Random Thoughts

Proper typing out, thumb typing in

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Flickr ID: ArabCrunch
Flickr ID: ArabCrunch

Just as I’m having conversations again around why we should or shouldn’t teach typing in our schools technology has once again moved us into another typing realm. The thumb typing.

I’ve watched more videos than I care to count about the iPad (my thoughts here) and in a recent survey to our students here at ISB revealed that almost 70% of middle school and high school students have either a Blackberry or iPhone. Second hand iPhones are being sold on the cheap at the moment at our school, as high school students trade them in for Blackberries and the unlimited texting between devices available here. But make no mistake the future is in the thumbs.

Records and competition (Wikipedia)

The Guinness Book of World Records has a world record for text message, currently held by Sonja Kristiansen of Norway. Ms. Kristiansen keyed in the official text message, as established by Guinness, in 37.28 seconds.[78]

The message is, “The razor-toothed piranhas of the genera Serrasalmus and Pygocentrus are the most ferocious freshwater fish in the world. In reality, they seldom attack a human.”[79]

In 2005, the record was held by a 24-year-old Scottish man, Craig Crosbie, who completed the same message in 48 seconds, beating the previous time by 19 seconds.[80]

The Book of Alternative Records lists Chris Young of Salem, Oregon as the world record holder for the fastest 160 character text message where the contents of the message are not provided ahead of time. His record of 62.3 seconds was set on May 23, 2007.[81]

Elliot Nicholls of Dunedin, New Zealand currently holds the World Record for the fastest blindfolded text messaging. A record of a 160 letter text in 45 seconds while blindfolded was set on the 17th of November 2007, beating the old record of 1 minute 26 seconds set by an Italian during September 2006.[82]

In January 2010, LG Electronics sponsored an international competition, the LG Mobile World Cup to determine that fastest pair of texters. The winners were a team from South Korea, Ha Mok-min and Bae Yeong-ho [83].

And you thought you were fast at typing.

As touch screen devices seem to be the future, or at least the near future as companies continue to roll out touch and multitouch devices, do we need to rethink typing in our schools? Or do we even teach it at all?

I started blogging in 2005 and found it such a powerful way to reflect and share my thinking about technology, this generation, and how we prepare students for their future not our past.


  1. Jennifer Branch Reply

    Hi Jeff,

    I am laughing because I am still struggling to convince some teachers that they need to teach typing – “don’t kids all know how to type?” – and now we are going to abandon typing for “thumbing”.

    I have a four year old son and I want him to learn to be an excellent touch typist as I think it is a life skill. I am willing to bet that he will be doing his final high school exams on a computer and being able to touch type will be a really important skill (in Alberta, Canada students write departmental exams that are worth 50% of their final grade 12 mark). I guess I now have to think about making sure he can thumb type too.

    Thanks for the blog.

    • If I had a kid I’d be having them typing as early as possible, and exposing them to thumb typing as well, and have them use Google Voice to transcribe as early as possible also. I’ve never heard anyone say they had to many skills, and not knowing what the future holds, I think the more we can expose students/kids to all these skills the better prepared they’ll be.

  2. Hi Jeff

    As usual, I enjoy always reading your posts. Anyhow, let me be a little coservative as for abandoning typing and keyboards. I think that using two hands (or even one) in typing is much more convenient and much more faster than thumbing. The prefered way of inserting texts in the future, as I see it, is a virtual full keyboard appearing when you need it. There are some approaches to to do it nowadays, although they are not yet widespread. One of them is a projected keyboard appearing on some plane like a table. Another one is a keyboard appearing on demand in front of your eyes using a screen that is located on an eyeglass.

    • I’m with you and would not tell any school to stop teaching keyboarding at this point, but I do find it interesting where the future is going. All the movies showed that by 2010 we’d be doing a lot of things without keyboards, but here we are still putting them on devices…even if it’s typing with our thumbs. I see the mouse going away because of touch screen, but not sure it’s going to replace the keyboard at this point….just my thoughts.

  3. Jeff,

    I think that ‘thumbing’ is an old way to enter text that naturally formed from the idea of the keyboard. That being said, eventually, someone will come up with a more efficient way of texting, though it’ll probably be fought against for quite some time.

    Look at Nintendo for an example: in the 1980s, they came up with the standard design for the controller, a directional pad on the left, buttons on the right. In the 2000s, when they unveiled the concept for the Wii controller, the entire video game industry scoffed, because is deviated from the norm (which Nintendo created in the first place!).

    I think that the keyboard will remain, on phones and on computers, until someone figures out a better, faster way to put thoughts onto paper (or a screen…).

    It’s always just a matter of time until the next revolution comes along.

  4. I don’t think traditional typing courses should ever be abandoned. I love the mobility and portability that technology offers, but at the end of the day you still need to know how to properly type on a keyboard. The day someone earns their Ph.D. by doing their entire research and thesis paper on their iPad then maybe I’ll think otherwise.

  5. Are these kids going to use a mobile device or and ipad to type papers when they get to high school, college, graduate school. I’m just wondering if they could create a 10-20 page(or longer) document using ‘thumbs only’ technique?

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