. Very simple. There’s nothing to plan, you just need to be in the room and make sure students are working.

  2. The chart makes it easy to check a kid’s progress. At any time, I can pull a kid aside and have them do a level they said they passed.

  3. Students are 100% accountable for their own progress. We’ve got some kids that nail the practice and are pretty much done with the program, other kids that aren’t getting the practice they should be getting. If a kid isn’t getting it done, it shows.  

 

The ‘meh’:

 

  1. You can’t watch every kid the way you’d want. You’re still ‘managing,’and putting a lot of trust in them to do it right. If they’re doing it wrong and forming bad habits, though, you need to figure out a way to iron these out. But at least it doesn’t go unchecked for very long.


 

Sidenote:

I found this cool program called ‘Nitro Type.’ It’s a racing game. Kids type sentences. The faster they type, the faster they can get a car to move. It’s fun, they love it.

 

We let students that pass level 90 on TypingClub play Nitro Type. We’ve got a couple kids that are there, and everyone else gets jealous when they’re on Nitro Type. Kids beg to play it during breaks and at home, too.


 

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if you want to talk shop: andrew.jeong@matcheducation.org