Teaching Adults Keyboarding skills: What works?


As you may know, I have collected a pretty good list of free, online keyboarding (typing) programs on The Literacy List.

Today I read a short blog article by Jacqui Murray about how traditional drill and practice typing practice methods do not work with young children. It made me wonder what works for adults.

Do you teach keyboarding? If so, what works for you? Do the strategies that Jacqui Murray, the blog author, describes for children also work for adults?

David J. Rosen

Moderator, Technology and Learning CoP




Thanks for the heads-up, David, along with great resources for enhancing keyboarding skills.

When my grandson, 12, last visited, he commented, "How can you type that fast? That's awesome!" This from a kid who spends hours playing games and navigating online resources like crazy. He far surpasses my ability to interact online although I spend most of my daylight hours on my computer. Our goals are different, so our skills differ.

Drill have gotten a bad rep because they have been misused. As with language learning, skills have their place, in my opinion. However, as Jacqui suggested,  "Rote drills are only one leg of a four-legged stool that supports keyboarding literacy." Adults resist drills, too...if they are boring and used either exclusively to teach patterns or used for lengthy periods. My ESL students loved drilling because I drilled for 5-7 minutes at a time, made the activity playful, and moved it along very quickly. We were all exhausted and laughing at the end. Drills should be fun, short-lived, and all consuming during carefully-selected times. They can provide great and sudden breaks when things slow down.

Would others here agree that both adults and kids resist anything that is boring and jump on anything that's fun? Leecy

For learning the keys, I use TIPP10 online version. It is free and has a reporting system that analyzes every keystroke so you can see your accuracy, not only for every key, but also for every finger. I also use a classic typing book, Cortez-Peters Championship Typing. I particularly like its reverse typing exercise. I also use Authentic writing assignments such as "type everything that you can remember about the class visitor we had yesterday." I focus on helping students build muscle memory in their fingers and de-emphasize speed. I use the analogy of playing the guitar. When I want to play a G chord, my hand contorts into this odd shape which is just right to produce the desired sound. I try to convince students that it will help them in their computer work if their fingers automatically take care of the typing so their mind is free to focus on the task at hand.

For games, I used to use Mavis Beacon, but for the last few years I dropped using games and use free/online TIPP10 instead. I also give occasional 5 minute timed writings, though I try to get students to focus on correct form rather than speed.

My results are uneven. Those students with the self discipline and drive, as well as access to the Internet between classes, can get it and become fluent typists, but many students find the process too long and discouraging. 

Thanks, Kenny. I have added TIPP10 to The Literacy List Keyboarding Skills page and included a sentence about it from your description above and a link to your whole post about teaching typing.

If others have typing websites to recommend, see if they are already included on The Literacy List Keyboarding Skills page and, if not, post information about them here or email it to me.

David J. Rosen




Kenny, thanks for sharing info on TIPP10. I checked it out and find it promising.  You said you no longer using games, especially through Mavis B for learning. Why would that be? Games appear to get away from what from the drills that David suggested might lose adults (and kids) in the process of learning to type. I haven't explored TIPP10 enough. Maybe it offers other ways to engage and entertain adults in the very repetitive process of gaining dexterity? As a former guitar player, your analogy of the G chord struck a chord immediately. Yes! Leecy


While I think that there is a strong case for using games, most that I have seen focus on speed, while I tend to focus on form and accuracy. If anyone knows of an engaging free online typing game in which speed is not a factor, I would definitely try it out. 

I think that Mavis Beacon is a great product. The reason I went with the much more barebones TIPP10 was the price (Free!) and the feature that all individual student records are available to the student wherever they have Internet access, so they can use the program at home as well as in class.


David and all,

I posted a couple of months ago with a query about whether there was still value in teaching keyboarding to my basic level adult ESL students. Since the general consensus was that there was, I included it in my computer class. I use Type2learn because of its easy registration, because it's online, so students can use it anywhere with Internet access, and because it's easy to use (finger positions are color coded). It's a pretty bare bones program -only drill practice,  no games - and emphasizes accuracy over speed. I've used Mavis Beacon before, too, but prefer the free online program for easier student access. Also, when I used Mavis Beacon, or even other online typing programs that offered games, my students were never interested in the games. I think that might be a difference between children and adults. The students only work on keyboarding for 10-15 minutes out of a 55 minute class that meets 4 days a week. They also read a blog and respond to a question every day and use many other programs, such as USA Learns. Some students really like the structure of the keyboarding, dig right in, and complete the 27 lessons with 3% accuracy in about a month. Others are not as focused and don't see keyboarding as a priority. Interestingly, this semester, one student who has a degree in information technology from her country, came to me at the end of the first week and thanked me for teaching keyboarding because she had never gotten that in her IT program and thought it was very useful. There's enough student interest that at least for now, I'll continue to include keyboarding in the computer class, but instead of games, I think the adult students appreciate more realistic supplemental activities, such as typing to answer blog questions or typing their own stories in a word processing program, as an alternative to drills.


Thanks Dorothy for your clear description of how you teach keyboarding to your adult students. Do you recommend a minimum time for students to practice keyboarding skills outside of class? If so, what do you recommend? Do you have a way to know how often students actually do practice their keyboarding skills?

I love that, in part to practice keyboarding skills, your students read a blog and respond to a question every day; this is a good example of practicing a skill in the context of (presumably) something engaging or meaningful. Is it also good for writing practice? Could you share examples of some of the blog questions and answers? What blogsite do you use, and how do you like it?

You mentioned USALearns. It has recently been redesigned, and I understand that the new release will be optimized for smartphones as well as computers. There's a webinar coming up soon in which the changes will be described and perhaps demonstrated. I think optimizing instruction for smartphones is great as so many English language learners now have access to smartphones. However, I hadn't thought of the implications for students who need to learn keyboarding skills. I wonder if we will need to recommend that students purchase portable keyboards to use with their smartphones or other portable digital devices. Have you thought about this, Dorothy? Has anyone else here thought about that?

Others, I am curious if you use games with adults learning to improve keyboarding? If so which ones, and how do your students like them? Or, do your students, like Dorothy's, feel disinterested in keyboard skills games?

David J. Rosen



Since the USALearns webinar was mentioned above, here is the information. New and Improved USA Learns webinar will be given by John Fleischman on Friday, December 4, 2015 at 2:00 pm Eastern. Even though it might a little early to commit to attending, you will receive a reminder.  And even if you can't make it, by registering you will receive a link to the recorded webinar. So you can register now

Steve Quann

David and all,

First, I should mention that I made a mistake in my earlier post. I don't use Type2Learn with my students. I use GoodTyping. It's also free and easy to use. I don't have a recommended minimum time, especially for outside of class. Most of my students either work or have childcare duties after school, so they don't have much time for studying outside of class. By the time the students finish all 27 lessons in GoodTyping, they have a pretty good handle on the keyboard, and most of them seem happy with that. They can always work on improving their speed on their own time or during free times in class. Since I register the student for GoodTyping, I am able to keep track of what lessons they're on. Also, we spend about 10 minutes a day on it in our computer class, until they finish the 27 lessons. 

The purpose of the blog isn't really to practice keyboarding. I started it to let students know what we were doing in class each day, as a review or if they were absent. I decided to add a question at the end of each blog, and now that's my favorite part! At this level, I project the blog and we read it together. Higher levels read their blog individually. Students answer the question on their own, but we often talk about the grammar and vocabulary of how to answer it and I often write structures and words on the white board for them. Here's the link to the blog I use with the Basic level class (NRS 1 and 2) https://basicesl.wordpress.com

I'm thrilled to find out that USA Learns is being optimized for smart phones! My students love USA Learns. Many of them use it on their smart phones or tablets and express frustration that the full version is not available. I haven't thought about suggesting they use portable keyboards. I've used mine to pass it from 1 student to the next in lecture-style classes that don't have multiple computers for group writings.  Actually, most of my students are more adept at typing on their phones than I am.



Dorothy, I visited your blog to find out what kinds of questions you ask to get students to have them improve their keyboarding skills. I assume that the blog isn't connected to your computer class, or is it? Love the questions. Do they submit their work to you? Do you grade of comment on their work? Also, you mentioned getting them to write their stories. Do you give them models for follow? Thanks. Great work! Leecy