Learning Touchscreen Use: Part I – The Tap

Learning Touchscreen Use: Part I – The Tap

Welcome to the first ‘official’ part of our series – Learning Touchscreen Use for Older Adults. You can find our first post explaining the series here. This post provides some hints and suggestions on teaching (or learning) the action that is the simplest, and most widely used – the tap.

First, you may need to explore the idea of a capacitive touch screen (here) – the type of screen you’ll find on iDevices (iPads, iPhones, iPods) and most Android tablets. If you don’t want to read the post, here are the two most important take home points:

1) Pressing ‘harder’ will not cause a capacitive tablet to respond differently – gentle, but purposeful is best.

2) Capacitive screens can respond to multiple taps at once – which makes them more likely to respond to accidental touches – especially from other fingers or the side of your hand. (This feature will be useful later on – when we talk about pinch and zoom).

Now we can start talking about the ‘tap’ action. This is often a stumbling block for learning how to use a tablet, due to experience using other screens which rely on pressure.

A tap should be thought of as a momentary pause, with gentle and purposeful contact with the screen. When teaching a tap, it might be useful to use the following examples of other activities that may be similar in pressure (remember: gentle, but purposeful).

  • Checking spraypaint, glue or contact cement to see if it is still tacky
  • Checking the consistency of jello, pudding, or mousse
  • Checking muffins or cakes for done-ness
  • Pushing an ice cube into a glass of whisky or gin – without getting your finger wet

For folks who have difficulty with the action, or difficulty with targeting small objects, this might be a great time to introduce a stylus. There are lots of posts on different stylus options on the internet, so you can head over to your favourite search engine and check them out.

Once you’ve taught the tap action, it might be time for an activity or exercise to practice. Here are some great (and free!) apps that can help you reinforce this skill, roughly ordered from simplest to most complex. I’ve included the link to the iTunes App store for all of them. For Android users, there are lots of similar apps you should be able to find in the Google Play Store.


TouchTrainerLiteTouch Trainer Lite: Simple cause and effect app that teaches tap and targeting. Settings are modifiable to change the length of reinforcement (sound and visual). Can also set to only respond to distinct taps. Made for children, but still useful for teaching.


Pocket PondPocket Pond: Nice image of a fish pond that responds with ripples and sounds when you touch it. If you hold longer, the sound repeats. Useful for teaching how long a tap should be.


magic pianoMagic Piano: Great because you get visual AND auditory feedback – you know you’ve tapped correctly. Play in ‘Solo’ mode, and change the layout of the piano for different experience. (Android version)


Penguin PokePoke a Penguin: A little juvenile, but great for this skill. You simply tap the penguins and they disappear. See how many penguins you can tap in 20 seconds.


Bubble SnapBubble Snap: Every time you tap a bubble, you get a satisfying pop. A good app to teach targeting. If you pop more than one at a time, you know you’ve covered too much area. Start with the bubbles large, and move down in size as you master targeting a specific spot.


4inarow4 In A Row: This is an example of an iPad version of the classic game ‘Connect 4′.  Tap the row you want your piece to fall into, connect four of the same colour. Other games like Othello, Checker and Chess are great options if you’re interested. No Android version, but lots of 4 in a Row options on the Google Play store.


That’s all for now! Stay tuned for our next post on the Swipe action!







Posted in: App Reviews, Tablet Accessories, Tech Education

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