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Israelis introduce touch-typing to Arab world

Posted By David Brinn On April 17, 2005 @ 10:00 pm In | No Comments

An Israeli Arab teen practices on the Sight & Sound Touch Typing Technology system.Most people take touch-typing on their keyboards for granted. But for Arabic-speaking students, a differently configured keyboard with Arabic characters has meant that traditional methods to teach touch-typing weren’t applicable.

This has all changed since Israeli company Sight & Sound developed the world’s first touch-typing course in Arabic. They’ve successfully tested the course in a pilot program in Israeli Arab schools and hope to market it soon to the rest of the Arab world.

“Learning to touch type in Arabic is more complicated than in English or Hebrew – the touch typing machines and the computer keyboards are totally different and it can cause a lot of confusion,” Sight & Sound CEO Elad Gross told ISRAEL21c. “Our Touch Typing Technology (TTT) has adapted the touch typing machines to the computer keyboards so what the students are learning is applicable right away.”

“The course in Arabic was introduced about a year ago for the first time, A few months ago, together with the Israeli Education Ministry, we introduced a pilot program in about 12 schools in the Arab, Druze and Beduin sectors, and it’s been very successful,” Gross added. “The fact that the students can raise their heads, look to the left or right, and talk to people while they type accurately and quickly is remarkable to them.”

The El-Zahara school in Kfar Kassem, an Israeli Arab town in the north of the country, was chosen by the Ministry of Education to take part in a pilot program that taught the TTT system.

“We chose 15 students from our 5th grade classes,” the school’s principal Safwat Taha said. “The criteria was not necessarily students with high grades, but students who were excelling in computers.

“They met twice a week for three weeks, and the results have been amazing. Signt & Sound’s program has not only helped the students type at a much faster rate, it’s gotten them to begin thinking about their future professions, and their study habits. Students came up to me and said they were so happy with their typing ability that they weren’t going to use their pens anymore,” Taha said.

“They’ve also taken on the obligation to teach other students the techniques they learned.”

Josephine, an 18-year-old resident of Jaffa, learned the touch type on the TTT system when she was 16 and is now a vocal supporter of the method.

“It helped me a lot – I went from typing only about seven words a minute to over 30. I now use it in my work every day,” she told ISRAEL21c.

According to Sight & Sound’s Gross, the TTT system works in a specific way.

“In the first few lessons, like in any touch typing course, you learn how to place your hands and where to place your fingers on the letters. But that’s not enough – any computer software can do this. The problem is after you place your fingers, you may start touch-typing, but pretty quickly you’ll go back to your old way of using two fingers.

“In the Sight and Sound technique, you also acquire speed and have to practice so that you type more than 18 words per minute in order to pass the course – Of course some people can go up to as high as 60 or 80 words a minute. Our course is also quick – approximately 24 hours – and the recommendations are to do it between one and two weeks,” he said.

The TTT program is based on a combination of sight, sound and rhythm. The keyboard is graphically displayed on the student’s computer screen. The different keys are shown in various colors. The student receives instructions via his earphones. After a brief explanation the narrator commences with the first lesson.

The narrator calls out the required letter to be typed, the called letter lights up on the colored keyboard shown on the screen, and the narrator then gives the instruction to strike the key.

The student first sees, then hears and finally acts. All the natural reactions of the student are utilized, making the learning process effortless and ensuring that this process is not built on a system of boring practice and remembrance used by other methods.

According to Gross, there are 52 teachers who have been trained by Sight & Sound to teach the TTT system in Israel.

Sight&Sound was founded in 1969 – providing touch-typing courses and other office courses. According to Gross, eight years ago, they branched out into four different companies.

“In addition to Sight & Sound which deals mostly with computer training in addition to touch typing, we also run Axiom which works closely on courses with the Ministry of Education, Data Bank, we run a data preservation company, and we are the Israeli franchisees for the Princeton Review preparatory courses.”

But Gross is proudest of the TTT course in Arabic.

“In the US, touch typing courses in school are widespread, but here in Israel it isn’t very common for kids – in the Jewish it’s not so common, and in the Arab sector, even less so,” he said.

“We’ve met with the Education Ministry representatives lately to go over the pilot project. We gave them a report on its success, and now there’s discussion about widening the program and spreading it throughout the country.”

Principal Taha is a strong advocate of that approach. “We hope the Education Ministry will adopt the TTT program and begin teaching it in our school and around the country,” he said.

But teaching TTT to Arabic speaking students in Israel is only the tip of the iceberg, according to Gross. Despite obstacles regarding Israeli companies doing business in the Arab world, Sight & Sound hopes to enter the wider Arabic-speaking market.

“We’re negotiating with a few big companies outside of Israel in an attempt to market the course in Arab-speaking countries. I’m confident it will happen in a few months,” said Gross.

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