Thursday, October 2, 2014

Learn to Type Software?

For the past year, my kids have been learning to type using the BBC's free internet site: Dance Mat Typing.  I like it a lot.  It covers the basics at a speed that's very appropriate for grade K-5.  It includes practice and fun songs that engage the kids.  All three of my kids have enjoyed it.

I felt like it wasn't quite enough, though.  I wanted them to get more practice and be able to increase their speed.  So, I started looking for a program to use.  I asked around and the recommendations all pointed to Mavis Beacon and Typing Instructor.

In the end, I purchased Typing Instructor for Kids.  It takes a bit to navigate the program honestly.  I had to sit down with it first and understand what my kids needed to do.  My first daughter went through the first level and completed it, but the program wouldn't let her move on.  She didn't understand why.  So, I went through the level and it passed me.  I am assuming that the program set a goal for her that she didn't pass.  Typing Instructor does let kids backspace and correct when they've pressed a wrong key, but I don't know if it takes off for this.  The levels take about 17 minutes for them to complete.  Or at least the first one did.

I didn't encounter any major glitches.  My kids enjoy it.  I like the games that come after the lesson. They're fun and purposeful.  Creative practice.

I'm also glad that I paid for the program.  There are lots of typing games online that are free, but the screen shows up small and there's tons of advertising which is very distracting and undependable.  Sometimes I'm very surprised at the ads that show up on various websites.  I know they can't control it once they agree to the ads, but it shapes my decisions about which websites I let my kids go to regularly.

What I noticed though is that Dance Mat Typing goes slower than Typing Instructor (and it has no ads--Yippee!).   So, I'm glad my kids completed Dance Mat Typing first.  I think Typing Instructor for Kids is going to be a good fit for us.

I did also have the chance to try out Mavis Beacon--Personal Edition, using UltraKey.  The program is the same cost as the other (about $15), but it's a bare bones program.  No games.  None.  This edition is for adults and it goes through things pretty fast.  But, if you are an adult and need to learn how to type quickly, this is a good option.  I did encounter a glitch in the first lesson and the challenge level they set based on my pretest was almost impossible to reach and pass on the first lesson.  Mavis Beacon also won't let you backspace and correct, so all typing has to be correct the first time in order to pass on the challenges and skill tests.  You can retake the skill tests, though, without redoing the lesson--which is what I did.  Honestly, I'm glad I spent the money on Typing Instructor for Kids instead of Mavis Beacon.  If I were purchasing a program for an adult or teenager, I'd probably choose Typing Instructor (adult version) instead of the Mavis Beacon program.

I'm surprised that the programs didn't address some things that were reinforced in my typing class in high school.
1.  You can't look at your fingers!
2.  Your index fingers sit on the home row keys that have bumps.  Every typewriter and keyboard I've ever used have a bump on the f and j keys.  The ten-key number pad also always has a bump on the 5 key.  These bumps help you keep your place.  They're very important so that you can always find your way back to where your fingers should rest.
3.  You can put a napkin or other light covering over your child's hands if they have a hard time not looking down.  If you're using a desktop computer and keyboard, you can make a cover using wood or cardboard that you can set over the keyboard so kids can't see the keys.  The point of learning to type is to be able to do it without looking at the keys.  This drastically increases one's typing speed when it is mastered.

My kids are enjoying getting back on the computer again.  I'm glad for it to be productive time.

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