It is the dream of every open source enthusiast to have a problem of theirs nearly perfectly solved by a pre-existing piece of FOSS software, especially one that sits above the version 1.0 marker and has a degree of polish one would expect from a paid-for, closed source project. As a Peace Corps volunteer teaching basic intro to computers, one of the most important topics to teach is typing skills. There exist many typing programs, but the FOSS world only has a few worth mentioning, and after trying a couple, the one I found to be most complete and conducive to my teaching style is KTouch (easily available in most major Linux Distro repos).
When I first started teaching typing with KTouch, I tried teaching the touch typing method directly. When I learned, “proper typing,” in middle school we were using a program that taught you so that you could move at your own pace while learning the touch typing method, but by that point, many of us had already been typing on our own home computers and could complete the courses quite successfully. In trying to teach my students through this method, I found most just wouldn’t listen and when it was me working with 30 students, it became a near impossibility to correct everyone’s hand positions.
This is where KTouch has come in very handy. KTouch does not try to teach, it simply tries to provide a place that automatically generates practice sessions for learning touch typing and has nice built-in features such as automatic level advancement and visual and audio feedback for my students, while having a more professional look, unlike other programs such as Tux Typing. In this way, the application does not get in the way of my teaching, and I am able to teach how to, “use,” the application to my students in about 15 minutes. I end the instructions by telling them KTouch judges your speed and accuracy and only when both increase together do you advance levels. This is motivation enough for my students to keep at it.
Once they are off, within a half hour I can already notice a difference in their typing skills. Many of them are able to track their own progress with the blatantly placed, “typing speed bar,” and they consider it some type of challenge to improve. A large on-screen keyboard also soon becomes helpful to my students who pay attention, as they can now look on screen to find key placements, and do not need to look at the physical keyboard.. The biggest sense of accomplishment comes when their repetitively typing the same letters naturally moves their hands to appropriate positions, and the students are able to see this in their official typing speed increasing. It seems that by not trying, by not being obtuse, KTouch is quietly shifting peoples’ hands into the correct typing positions. It seems a more natural, less forced way for my students to learn typing, and I am happy about that. Less struggle on my part. At this point any typing, even if not, “proper touch typing,” is better than no typing at all.
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